Phil Grabsky (director)
Seventh Art Productions (studio)
21 February 2017 (released)
16 February 2017
I, Claude Monet is the latest feature in this year’s series of Exhibitions on Screen. Differently from previous films, director Phil Grabsky constructed the film around Monet’s personal letters to different addressees. Thus, instead of the usual talking heads and the guided tour of the exhibition, with digressions on the artists’ lives and formation, we find ourselves immersed in Monet’s mind and we experience his art through the chronology of his emotions.
Despite its unconventional form, the film feels much less powerful than previous ones. This certainly has different reasons, but the main one to consider is that the film will be screened in a cinema, not on a specific art channel. And because of these artistic choices, it creates a further barrier between audience and content, by ‘excluding’ the non-Monet fans, because it does not help in framing his life and career for those who are not familiar with it.
The voices of art critics and curators have always been at the core of Exhibitions on Screen, and they were a felt absence in this instance. Moreover, the film does not look nor feel like something one would watch at the cinema. It is slower and less captivating, made for a very specific kind of audience rather than for the general public, or art aficionados who want to access something otherwise inaccessible. At least in this sense, the film succeeds in bringing over 100 paintings on screen and working on their stories through three thousand letters.
The narration follows various stages of Monet’s life, his inner turmoil and his gradual blindness, the uncompromised love for painting and the personal satisfaction of seeing himself succeed, despite all difficulties.
These universal themes are something the audience can relate to in Monet’s story, but it ultimately all depends on whether one can overcome the form to embrace the content.
I, Claude Monet is screening in UK cinemas from February 21st, you can find your nearest screen here: http://www.exhibitiononscreen.com/en-uk/home