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It was indeed a cruel, cruel irony that at the conclusion of Arne Glimcher’s illuminating and absorbing Picasso & Braque Go to the Movies (pictured right), a thoroughly engrossing look at the influence of early cinema on the seminal cubist painters, which puts the prototypical camera and projector on a pedestal … my camera should break. My state-of-the-art, 8-months-old, size of the palm of your hand digital camera. Kaputzk. Just, I might add, as Glimcher and fellow New York art stars Julian Schnabel and Chuck Close (both of whom contribute to the discussion in the film) were taking the stage with Bell Lightbox Artistic Director Noah Cowan for the hour-long post-screening discussion. At that point I would have traded in my inert shiny object for one of those old stand-up jobbies the size of an apple box that stood on sticks.

So alas, I have no visual record to offer you of these three artistic icons waxing poetic about the fascinating relationship between silent film experimentation and the evolution of cubism. Or, more importantly, of Schnabel in his green plaid lumberjack shirt, purple pinstriped track pants, matching purple socks and brown Vans. (Sample of inner dialogue brought about by post-camera-kaputzk frustration: “Schnabel … art star … acclaimed director … thinks he’s so hot … plaid green and purple … ppft … I could make that work … no sweat.”)

Fortunately, my spirits were immediately lifted when the topic of computers, Facebook and digital technology was raised and Schnabel replied with a gruff, “I hate that shit.”

Yes, Julian … feel my pain.

Schnabel also felt impressed by and grateful for Glimcher’s interesting and insightful film, which Schnabel described as “this gift that Arne’s given us,” noting “the sheer archival accomplishment of the film.” Indeed, Picasso & Braque Go to the Movies is like a 60 minute encyclopedia entry sure to please anyone with an interest in or passion for cinema or the visual arts. Co-produced by Martin Scorsese, who also appears in the film, the documentary investigates the influences, parallels and similarities between the work of cubist masters Picasso and Braque and a treasure trove of silent classics. Clips from 122 different films are cut into the proficiently structured and engaging doc. (The DVD will be released with three of these silent films in their entirety, bringing the total running time of the package to an hour and a half.)

As fascinating as the film was, the discussion afterwards amped the interesting quotient up even further, as Cowan moderated the three artists through a wonderful discussion of the interweaving of art and cinema. Glimcher noted how “the old projectors looked very much like a cubist painting. Not to mention the light coming out of the projector. The cone of light is the basic structure of cubist painting and had a huge influence on cubist art.”

Close elaborated on this by discussing “the tension between artificial reality and reality – something artists deal with every day, something that Picasso and Braque recognized right away.” He also noted that many painters start out with a fascination for magic, and how this “interest in magic is the job of the painter,” which explains why Picasso and Braque felt a certain kinship with the early cinematic slight of hand of Georges Meliese. “They realized the magical potential of film,” Close … um, closed with.

Schnabel concurred, stating how much he admired the attempts on the part of those early pioneers to achieve a particular visual effect, even if the limitations of the technology at the time might have somewhat restricted the final result. “The failure or inability to make these films perfect is what makes them really beautiful,” he said.

“An artist’s job is to point at something you think people need to see,” Schnabel added, before returning to his rant against modern technology, and in the process winning a little more of my heart. “We’re living in a society where it doesn’t matter who did it first, but who did it last,” he said. “It’s a very myopic society.”

Glimcher went on to express his love for the mystique of cinema as a low class event. “The idea that art or society isn’t influenced by low culture is totally false,” Close asserted. To which Schnabel replied, “Yeah, it’s a total lie. Especially if you saw the Republican National Convention.”

If you’re interested in catching this terrific event again, I’m afraid you’re SOL. It was a one-time deal. I suggest you search the local thrift shops for green plaid and purple pants to recreate the experience.