Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Biographical documentary
Availability: At theatres, and online at https://seventh-art.com/product/i-claude-monet/
Storyline: This is another documentary in the Exhibition on Screen series by Seventh Art Productions, a leading independent producer of art films for cinema that are then made available online. British filmmaker Phil Grabsky writes, directs and produces many of the films, including this one that explores the life and works of the French painter and leading Impressionist, Claude Monet. The documentary takes us on a journey through Monet’s life, first as a young painter, then as husband and father, and finally Monet as an old man – still painting but challenged by a debilitating illness.
Film-craft: I, Claude Monet departs from the usual Exhibition on Screen gallery-film approach that focuses on a particular exhibition of an artist’s work (see for example Vermeer – the greatest exhibition https://marieconnollybooks.com/Blog/2023/04/28/vermeer-the-greatest-exhibition/). This documentary is far more personal, spanning Monet’s life and relying entirely on the artist’s own words – his personal letters and diaries – to tell the story. Grabsky augments this very personal narration with archival footage and images of Monet’s art and the locations from which he drew his inspiration. The music, by award-winning British composer Stephen Baysted, complements the film beautifully, resulting in an elegant, visually arresting and thoughtful film.
Cast: Henry Goodman is impressive as the documentary’s narrator. He brings Monet’s voice to life capturing the excitement of the artist’s early artistic successes, his professional frustrations, and his harrowing distress wrought by financial hardship and family tragedy. So good is the narration, it is almost as if Monet is in conversation with us, as if we might be a friend with whom he shares personal aspects of his life and experience.
Personal Comments: Grabsky’s approach in these art history documentaries is to bring to the screen the human story behind the art, and he certainly does this in the aptly titled I, Claude Monet. It is an intimate film, slow and meandering in places, but with a powerful intensity that engages the gamut of the artist’s and viewer’s emotions.