Like Lust for Life (1956) and Pollock (2000), Surviving Picasso (1996) brings the biography of a legendary painter to the screen. Unlike either of those films, however, Surviving Picasso falls short of offering any real insight into the artist's life. Anthony Hopkins brings a certain flair to Picasso, but the unfocused script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala robs his characterization of any real depth. Newcomer Natascha McElhone is magnetic as Picasso's lover of ten years, Francoise Gilot; she also provides a sympathetic strand for the viewer to follow. Unfortunately, she is also strapped with a voice-over that seems stilted and that fails to clarify the muddy plot. Despite many drawbacks, Surviving Picasso looks good, thanks to the cinematography of Tony Pierce-Roberts, and includes several enjoyable scenes, as when Picasso visits rival Henri Matisse (Joss Ackland). Like 1998's A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, Surviving Picasso finds Merchant and Ivory tackling a subject more modern and less literary than their usual Victorian fare.
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. review