The dazzling “A Bigger Splash”, cult film about David Hockney, is released in theaters

Jack Hazan did not ask himself a question, when he was filming the British David Hockney day by day, from 1971 to 1973. He started the conversation, then turned the camera, capturing what the artist was offering him then in his thirties, surrounded of his band, in Swinging London, and of his ex-lover Peter Schlesinger, muse of his Californian paintings, the most famous of which is called Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972). Gaze lost in the bluish water of a dream swimming pool, a man dressed in a pink jacket contemplates a swimmer in breaststroke…

The strangeness of this painting irrigates the dramaturgy of the dazzling A Bigger Splash (1973), a title that echoes another iconic canvas, of the same name, painted in 1967. Presented at the Semaine de la critique, in Cannes, in 1974, the film received the Silver Leopard the same year at the Festival de Locarno. It is released in theaters on October 6, restored, before the next edition of a collector DVD set by Les Films du camélia, on October 27 – among the bonuses, we will find an analysis of the film by Bertrand Bonello. Born in 1937, still active, David Hockney will also present his latest works produced during confinement, duringan exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris (from October 13, 2021 to February 14, 2022).

Glued Saynets

The beauty of Peter Schlesinger, doe eye surrounded by blue kohl, loving the whole film. Sitting on a stool, he offers his back to Hockney, who is brushing his chestnut curls. One morning, the young ephebe leaves the apartment and goes down the stairs during a miraculous movie shot: the camera stares at the iridescent leather of the shoes, then the determined face, finally the whole body riding a bicycle with one movement. aerial, like a feather landing on the surface of the water … At the same time, Hockney, his brow furrowed behind his rimmed glasses, seems agitated by some dark thought.

Repetitive piano notes and strings raise the tension of what is akin to a creative breakdown, as the film dwells on Hockney’s object of desire (and lack).

The film is thus constructed of evocative sketches glued to each other, sometimes freeing itself from any sartorial connection. The man in the red tank top in the street wears a blue shirt the following shot, as if, in the meantime, Hockney the painter had done a color touch-up.

A Bigger Splash abandons the classic narration and chooses its patterns, its totems. Like these bouquets of flowers that we find repeatedly in the hands of the characters, and even in the drawings of the stylist and friend of Hockney, Celia Birtwell, the fashion being at Flower Power. We go from one apartment to another, from a beige phone to a black one, discovering the daily life of loved ones, the fashion show of designer Ossie Clark, the impatience of gallery owner John Kasmin asking Hockney for new paintings… Notes repetitive piano and strings raise the tension of what is akin to a breakdown of creation, while the film lingers on Hockney’s object of desire (and lack), immortalized in Portrait of an Artist.

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