Friday, May 27, 2011

Top 10 Films about Painters

Bunuel's vision of The Last Supper in Viridiana

1. ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
Tarkovksy's epic (205mins) black and white tale of the 15th century Russian icon painter.

2. EDVARD MUNCH (Peter Watkins, 1974)
Watkin's also-epic (210mins) docudrama of the Norwegian expressionist painter, using non-professional Norwegian actors re-enacting scenes from Munch's life as well as being interviewed in situ, is an exhausting, harrowing and rewarding experience. Ingmar Bergman called the film a work of genius.

3. CARAVAGGIO (Derek Jarman, 1983)
Jarman's best film, about the Italian Renaissance painter as famous for his tumultuous life as for his bold use of chiaroscuro, features such anachronisms as typewriters and calculators.

4. LA BELLE NOISEUSE (Jacques Rivette, 1991)
Another epic at 237 minutes, this one sometimes feels like watching paint dry, but in a good way. It stars Michel Piccoli as a (fictional) reclusive painter and features very long takes of the process of drawing and painting. Only Rivette can get away with this sort of thing. I remember going to see it at the cinema when it came out. Exhausting.

5. LUST FOR LIFE (Vincente Minnelli, 1956 ) / VINCENT (Paul Cox, 1987) / VINCENT & THEO (Robert Altman, 1990) / VAN GOGH (Maurice Pialat, 1991)
Filmmakers are inevitably drawn to Van Gogh's passionate and tortured life. There are other films about the artist, but these four, from four great directors, are probably all you need. All are very different in style.

Controversial filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, Vincent's great-nephew, was murdered in broad daylight in Amsterdam in 2004.

6. REMBRANDT'S J'ACCUSE (Peter Greenaway, 2008)
Hard to pick just one Greenaway. Originally trained as a painter, most of his films seem to be about artists of one kind or another: Nightwatching, The Pillow Book, The Draughtman's Contract, Belly of an Architect and Goltzius and the Pelican Company, his latest film about Hendrik Goltzius, a 16th century Dutch printer and engraver. I met Greenaway in the early 1990s. He seemed very nice.

7. THE QUINCE TREE SUN (Victor Erice, 1992)
Tragic that Erice has made only three features. This one, his most recent, is a documentary of the Spanish painter Antonio Lopez.

8. PASSION (Jean-Luc Godard, 1982)
A film within a film, with the director making a film also called Passion, recreating 19th century paintings. Visually splendid; it's perhaps no coincidence that this was Godard's first film shot by Raoul Coutard since Week End, fifteen years previously.

9. BASQUIAT (Julian Schnabel, 1996)
Directed by fellow painter Schnabel, with David Bowie playing Andy Warhol, there's plenty to enjoy in this biopic of the graffiti artist.

10. POLLOCK (Ed Harris, 2000)
Ed Harris was born to play (and direct) this film of Jackson Pollock.

Do say: Where's Exit Through the Gift Shop, Rembrandt, Love is the Devil and The Agony and the Ecstasy?
Don't say: Where's Girl with the Pearl Earring?

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