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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Mystery of Picasso aka "Le mystère Picasso" [Blu-ray]

 

(Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956)

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Factor 30 Films

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:18:14.606

Disc Size: 29,147,135,616 bytes

Feature Size: 18,581,342,208 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.91 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: January 22nd, 2018

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1 / 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

A Visit to Picasso, Paul Haesaerts 1949 BAFTA-winning documentary on the painter, capturing Picasso at work in his Vallauris studio (20:24)
La Garoupe, a 1937 home movie by Man Ray, in black and white and colour, of Picasso and friends holidaying near Antibes (9:30)

Picasso, My Father (25:31)

The Mystery of Picasso Restored (1:59)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and illustrator John Coulthart

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Henri-Georges Clouzot, best known for his classic French thriller Les Diaboliques, took on a different mystery in 1956: the creative process and the essence of an artist, namely Pablo Picasso.

Utilising transparent canvases so the camera of Claude Renoir could directly capture an artwork's creation, Picasso created 20 artworks for the film. At first, these are simple sketches in marker, but each grows in complexity until the final reel, when The Mystery of Picasso switches to a CinemaScope ratio and bursts into colour.

One of the greatest documentary portraits of an artist of work, this release is accompanied by two other films of Picasso: Paul Haesaerts BAFTA-winning A Visit to Picasso from 1949 and a charming home movie by fellow artist Man Ray.

***

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot peers into the imagination of Pablo Picasso's studio and emerges with a quiet documentary that captures the revolutionary painter's creative process. Through a combination of stop-motion and time-lapse photography, Picasso's Cubist work comes to life on screen. Paint strokes and splashes of color appear as if by magic, as empty canvases become platforms for a series of daring and original drawings and paintings that exist only within the confines of this film.

 

 

The Film:

Most of The Mystery of Picasso is made by a stationary camera focused on a translucent piece of paper. Picasso sits on the other side of the paper and draws and paints. The camera records the painting on film, essentially taking the point of view of the canvas. It is as though Picasso is painting on the other side of the movie screen, or in our case, television set.
If you’re interested in seeing how the effect is achieved, then you only have to watch the middle of the film. Clouzot sends out a remote camera crew to photograph the stationary setup — a big anchored camera pointing straight at vertical easel in a carefully lit studio. Clouzot shows us how the system works by intercutting between the shirtless painter working and the close-up on the painting itself.

Excerpt from MovieHabit located HERE

Astounding time-lapse photography of Picasso painting. You chiefly see his paintings (without him) as if they were organic organisms evolving, growing, and mutating. Picasso’s relentless energy is overwhelming. You quickly realize that beneath every painting of his are 100 other paintings that have been painted over. As one image morphs into another — all equally riveting — you wonder, what is Picasso searching for? He seems to be hunting for something as he layers one variation over another. He’s said elsewhere (not much dialog here; just time lapse film) that he is not looking for beauty but truth. I decided he keeps painting over until he does something he’s never done before. In the spirit of this layering, the two independent commentary tracks by two art historians are worth listening to and much preferred to the corny music soundtrack. It’s not often we get to see greatness at work. This film, made by a French director in the 1950s, is a stroke of genius.

Excerpt from TrueFilms located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Mystery of Picasso gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow Video.  This was restored by the CNC (Le Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée or the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image), an agency of the French Ministry of Culture. The film has scenes in both 1.37:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios. This Blu-ray 1080P transfer looks very good - much cleaner (as evidenced by the split-screen restoration demo supplement.) The colors are vibrant while the black and white has nicely layered contrast - adding some depth to the image. It has existed on inferior SD (DVD) transfers for years and it's fabulous to have the HD restoration available. The Mystery of Picasso looks very appealing on BD.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The Arrow Blu-ray of The Mystery of Picasso offers a linear PCM 2.0 channel (16-bit) in the original French language. It is passive with a score credited to Georges Auric (Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, It Always Rains on Sunday, Dead of Night, The Innocents, Lola Montes, Rififi, Wages of Fear) and it sounds flat but clear via the uncompressed rendering. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked disc.

 

Extras :

Arrow include the 20-minute A Visit to Picasso, Paul Haesaerts 1949 BAFTA-winning documentary on the painter, capturing Picasso at work in his Vallauris studio. La Garoupe, a 1937, 16mm, home movie by Man Ray, in black and white and colour, of Picasso and friends holidaying near Antibes. It runs over 9-minutes long. Picasso, My Father spends 26-minutes with Picasso's daughter, Maya talking about her father. The Mystery of Picasso Restored runs 2-minutes and shows some scenes showcasing the differences and the upgrade of the new restoration. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm and the first pressing gets an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and illustrator John Coulthart.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
There is a large 'fascination factor' involved with Henri-Georges Clouzot's film. The Mystery of Picasso has a lot to offer and it should be seen in the best possible visual presentation.  The Arrow Video Blu-ray does the film justice with a strong a/v presentation and appreciated supplements. This is very desirable. Absolutely recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 24th, 2018


 




 

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