There has always been an intense relationship between cinema and art. Painters, sculptors, musicians, writers of all kinds and of all times have often inspired and at the same time influenced the cinematographic work.
Our ideal journey through the relationship between cinema and art cannot but begin with “The Great Beauty” by director Paolo Sorrentino, winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. Over the course of the story, the protagonists move around from night to sunrise against a backdrop of extraordinary works of art and unexpected glimpses, where the pitiless confrontation between the characters and the majestic environment surrounding them brings out, both clearly and sadly, all their inadequacy.
Rome is the undisputed protagonist of “The Great Beauty”, as the film is an incessant succession of famous and lesser known gems. Palazzo Spada, Villa del Priorato di Malta on the Aventine Hill, mainly known for the keyhole through which you can see the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica. A common stroll taken by the protagonists offers the opportunity to show all the magnificence of Piazza Navona, symbol of Baroque Rome with its architectural and sculptural elements by Bernini (the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the centre of the square, which represents the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile and the Rio de la Plata, the four corners of the Earth), Borromini, Rinaldi (the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, in front of Bernini’s fountain) and Pietro da Cortona, author of the frescoes in Palazzo Pamphilj’s gallery. The film is also an opportunity for an excursion inside historic buildings such as Renaissance Palazzo Sacchetti in Via Giulia by Antonio da Sangallo, with its sumptuous interiors, Palazzo Taverna with its courtyard, the Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Altemps and the Etruscan National Museum in Villa Giulia. All the way to the gardens of Villa Medici, among palaces, statues and the secret garden inside the park of Santa Maria del Priorato, where you can appreciate works of art such as Raphael’s painting “La Fornarina” in Palazzo Barberini.
If The Great Beauty has been able to recount the architectural beauties of Rome, a film that more than others has been able to recount the painting skills of an artist is certainly “Loving Vincent”. This one-of-a-kind film is an unprecedented encounter between art and cinema. It is an experiment that combines art, technology and painting; the outcome is a set of gorgeous sequences realised by having real actors move against a backdrop of Van Gogh’s works of art and then, thanks to a knowledgeable use of computer graphics, making them come to life and recount the works and the life of an educated and desperate genius. More than a century after his death at only thirty-seven years old, today Vincent Van Gogh is considered to be the pioneer of contemporary art and has entire art collections dedicated to him in New York, London, Paris, the museum of the same name in Amsterdam.
In 2014, another beautiful movie sees the light of day: Mr Turner, the film about the life of William Turner, the painter associated with the Romantic movement and precursor of Impressionism. Winner of the Academy Award in 2015, Mike Leigh’s cinematographic work tells the story of the unaffectionate and anarchic painter who was an as much-loved by some as hated by others member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and who had himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he could paint a snowstorm. William Turner is considered to be one of the most important landscape artists in the history of art.
In the film “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, a masterpiece by director Peter Webber, the life of painter Johannes Vermeer is told with particular regard to his famous painting Girl with a Turban – or, indeed, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. The story is about the artist falling in love with a maid who worked in his household, which will lead him to paint the famous portrait.
The journey through the relationship between the worlds of cinema and art continues with the film “Frida“, directed by Julie Taymor and based on the painful life of the Mexican painter, or with the film about Modigliani’s last years, “Modigliani – I colori dell’anima”, written and directed by Mick Davis.
Or with the film “Surviving Picasso”, directed by James Ivory, in which his historical lover Françoise Gilot narrates the private life of Pablo Picasso, the passions and feelings that the painter felt for his works and for his many women. But there are many films in which the paintings have a co-star role. Sometimes they are very famous paintings, such as Picasso’s Guernica in Children of Men (2006) and Monet‘s Nymphs in Titanic (1997), other times they are anonymous paintings, which however play an important role in the development of the story, as happens with the animal portraits that come to life in Amélie (2001), a visionary work by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Even Pop Art is beautifully represented in cinema thanks to a timeless masterpiece like Stanley Kubrik‘s A Clockwork Orange. In this film, it is possible to recognize several references to Pop Art, but there is more. In the initial sequence of the film, the mannequins of the Korova Milk Bar, the place where Alex (the protagonist) and his “droogs” (who are introduced for the first time inside the Korova Milk Bar) hang out, present clear similarities with two sculptures realized in 1969 by Allen Jones, respectively “Chair” and “Table”. Other explicit references are certainly the recovery of cartoon graphics, typical of Roy Lichtenstein‘s art, or the graphics of the works of Wesselmann or Ramos himself.
Cinema and art, cinema is art.