MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Picasso Summer

Pablo Picasso came this close to doing the work on the animated sequences in Picasso Summerhimself, and if he had, the film would have become one of the most important cinematic works of the Twentieth Century. But for whatever reason, he chose not to explore and conquer the one remaining artform open to him, and so the movie’s producer, Wes Herschensohn, did the animation instead (with Picasso’s tacit approval) and the film never received a theatrical run. In fact, it opens with the Warner Television logo on the Warner Home Video Archive Collection release , but at least it will now be able to get the recognition and dissemination that it deserves. The 1969 production is not a supremely commercial film, though one suspects that if it had made it into theaters in the late Sixties as it should have, it would have quickly acquired a cult reputation as a psychedelic adventure, and theaters would have been heavy with sweet-smelling smoke wherever it played.

Albert Finney stars as a burnt-out architect who takes a break and brings his wife, played by Yvette Mimieux, to the French Riviera in hopes of meeting Picasso. They ride about on bicycles and do a few other touristy things, and then Finney’s character takes off by himself on a side trek to Spain, where he meets the matador,Luis Miguel Dominguín, and practices bullfighting (although a double is used in a couple of stunts, Finney is genuinely in the ring with the bull during some significant pieces of action).

There are three major animated sequences, running about 19 minutes in total, with one depicting war, one depicting sex and one depicting bullfighting, all of which use Picasso’s images and designs, as figures morph and move from one emotional concept to the next. The sequences are meant to reflect the inner turmoil of Finney’s character, although, outwardly, he has a ‘perfect’ marriage that never wavers at any point in the film. The Mimieux role was clearly meant for Audrey Hepburn, and the script could desperately have used some ghosting byTwo for the Road’s Frederic Raphael, but, on the other hand, it is so unusual to see a feature film that does not look for splotches on the great canvass of marriage that it can be a refreshing and invigorating experience in that regard. It can also be argued that where drama must usually stir things up to examine the meanings of life, the discovery the characters make-of the beauty in their relationship, in art, and in the world surrounding them being greater than any imagined despair-is a genuinely radical concept.

The 94-minute feature is also a very good dabbling at an appreciation of Picasso-who, although widely acknowledged as one of the great artists, was not as universally admired in the Sixties as he would become later in the century-and gives the viewer a taste, at least, of the environment he inhabited-Dominguín was an associate and those really are Picasso’s clay reliefs on the bullfighter’s wall.

The musical score is one of Michel Legrand’s best efforts, and the principle theme became what turned out to be the film’s most prominent legacy, the song, Summer Me, Winter Me.While Robert Sallin is listed as the director in the screen credits, Serge Bourguignon did most of the film before pulling out, and Herschensohn was the movie’s primary creative force. The narrative is based upon a story by Ray Bradbury. The cinematography, which, along with Legrand’s music, is all you need to spend endless time watching the youthful Finney and Mimieux enjoying the French sun, was handled superbly by Vilmos Zsigmond.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. Although there are speckles at times, the colors are bright and sharp, and fleshtones are lovely. The monophonic sound sustains Legrand’s music without significant distortion. There is no captioning.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon