There are many movies about artists out there, Bob Kessel recommends these. Some are obscure but all are worth watching. Many of the artists in these movies are included in the Artists on Art series by Bob Kessel. Portraits of famous artists drawn in the style of the artist depicted. Each picture has a quote by that artist. Many will be surprised by the not so well known quotes.
The Horse’s Mouth
(1958) Director: Ronald Neame
Alec Guinness is Gulley Jimson. He is broke, difficult, conniving, uncouth, and a welcher – but an artist. The visions in his head may not really satisfy him when realized, but the quest continues, for the perfect wall. The Beeders leave for six weeks of vacation and return to find a 7000 pound committment and the wall of their living room a national treasure, even though living with a wall mural of feet is not their cup of tea. Then – in a bombed out church scheduled for demolition – THE wall that can become his vision.
La Belle Noiseuse
by Jacques Rivette 1991 run time 236 minutes
French film. the uncut 4 hour version is a must see.
Where most films don’t show the artwork the artist makes, this movie has the camera linger on the artwork as it is created. Although not about a recognizable famous artist, it captures the alchemy of an artist and his model better than any other movie.
Adventures of Picasso
(original title: Picassos äventyr) is a 1978 Swedish film comedy directed by Tage Danielsson, starring Gösta Ekman, as the famous painter. A Monty Pythonesque crazy, laugh out loud slapstick comedy.
Wolf at the Door
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Max von Sydow Director: Henning Carlsen
Donald Sutherland plays an excellent Gaugin. He takes you through his life from deserting his family in Denmark through his time in Paris with all the other artists of his day to his travels in Tahiti. Always kept your attention. Highly recommend movie for it’s content and for the history value.
(1976) Starring: Geir Westby, Gro Fraas Director: Peter Watkins
Famously described by Ingmar Bergman as a “work of genius”, Peter Watkins’ multi-faceted masterpiece is more than just a bio-pic of the iconic Norwegian Expressionist painter. Focusing initially on Munch’s formative years in late 19th Century Kristiania (now Oslo), Watkins uses his trademark style to create a vivid picture of the emotional, political and social upheavals that would have such an effect on his art.
The young artist (Geir Westby) has an affair with “Mrs Heiberg” (Gro Fraas), a devastating experience that will haunt him for the rest of his life, and his work is viciously attacked by the critics and public alike. He is forced to leave his home country for Berlin, where, along with the notorious Swedish playwright August Strindberg, he becomes part of the cultural storm that is to sweep Europe.
Lust For Life
1956 Dir Vincente Minnelli
I like this mostly for the over the top comic performances.
Kirk Douglas gives an Oscar-nominated performance in Vincente Minelli’s adaptation of Irving Stone’s torrid life of Vincent van Gogh. It perpetuates the romantic myth of the tortured artist (some of the best are very well-adjusted, you know!) but is an enjoyable, if not entirely accurate, portrait of a great artist.
(1992) Starring: Jacques Dutronc, Alexandra London Director: Maurice Pialat
Jacques Dutronc is simply extraordinary as Vincent, his acting filled with subtlety. He doesn’t stoop to histrionics or scenery-chewing…he doesn’t need to. Every gesture, every facial expression, every look in his eyes says something about the character. No wonder he won a Cesar for the role. This is neither the Vincent of “Lust for Life” (Kirk Douglas’ tormented soul searching for love and understanding) nor the Vincent of “Vincent and Theo” (Tim Roth’s mad-as-a-hatter egoist). This Vincent has a quiet cup of coffee before he goes to work in the morning and escapes Dr. Gachet’s house to enjoy a solitary lunch in the wheatfields (the latter is one of my favorite moments of the film–simple but lyrical). There’s no sign of the “mad artist” of the van Gogh mythology. The suicide comes as much a surprise in the film as it must have in real life. We don’t see it coming.
(1952) Starring: José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor Director: John Huston
Nominated for seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and winner of two, this visually stunning biography of master artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is a “painting come to life” (Time)! “Flawlessly directed” (The Hollywood Reporter) by John Huston (The African Queen), from a script by Anthony Veiller and Huston, Moulin Rouge is simply “irresistible” (Newsweek)! As a dwarf, Toulouse-Lautrec (Jose Ferrer) believes he’s too ugly to ever fall in love. So he loses himself in painting and cognac. A fixture at Paris’ infamous turn-of-the-century Moulin Rouge nightclub, Lautrec meets a girl from the street who then breaks his heart. Luckily, newfound artistic success, copious amounts of drink and friendship with a new woman keep him alive. Will he be able to mend his broken heart in time to recognize the true love now staring him inthe face?