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'Surviving Picasso'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 25, 1996

Producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala bring the customary polish, but no pizzazz, to this simplistic portrait of the artist as a dirty old man.

Distilled from Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington’s controversial biography, the turgid adaptation views Picasso (Anthony Hopkins) through the eyes of Francoise (Natascha McElhone), a 23-year-old painter drawn into a 10-year liaison with the charismatic Spaniard.

Though Picasso, then in his 60s, was an acknowledged master of 20th-century art, the film offers few insights into the hows and whys of his canvases or sculptures. Instead, the filmmakers detail the tedious trials and tribulations of Francoise, the only lover or wife to break from the stingy sexist’s orbit.

Hopkins, like the painter he inhabits with such relish, easily dominates his costars, who include the earnest McElhone, the cerebral Julianne Moore, the bovine Susannah Harker, the devious Diane Venora and the ranting Jane Lapotaire.

The production is gorgeously mounted in the tradition of such Merchant/Ivory films as "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day." It’s the wrong picture, but it is nicely framed.

Contains female nudity, profanity.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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