24 November 2023

From left to right: Nusch and Paul Eluard, Roland Penrose, Man Ray and his friend Ady Fidelin, in Cannes, in 1937.


Surreal? The adjective may be overused, this little gem of a film offers to dive into the heart of the artistic movement born in the interwar period, by sharing the intimacy of eight of its most famous representatives. Four couples, who met in August 1937, in the South of France, at the Vaste Horizon family boarding house in Mougins, in the Alpes-Maritimes, at the invitation of the painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), then in couple with Dora Maar (1907-1997), a talented and committed photographer. The poet Paul Eluard (1895-1952) and his wife Nusch (1906-1946), the British collector Roland Penrose (1900-1984) with his future wife, the photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977), and the photographer and American filmmaker Man Ray (1890-1976), who came with Ady Fidelin (1915-2004), a young dancer from Guadeloupe.

Read also: Picasso, the stormy years

Camera in hand, Man Ray wants to take advantage of the light and contrasts of the Côte d’Azur to test a new Kodachrome color film. He therefore films the village, its inhabitants gathered on the square, his friends and their escapades on the Garoupe beach, in Antibes, where they go every morning, crammed aboard the Hispano-Suiza of “Pablo” – the documentary uses first names alone.

It is these essays, recognizable by their color, that the director François Lévy-Kuentz takes as a starting point for A summer at La Garoupe. He interweaves excerpts from short films by Man Ray (The starfish, The Mysteries of the Château du Dé, The return to reasonwith Kiki, the queen of Montparnasse) and numerous photographs from the Ray, Miller and Maar collections, often as contact sheets.

Artistic and romantic links

The assembly shows “a few fertile weeks in search of pleasure, freedom and creation”, commented in voiceover actor Jean-Marc Barr. The latter looks back on each person’s journey and career, on their links, both artistic – between Man and Paul, Pablo and Paul – and in love. The duos overlap. Pablo Picasso lives with Dora Maar, the former mistress of Man Ray, who came this summer with Ady Fidelin; under the eyes of the photojournalist Lee Miller, another “ex” of Man; while Nusch, Paul and Man have long formed a love triangle… “Friendship and passion for art bound us together. » Certainly. But the absence of morality dear to the surrealists does not manage to prevent jealousies, and soon tensions arise.

This will be their last summer together at La Garoupe. But contrary to what the title suggests, the documentary extends beyond 1937. It thus follows Man Ray, when he decides to leave for the United States, in 1939 – but without Ady Fidelin –, and Pablo Picasso until when he met, in 1952, Jacqueline Roque (1926-1986), nearly fifty years his junior. The young woman will become his last muse, until the artist’s death on April 8, 1973, in Mougins.

A summer at La Garoupe, by François Lévy-Kuentz (Fr., 2019, 52 min). Broadcast on France 5 and available on demand on France.tv in the “Aux arts et cætera” collection until April 14.

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