Enter the theater at any time: The 75-minute film screens twice, back-to-back. Attendance is free with general museum admission. MFAH Members always receive free general admission.
Unavailable for more than a decade, The Mystery of Picasso is one of the greatest documentaries on art ever made. The film received the Prix du Jury at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, and the French government declared the film a national treasure in 1984.
Like a matador confronting a bull, the artist approaches his easel, his eyes blazing. As he wields his brush, we see through the canvas as the artwork unfolds, erupts, dances into being before our eyes. Pablo Picasso, the most influential artist of the 20th century, is making a painting, and the famous French director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique and The Wages of Fear) is making a movie.
In 1955, Clouzot joined forces with his friend Picasso to make an entirely new kind of art film—"a film that could capture the moment and the mystery of creativity." Together, they devised an innovative technique: the filmmaker placed his camera behind a semi-transparent surface on which the artist drew with special inks that bled through.
Clouzot thus captured a perfect reverse image of Picasso's brushstrokes, and the motion-picture screen itself becomes the artist's canvas. Here, the master creates, and sometimes obliterates, 20 works (most of them, in fact, destroyed after the shoot), ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to CinemaScope color murals—artworks that evolve in minutes through the magic of stop-motion animation.
"When we are all dead, you and me and everyone," promised Clouzot (1907–1977) to Picasso (1881–1973), "the film will still continue to be projected."