The Filmoteca and the Museum: involvements


Esteve Riambau

It all began with a first meeting with Pepe Serra. He had just become the director of the MNAC. The Filmoteca (Film Library) was getting ready to inaugurate the new building in the Raval neighbourhood.

– We exhibit paintings and I love films, he told me. – We screen films and their associations with painting are fascinating, I replied.

Chomón Room (above). Laya Room (below). Entrance to the Filmoteca through Plaça Salvador Seguí in the Raval neighbourhood. ©Filmoteca de Catalunya

This is how, from 2012 onwards, the first four seasons of “Per amor a l’art” (For the Love of Art) came about, a cycle that each week explored the correspondences between films and painting.

Inaugural session of the cycle “For the Love of Art” with the screening of Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark in the Dome Room of the Museu Nacional. ©Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-Marta Mérida

The possibilities ranged from the exploration of the Hermitage in St Petersburg in Russkly kovcheg (Alexander Sokurov, 2002) to portraits of painters: Rembrandt (Charles Matton, 1999), Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974), Andrei Roublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966), Van Gogh (Vincent Minnelli, 1956), Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986), Modigliani (Jacques Becker, 1958), Goya (Carlos Saura, 1999) and Pollock (Ed Harris, 2000). It also included reflections on the act of creation: F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1973), Le Mystère Picasso (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1956), The Draughtsman’s Contract (Peter Greenaway, 1982) and El sol del membrillo (Victor Erice, 1992). And, even, the inspiration taken from the paintings of Edward Hopper in Der Amerikanisch Freund (Wim Wenders, 1977) and Diego Velázquez in Llums i ombres (Jaime Camino, 1988).

Images of F for Fake by Orson Welles (left), El sol del membrillo by Victor Erice (top right) and Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick (below).

Each weekly session, from October to June, was preceded by a presentation given by art or film critics, restorers, painters or directors of photography. José_Luis_Alcaine – who has worked with Pedro Almodóvar and Fernando Trueba – presented his hypothesis that Picasso’s Guernika is inspired on a scene from A Farewell to Arms (Frank Borzage, 1932),

Screening of El artista y la modelo with its director, Fernando Trueba, Esteve Riambau (director of the Filmoteca) and Pepe Serra (director of Museu Nacional). ©Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-Marta Mérida

Year after year new films about artists were programmed, such as Pirosmani (Giorgi Shengelaia, 1969), Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat, 1991), Goya (Milos Forman, 2006), Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996), Louise Bourgeois (Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach, 2008), El Greco (Yannis Smaragdis, 2007), Klimt (Raúl Ruiz, 2006), Frida Khalo (Julie Taymor, 2002), Cézanne (Je-llet , 1990), Vincent and Theo Van Gogh (Robert Altman, 1990), Turner (Mike Leigh, 2014), Lucien Freud (Randall Wright, 2012) or David Hockney (Bruno Wollheim, 2009). Films were also screened solidly influenced by paintings from different periods and in different styles: Impressionism in Une partie de champagne (Jean Renoir, 1936), Frederic Remington in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949), Roman frescoes in Satyricon (Federico Fellini, 1969), Constable, Turner and Gainsborough in Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), Expressionism in Faust (FW Murnau, 1926), the plastic use of colour in Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954), the Belle Époque in French Can Can (Jean Renoir, 1954), or Francis Bacon in Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972). And also titles in which pictorial creation plays a leading role: El artista y la modelo (Fernando Trueba, 2012), L’hypothèse du tableau volé (Raúl Ruiz, 1979), The Picture of Dorian Grey (Albert Lewin, 1945) and Uncovered (Jim McBride, 1994). Without forgetting transferences between painting and the cinema in Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947), made by Hans Richter with the involvement of the painters Ferdinand Léger, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and Lonesome Cowboys, directed by Andy Warhol in 1968.

Screening of the premiere of El cuadro by David Trueba with the artist Josep Santilari (left), in the Dome room of the Museu Nacional, introduced by Pepe Serra (right). ©Marc Rosés

Artists from different periods have been the subjects of biopics, or documentary portraits. But the act of creation, as for example Jacques Rivette portrays it in La belle noiseuse (1991), makes it possible to establish interesting parallels with the cinema from the moment when concepts are invoked such as composition, the representation of reality or the mise-en-scène. At the same time, light is an element common to both media, and quite a few film-makers, from Peter Greenaway to Eric Rohmer, have cited pictorial points of reference in their respective filmic compositions. Collectors, restorers, dealers and gallerists have also graced the screen as more or less important actors in the world of painting that the cinema has reflected so assiduously. The success of this initiative was undeniable: it was borne out by 25,000 spectators in 195 sessions programmed at a time, 5 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, that is apparently unfavourable from the commercial point of view.

