Matisse – from MoMA and Tate Modern, Blu-ray (2015)

Exhibition On Screen series
On screen: Henri Matisse (via old film clips & photos), Nicolas Serota – dir. of Tate, Glenn Lowry, dir. of MoMA, actor Simon Russell Beale reads words of Matisse, Presenter – Francine Stock, Narrator – Rupert Young
Studio: Seventh Art Productions SEV183 [4/28/15] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English PCM stereo
Subtitles: English
Region free
Length: 97 min.
Rating: ****1/2

This is like going to the either of the galleries, but better because there are no crowds and you get the interesting discussions about Mattise’s works from the directors of both galleries. Also, the old filmed footage of Mattise at work cutting up the colored paper out of which he made his beautiful cut-outs. There is also a section on both galleries’ mountings of the exhibition, which is most interesting. It shows how they set up and present the works, which of course is different in every museum.

The fine score for the documentary is by Nikki French and at one point falls into Debussy imitations. A jazz group led by Courtney Pine and the principal dancer of the Royal Ballet are also involved in some segments. The latter and her choreographer discuss simulating the different colors and movements of the cut-outs in dance. The film moves slowly thru the 15 or so various rooms of the exhibition, and concentrates on a few of the works of arts as people speak about them. The large cut-out canvases The Snail and Memories of Oceania get a major amount of time, as do the four Blue Nudes.  (The Snail is so abstract I don’t see a snail, but it’s lovely anyway.) Matisse put his life experience painting nudes into these last four works, which are quite amazing to see.

There are also interviews with his grand-daughter and a mistress of Picasso who visited Matisse when he was in his wheelchair creating his cut-outs. Hearing about his working procedures and personality from people who knew him, plus the films of him at work, are most interesting. There is also a brief biography of the artist.

—John Sunier

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