After their brilliant collaborations on Howards End
and The Remains of the Day
, director James Ivory and Anthony Hopkins reunited (along with producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala) for this controversial film about the life and loves of the great artist Pablo Picasso. Hopkins is outstanding in the title role, portraying Picasso as a brilliant, manipulative egotist who used his power over women to fuel his artistic impulse and voracious sexual appetite.
But Surviving Picasso is not intended to be a screen biography and, as many critics noted in mixed reviews, this 1996 film fails to provide any substantial insight into Picasso's complex personality. It's more about Françoise Gilot (Natascha McElhone), the aspiring artist who was one of the few women to "survive" Picasso's love and emerge as a stronger, more confident person with a life of her own outside of Picasso's often destructive sphere of influence. McElhone is impressive in this breakthrough role, conveying the seductive effect Picasso had on women, but also holding her own against the artist's unpredictable temperament.
Surviving Picasso was based on the unflattering book Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Huffington, so the Merchant-Ivory team did not have the cooperation of Picasso's estate. The result is a film that shifts its focus away from the artist and onto his positive and negative effect on those who entered his inner circle. It's a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man and his equally passionate lovers, fueled by excellent performances. Even though you know you're not getting the whole story of Picasso's best and worst behavior, the movie grabs and holds your attention. --Jeff Shannon
Canvas, color, metal, ceramics. The century's leading artist commanded them all. But what about the legendary Pablo Picasso's other great passion? Was romance also dominated by his genius?
Academy Award(r) winner* Anthony Hopkins gives a full-throttle performance as the acclaimed artist in this masterful movie told from the viewpoint of Picasso's longtime mistress (Natascha McElhone in a luminous film debut) and mother of his children Claude and Paloma. Director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala reteam with Hopkins for the first time since The Remains of the Day in this lusty, sweeping saga. Joined by producer David L. Wolper (Roots), they draw from a vivid filmmaking palette to create an intimate, insightful tale of genius, beauty and obsession.