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Date: 12.08.2017

Dancers in the Dark (1932)

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Fifty Years of his Art New York , p. The Three Dancers Newcastle upon Tyne , repr. It follows the most serene and classical phase of his art which lasted from about to - a period when he was working concurrently in two quite different styles, a decorative form of late synthetic Cubism on the one hand and a neo-classical figure style on the other.

As Alfred Barr has written: Each of the dancers is treated in quite a different manner. The central figure is much the least distorted, but even so her body is simply a flat silhouette like a metal cut-out which has been slightly twisted in a few places to give a suggestion of three dimensions. The extreme thinness and elongation of the body, especially noticeable in the treatment of the legs, together with the pallor of the colouring, which shades from pale flesh pink to pale pinkish grey in the lower parts of the legs, helps to convey an impression of extreme frailty.

The figure, in its nakedness, has an almost ghostly, insubstantial quality, a pathetic vulnerability. To judge by the breasts, this dancer must be female, but the sex is not in the least emphasised. The style in which the right-hand figure is painted is rather different, being for one thing closer to synthetic Cubism.

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This is particularly apparent in the way the body is divided into clear-cut, contrasting areas of white, chocolate-brown and black, like some of the Cubist still lifes of about ; these form contrasting colour planes which interlock. Their division is partly based on an arbitrary separation of the areas in the light from those in the shadow. The white area starts at the top with the upraised arm and continues down the body like a broad cloth tape which twists at the hips, passes underneath the upraised leg and ends as the second, supporting leg.

The brown section is surmounted by a tiny, helmet-like, almost featureless head which is entirely surrounded and engulfed by another, much larger black head of a completely different character. This black profile fills the space between the upraised arms.

The relationship between these heads is so ambiguous that one cannot be certain whether they are intended to be in the same plane or whether the black head is situated behind the other one as a separate personage; an ambiguity which applies equally to the black area extending down the back, to the right, and to the black patch alongside the upraised leg.

This figure is very angular in treatment and dances with a high-stepping, lively motion; yet the double head gives it a mysterious, withdrawn character. There is some doubt as to whether it is meant to be clothed or not, but, in any case, the impression is predominantly masculine.

Much the most extraordinary dancer, however, is the one on the left - surely one of the strangest figures Picasso ever painted.

She is unmistakably female and is naked apart from a skirt or wrap around her waist. She dances with a much more frenzied action than either of the others, with her head and torso thrown back and her left leg kicked up behind her.

One of her breasts is shown from the front, surrounded by a black shape which makes it look like an eye, while the other is seen from a different viewpoint, in profile and in shadow.

The patch of blue sky encircled by the body and the right arm like a tambourine , with its curious disc of red and white stripes in the centre, echoes the breast motif, while another patch of sky and a railing lower down, glimpsed through the skirt, allude in an even more intimate way to the femaleness of the sex. The frontal view is terrifying and mask-like, with wild staring eyes, a gaping mouth and savage teeth. This image seems to be partly based on African sculpture , such as the wooden heads and masks made by the Ekoi tribe of Southern Nigeria, the most distinctive feature of which is a half-open mouth and a double row of cruel, widely-spaced teeth.

This is itself a complete mask-like head but on a vertical axis instead of a horizontal one, and with little direct connection with the rest of the anatomy. Moreover, whereas the frontal view is savage and vehement, this head is gentle and dreamy, even pretty, expressing an entirely different mood. The treatment of the body of this left-hand dancer is subject in many areas to brutal, expressionist distortions of a most arbitrary kind, such as the twisting and writhing outline of the torso, the displacement of the neck to one side of the body, and the invention lower down of an unexplained shape like a saw, with a serrated edge.

She is charged with an extraordinary animal vitality and expresses a paroxysm of movement and emotion like one possessed. The success of Parade, for which Picasso designed the curtain, scenery and costumes, led to his employment for further ballets, including Le Tricorne to music by Manuel de Falla in , Pulcinella music by Stravinsky in , Cuadro Flamenco music again by de Falla in and Le Train Bleu music by Milhaud in ; and in he also designed the scenery and costumes for a ballet, Mercure, put on by the rival company run by Count Etienne de Beaumont.

He mixed on intimate terms with the dancers, choreographers and other members of the company, and was frequently present at rehearsals. During this period he made a number of drawings , as well as a few paintings, of ballet dancers, most of which show them at rehearsal, practising their movements, exercising at the barre or simply resting during the pauses.

Picasso spent part of the spring of at Monte Carlo with the Diaghilev company. During part of this time they were giving performances; during the remainder they were resting and rehearsing. There are several photographs of Picasso and Mme Picasso taken at this time, usually with members of the company.

On the other hand, the various memoirs published by those associated with the Russian ballet contain only a few passing references to this visit by Picasso, which suggests that it was rather brief. There are a number of drawings of dancers rehearsing or resting dated , including several dated 12 or 13 April All this suggests that Picasso probably only spent the last two or three weeks of April at Monte Carlo.

