Film Review: Picasso: A Rebel in Paris is not as genius as its subject


Pablo Picasso is an undisputed icon of modern art. The co-founder of the cubist movement, his legacy stretches to thousands of paintings. Now, a new docufilm, Picasso: A Rebel in Paris, offers a portrait of a complex artist that is told in a straight-forward and linear way.

Simona Risi directs, and Iranian actress, Mina Kavani of No Bears fame stars, reading excerpts from letters and books about Picasso. Two stories are at play here: that of the genius painter, and the museum dedicated to his life and work.

The Spanish born artist would spend much of his life in France in Paris and Montmartre, and filmmaker Risi draws parallels between Picasso and Kavani’s stories of exile away from repressive regimes, and their lives in newly-adopted countries, feeling like outsiders.

Interviews with talking heads round out the documentary aspect, including Cécile Debray, President of the Museum National Picasso Paris, and author Annie Cohen-Solal. Stylist and designer, Paul Smith also offers his take on the aesthetics of the artist, and various art historians feature too, alongside a soundtrack from Emanuele Matte.

A rather quiet and intellectual film, covering Picasso’s life and legacy in detail, Picasso: A Rebel in Paris feels a bit pedestrian for such an icon of modern art. It is possible that there were some things lost in translation, as it is obvious that Kavani’s sections are dubbed. It’s a shame as this film could have been great, given its already fascinating subject matter.

Picasso: A Rebel in Paris is a well-researched docufilm, drawing together various threads of an incredible artist’s life, and the museum that is dedicated to him. It’s ultimately a decent look at Picasso’s life and artistic legacy, but there was certainly room for greater depth in its broad brushstrokes.


Picasso: A Rebel in Paris is screening in select Australian theatres from June 22nd, 2024.