When cinema explores the psyche of artists

It’s movie season. To take refuge there during the cold. Moreover, in December, before the holidays, several good films hit the screens. Portraits of creators among others. I named Maestro by Bradley Cooper, about the American composer and musician Leonard Bernstein, who feverishly gave birth to unforgettable sounds of modernity. Also Caravaggio by Michele Placido on the life of the Italian master of baroque and chiaroscuro in his still dark Renaissance. This revolutionary painter with a fiery temperament, who drew his religious models from the poor and prostitutes, had killed a man in a duel and for a long time suffered the fate of the outlaws.

These two exceptional creators lived an unusual bisexuality, dangerous in the 16th century.e and in the 17the century, compromising in the middle of the 20the. Both were beings larger than life, ardent, seductive, loving, inspired, creative to the core.

We are talking about two films that are stylistically polar opposites, but successful. Maestro, classical in style, is carried by the exceptional performances of Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, by the music of the master, his transcendent humanity, by an elegant production. Those who knew the composer of West Side Story who died in 1990 were eagerly awaiting this biopic, to compare Bernstein and his double. On Caravaggio, time will have passed. This dark, powerful, carnal film depicts a bloody and ambiguous era between Rome and Naples. Saluy to the formidable Riccardo Scarmarcio as a cursed painter and Louis Garrel as the great icy inquisitor!

Biopics of artists’ lives are perilous exercises, which sometimes miss their target. All invite the viewer to delve into the works of the heroes featured. But how can we bring talent, its sources and their alchemical fermentation to the screen? How to show the doubts of a creator in the transmission of images, shapes, luminous sounds present in him? Occult dimensions can escape filmmakers. Unless they grasp them by intuition, using metaphor, humor, poetry, unless they pierce the veil of clichés, of legends surrounding creative genius. The loves of the greatest artists often confine their less accessible quests for perfection to the cinema. Romantic fiction gets involved. What does it matter? We are tracking the signs of the big flights.

Everyone has their own favorite works on key artists, fromAmadeus by Milos Forman at Van Gogh by Maurice Pialat, via Camille Claudel by Bruno Nuytten. Some people swear by Basquiat by Julian Schnabel, a captivating portrait of the young New York graffiti artist and prodigy painter. Others by La vie en rose by Olivier Dahan on the French singer Edith Piaf, which earned Marion Cotillard her Oscar. On the life of the composer of Swan Lake, I keep within me two different and complementary works; The pathetic symphony by Ken Russell and Tchaikovsky’s wife by Kirill Serebrennikov. The Russian musician evaded it in both cases, but I touched upon his breath and his fault.

These works take us across time and space to meet imperfect, sometimes criminal, creators. Today, those who claim to erase the memory of artists full of faults (or adhering to the codes of their time) in the name of contemporary mores are hitting the nail on the head. Let us travel, at least for the duration of a film, off the paved paths of virtue, on the rough paths where inspiration escapes from the earth in singular and admirable ways.

“Woe to him who enters my eternal dream without being an impalpable image! » wrote in The illuminatedthe great hallucinated, syphilitic and debauched French poet Gérard de Nerval, inviting us to lighten our minds in order to pierce the soul of artists.

In the cinema, would the creators of the past recognize themselves in these mirrors held up? Not sure ! The realism of the costumes and sets, the adventures more or less faithful to the vagaries of their existence cannot fool them. Some would seek their creative impulses in vain and would cry “imposture”. Art remains a mystery. In mise en abîme, the best directors draw here and there colors from their personal psyche, adding new, shimmering hues to their alter ego.

It is with his own vision of an admired artist that the spectator confronts himself in front of his filmed portrait. We bathe in the same waters as the muses, taking a moment to be one of them. The best biopics of the genre are those that make you want to go and pick the bittersweet fruits of creation yourself to taste them, to fill yourself with them.

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