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Art on the big screen: The art of war and sex

A look at 'Guernica: Portrait of War' and 'Love You More'

The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by an elite Nazi air squadron, in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, and the subsequent creation of the famous painting by Pablo Picasso representing the atrocity, have inspired many films, including one by French New Wave contemporary Alan Resnais in 1950, and an early student film by Serbian director Emir Kusturica. The latest is Guernica: Portrait of War, by two Catalan TV journalists, Santiago Torres and Ramon Vallès, an efficient and comprehensive retelling of the painting’s history.

The story of Picasso’s painting is easily split into two parts. Part one tells how the artist was inspired to make the painting for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Part two, perhaps less well-known, is the wrangling—effectively a restitution battle—between the artist, his heirs, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and successive Spanish governments (during Franco’s regime and afterwards) for the work’s return to Spain. The film-makers talk to all the significant surviving parties, and make excellent use of archive footage, although fewer flashy graphics and titles would have been welcome.

Love You More

The latest fine artist to turn her hand to “straight” film-making is Sam Taylor-Wood, whose short Love You More, based on a short story by Patrick Marber (itself inspired by the 1978 song “Love You More” by art-pop-punk stalwarts Buzzcocks) is a sweet and nostalgic—though fairly sexually explicit—tale of teenage lust and shoplifting. Taylor-Wood is on record as saying that the late director Anthony Minghella suggested she make a short before turning to full-length features, so we can only assume that she, like Julian Schnabel and Steve McQueen, has her eyes on a creative life beyond the art world. No problem with that, though you can’t help think that such a move would have been anathema to artists of Picasso’s generation who, in times of war, had a rather more trenchant commitment to their art.

o Guernica: Portrait of War will be shown at the Artecinema Festival in Naples, 16-19 October

o Love You More will be shown at the Athens International Film Festival, 17-28 September, the Hamptons International Film Festival, 15-19 October, and the London Film Festival, 15-30 October