The artistic legacy of Pablo Picasso is simply unparalleled, with many modern pioneers regularly citing him as a continuing source of inspiration for their own investigations. Even the people who were not in agreement with his artistic vision found it impossible to dismiss the incredible impact that Picasso had on the artistic traditions of the world.
While his artistic achievements are very well-known, Picasso was also involved in the world of cinema and even made cameo appearances in films by some of the most prominent directors of that time. Appearing as himself, Picasso can be seen in Jean Cocteau’s Testament of Orpheus as well as Henri-Georges Clouzot’s documentary The Mystery of Picasso.
In fact, many scholars have argued that Picasso’s cubist sensibilities and his distortions of the human face were actually influenced by the cinematic medium. Researchers have established the fact that Picasso was actually a cinephile from the tender age of 15 and he saw his first ever film in 1895, catching a screening in Barcelona and going home to make a painting inspired by what he saw.
As such, Picasso probably experienced many cinematic masterpieces and drew inspiration from them. Since he collaborated with the likes of Cocteau and Clouzot, it is safe to say that he was well-aware of the avant-garde cinematic sensibilities brewing in Europe but there was one particular work which he referred to as “the greatest film ever made”.
A short film with a runtime of just eight minutes, the film that Pablo Picasso was talking about was actually a critically acclaimed gem by Scottish-Canadian animator Norman McLaren. Known for his experiments with the cinematic medium and the world of animation, McLaren followed in the footsteps of Sergei Eisenstein and developed many pioneering techniques that are still relevant in the world of experimental cinema.
Titled Neighbours, the short was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and it has since been cited as one of the most controversial projects that the NFB has ever undertaken. The film ended up winning an Oscar but the version that won the award was actually not the original vision that McLaren had in his mind.
Watch the vastly influential Norman McLaren masterpiece Neighbours below.