Screening of Les statues meurent aussi by Alain Resnais with a presentation by Manuel Delgado (left) and Big Eyes by Tim Burton, by Rosa Regàs (right). ©Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya-Marta Mérida

 Coinciding with this initiative, in September 2014 the MNAC inaugurated a new presentation of its permanent Modern Art collection. The idea was to integrate painting and sculpture with other less traditional elements (furniture, jewellery, clothes), posters and films in a chronological horizon going from Modernisme and Noucentisme to the Spanish Civil War. The Filmoteca de Catalunya was invited to contribute four pieces to it, from the Conservation and Restoration Centre. The first was Georges Méliès’ film entitled Eruption volcanique à la Martinique (1902), an explosion of hand-coloured landscapes and early special effects that establishes a dialogue with works from the circle of Els Quatre Gats (Ramon Casas, Isidre Nonell, etc.). The second film shown was an advertisement for Tabú, a brand of cosmetics commercialized in the 1930s. It is a cartoon film made by Josep Serra Massana for Ibérica Films, a production company created in Barcelona by David Oliver, a German Jew who had escaped from Hitler living temporarily in the Catalan capital. The third piece was Suïcida (Llorenç Llobet Gràcia, 1933), an experimental amateur short that is associated directly with particular photographers of the Republican period, like Emili Godes, Pere Català Pic or Josep Maria Lladó, whose works were displayed next to the screen. Finally, a newsreel by Laya Films, the production company of the Republican Generalitat’s Commissariat of Propaganda, reflects the propagandistic nature of filmed images in line with the posters made by Josep Renau or Antoni Clavé. Further reorganization of the Contemporary Art exhibition opens the door to the prospect of future contributions by the Filmoteca.

Arantxa Aguirre, at the screening of Dancing Beethoven, at the Filmoteca / Cartell of the cycle “For the Love of the Arts”, 2019-2020. ©Filmoteca de Catalunya

After the first four seasons of “Per amor a l’Art” the need arose to open the cycle up to new artistic disciplines, and it was renamed “Per amor a les Arts” (For the Love of the Arts). Always under the leadership of the MNAC and the Filmoteca, it was decided to add the Auditori and the Palau de la Música (music), the Gran Teatre del Liceu (opera), the Mercat de les Flors (dance), the Teatre Lliure and the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (theatre), the Public Libraries of Catalonia and the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes (literature), the FAD and the Museu del Disseny (design), and the Mies Van der Rohe Foundation (architecture).

Alejandra Aguirre (filmmaker) and Jennifer Tejada (dancer) at the Fuera de escena screening at the Filmoteca (left). Dora García and Borja Bagunyà, at The Joycean Society, at the Filmoteca (right). Poster for the “For the Love of the Arts” cycle, 2020-2021.

In the programming – also weekly – of these six new seasons, the aim is to adapt the cinema to each of these disciplines, whether in the form of adaptations of contemporary novels or classic fiction, biographies of writers, dance performances, thoughts about architecture or convergences with opera. Films have also been screened that reflect the film-making process, like Good Morning, Babylon (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1987), Hail Caesar! (Ethan and Joel Coen, 2016) or Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Peter Greenaway, 2015). Without forgetting that painting, borne out by the loyalty of the MNAC, has maintained its singular place thanks to the presence of films like Pantalla rasgada (2015), a documentary by Gerardo Gormezano about the painter and set designer Marcelo Grande, Een echte Vermeer (Rudolf van der Berg, 2016), or the opening of one season with the screening of Francofonia. Le Louvre sous l’Occupation (Alexander Sokurov, 2015) in the museum’s spectacular Oval Hall.

Poster for the “For the Love of the Arts” cycle, 2021-2022.

The success of these sessions with the public confirms their interest and strengthens the bonds of collaboration between the principal Catalan cultural institutions. In this context, the cinema shows itself to be an effective instrument of multidisciplinary interrelation in the service of a project that, given its thematic and historical scope, has a long future of love for the arts ahead of it.

Esteve Riambau
Director de la Filmoteca de Catalunya

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