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Picasso and Braque Go To The Movies

Martin Scorcese’s cameos are among the film’s highlights.

Art House Films does a lot of things right. They have a knack for hunting down interesting stories and finding experts to talk about it. Documentaries about the home-grown art collectors HERB & DOROTHY or VISUAL ACOUSTICS, about the seminal architectural photographer Julius Shulman come to mind. PICASSO AND BRAQUE GO TO THE MOVIES is no exception, and they’ve gathered some of today’s most famous artists and art historians to convince us of the point they’re trying to make – the link between the rise of early cinema and the rise of Cubism. A bevy of artists were called to the task, Chuck Close, Julian Schnabel, Robert Whitman, Coosje Van Bruggen, writer Adam Gopnik as well as film historians and experts on early cinema including Martin Scorcese, who co-produced the film along with Robert Greenhut (to list his credits would be to list almost every Woody Allen film.) Don’t let this fool you into thinking the documentary has a high production value. Expect a few transitions a la Power Point.

But whatever Art House Films does get right, one thing they don’t do so well is storytelling. We get chunks of film history and chunks of information on Picasso and Braque, all of it interesting, but it’s not until almost halfway through that they make a connection. And there’s the other problem. They would have us believe that it’s impossible to conceive that either Picasso or Braque would allow something as low as cinema to influence their Art with a capital A, and then we’re guided through all the ways the two concurrent movements are similar, namely the use of light and shadow, the absence of color and the prominence of the simple, everyday object. But isn’t it more unbelievable to think that two guys as involved in the world around them as Picasso and Braque wouldn’t be influenced by or at the very least interested in something as revolutionary as the moving image? Nevertheless, PICASSO AND BRAQUE GO TO THE MOVIES is a wealth of in depth fact-finding and conjecture-making on an exciting period of time for both art and film.

PICASSO AND BRAQUE GO TO THE MOVIES out May 28 at Cinema Village in NY.