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Film Review: The Picasso Summer (1969) Starring Albert Finney

11 Sep 2021 9:44 AM | Sandro Sebastian

Poking about at my preferred little indie DVD rental store, I fell upon this title in the documentaries, (or old timey TV movies) in the, shall we say "very obscure" section of the store. And it's got the name Picasso on it, so what the heck, I blew the dust off of it and rented it.

     Funny thing about the past, is that one's notion of it is constructed by images and stories that have lasted through the ages, and stayed fresh, not fallen out of fashion, or become hokey-looking. The most popular movies of the late '60s, that are still cool in a "retro" sort of way, that make those days look still fresh, exciting, sexy and dashing, are the more likely to come to my attention as a millennial: the titles that the film industry still finds worth promoting, and still turn a profit when offered to a younger generation.

     Then there are the more dated titles, that fall into obscurity, or perhaps had a brief turn as some passing fad in the days of lava lamps and kaleidoscope effects on film. The more obscure, dated films of a former era are often the most fascinating to look at, to get a glimpse of the more generic, superficial view of the times, not concerned with everlasting, "our eternal place in history" artistic execution.
      The film was a bit hokey to me overall, but there was still enough of a "retro" intrigue about it that I never got bored. Though the one thing I couldn't forgive was the music. I guess that mimicked the pop music sound of the day. The outfits were fun to look at though. The thing was low budget and only loosely assembled however, so I won't be too hard on it.
     But I did find myself really swooning over the time period as a direct reference to Picasso himself, who died in 1973, with the film taking place in 1969. (The summer of '69, actually.)
     It was not just a nice thing to do for the painter we all admire, but I enjoyed the idea of getting to spend a slice of time in a world where he is still alive and well established, even if he's an old man by this point.
    The main character, George Smith, played by Albert Finney, (yes, I'd heard that name before) is an architect who is a Picasso fan, and wants to travel to France with his young wife to visit the artist's house and meet him as a gushing fan. The adventure itself is cute and quaint, they ask around for the Picasso museum, and we do get to see a lot of his work throughout, which I really enjoyed, and appreciated, and actually found myself deeply cherishing the experience. On the whole, I am glad the film got made, as a way of describing the cultural force of Picasso and his influence by way of making a film that could not be made about some other artist, and have it be compelling. There are enough people in this world whose lives he has touched that the film works as a concept.
    One thing I did not expect, and truly had me mesmerized, were the animated sequences sprinkled throughout it. The film makers hired somebody to do illustrations of famous Picasso pieces, and have them move, and morph, and interact with each other, all set to music. That was really enchanting. I was glued to them the whole time.
    There was also a bullfighting montage type sequence in where the main character was learning how to participate in a bullfight, and we actually watch his instructor perform a bull fight while giving a voice over narration.
     Boy, to think about how animal rights activists would respond to that sequence, were it released today.

     Overall, I will say that I expected something painful and silly, or only a superficial look at a famous historical figure so we can sell tickets, or get viewers, while promoting our actor, but there was some artistic merit to it that I could get into. 

-Sandro Sebastian

(This post is from Sandro Sebastian's blog: The Art Monk- Visit here: https://theartmonkblog.blogspot.com/

Sandro Sebastian full website here: www.theartmonk.com

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