Therefore the question arises: All he could tell Sir Roland Penrose was that this picture had nothing to do with his visit to Monte Carlo and that he was not certain but he thought that it was painted in Paris after his return.

X-ray photographs show that the picture was begun in a much more conventional way as a fairly straightforward representation of three dancers rehearsing. All three figures seem to have had very similar rounded, rather melon-shaped heads and more realistic legs and feet [X-ray photograph reproduced p.

The final picture has an hieratic grandeur and a strangeness which are entirely foreign to all his previous renderings of the dance. Not only did the stylisation become much more arbitrary, but Picasso clearly set out to make each of the figures as different from one another as possible. Examination of the paint surface shows that the areas with the greatest distortion have been very heavily reworked, especially the whole left-hand side from the top of the window right down to the bottom of the skirt.

The thickness of the paint and its fretted surface are evidence of the struggle that went into the painting of this area and of the invention and rejection of successive solutions.

Nowhere is the paint more heavily loaded and encrusted than in the left-hand part of the sky, where the head of the outer dancer was originally situated. A num ber of pentimenti and cracks in the paint allow one to see that the blue of the sky originally continued under part of what is now the black profile on the right and that the brown head was somewhat larger; the black head, representing the presence of Pichot, was painted on top and reduced the brown head to its present size.

It therefore becomes essential to know who Pichot was and what his importance could have been for this picture. Picasso met him in Barcelona in the second half of the s when they were both members of the group of advanced artists who used to foregather regularly at the brasserie Els Quatre Gats.

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When in Picasso made a series of caricatures of the regular patrons to hang on the walls there, Pichot was one of those he depicted. Later, in , Picasso is said to have moved into a studio in Barcelona which was rented by several of his friends, including Pichot, and to have filled it to such an extent with his painting materials and to have spent so much of his time there that the others came to accept it as his own - even though he had not himself made any contribution to the rent.

Picasso, during his first years in Paris, associated mainly with the colony of Spanish artists who had established themselves there, many of whom were already friends of his from his days in Barcelona. This apparently took place late in When Picasso returned to Spain for the third time in it was the Pichots who stored his pictures for him. The intimate friendship between Picasso and the Pichots lasted until when it seems to have come to an end as the result of a quarrel over Fernande Olivier, whom Picasso had left shortly before for her friend Eva-Marcelle Humbert.

As a painter, Pichot never attained a great deal of success. In addition to painting figures, interiors and landscapes , he also practised as an engraver and illustrator. It concerns not Pichot himself but his wife Germaine. After talking quietly with the old woman for a few minutes, Picasso laid some money on her table and they went out again.

She was a young laundress when I first came to Paris. The first people we looked up, this friend of mine and I, were this woman and friends of hers with whom she was living.

We had been given their names by friends in Spain, and they used to have us to eat with them from time to time. There he met Germaine, in the circumstances just described, and became obsessed with her. Instead of painting, he spent his time drinking, and thought only of suicide. He was apparently of a depressive disposition and, it is said, had discovered that he was impotent. He first fired a revolver at Germaine but missed, then shot himself in the head. Picasso painted several pictures in this year, , commemorating the death of Casagemas.

It is known what Germaine looked like when she was young: The possibility therefore arises that the figure in the centre is intended to symbolise Casagemas and in fact, despite its caricature-like stylisation, the head has a certain resemblance to him in its suggestion of dark rings around the eyes and a slightly receding chin. Behind the elongated figure the upright strip of sky between the windows darkens to a deeper, graver blue.

It takes on a material existence in its own right, and the railings against it are set closer together, three times as close as the rest; they give it a solid strength like the grain of timber. The whole vertical and horizontal shape of the window, the central structure of the picture, make a great cross. The left arm is raised, as if by magnetism, by the shadowy, haunted presence on the right. The figure is stretched, as if suspended, no longer chiefly dancer or woman, but only a painful vestige of flesh.

Even the black bars formed by the fingers or the gaps between them are like nails. It became a paradigm of the relationship between man and woman, a sort of Dance of Life that is also a Dance of Death, with Ramon Pichot on the right, Germaine on the left and Casagemas as it were crucified between them. Mme Picasso thought she had seen some drawings connected with it but he denied this. I asked him if it was connected with his visit to Monte Carlo the same year when he had done so many drawings of the ballet.

He was not certain but it seems likely that it was painted in Paris after his return from Monte Carlo.

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I asked how it was he had not sold it before. Picasso answered with a smile: I have been asked a hundred times to sell it by Americans, by Kahnweiler and many others but I have always refused. Picasso, looking at me in surprise: Picasso reminded me that there were several others of the same kind painted in Paris.

I examined closely the cracks in the paint on the left side, specially round the head of the dancer. Noticing my interest Picasso said: Some people might want to touch them out but I think they add to the painting.

I said I thought it much better to leave them as they are and he agreed emphatically. We agreed that the painting was in splendid condition, it was only his signature that was lacking. He said he would sign it but had not yet decided just where and how it should be done but historically it was necessary it should be signed.