CÉZANNE – Portraits of a Life (2018) ***

January 22nd, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

The international film series EXHIBITION ON SCREEN continues with this well-meaning endeavour that attempts to adds another dimension to the National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibition exploring the life, art and legacy of the “father of modern art”. Paul Cézanne is also credited with bridging the gap between Impressionism and Cubism and heralding in a new generation of artistic tradition. CÉZANNE – PORTRAIT OF A LIFE also travels to Paris where the artist mixed in the emerging circle of Impressionists, and to his childhood and family home in Aix-en-Provence illuminating one of history’s most significant and, until now, lesser known artists.

On this occasion Phil Grabsky has come up with a rather detached and formally uneven film that offers plenty of information about the artist but does so in a way that is too episodic and choppy to be really enjoyable, unlike his previous artist profiles. Filmed footage from the exhibition jostles for the viewer’s attention along with commentary from experts and curators (including Cezanne’s great-grandson Philippe), and letters from the artist’s extensive correspondence with greats (including Emile Zola and Camille Pissarro), making it often impossible to follow the thread of the artist’s life in a meaningful and cohesive way. That said, masterful camerawork brings to life the artist’s Provence and his extensive portrait work offering a glowing onscreen representation of the show for those unable to attend, with an upcoming Home Ent release no doubt available in due course. MT


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