Banderas paints a good Picasso

Antonio Banderas and Samantha Colley during filming on Malaga’s Misericordia beach.
Antonio Banderas and Samantha Colley during filming on Malaga’s Misericordia beach. / SUR
  • While the series, partly filmed in Malaga, garnered mixed reviews, critics are in agreement over Banderas' well-executed performance

Since the official premiere of Genius: Picasso in Malaga on 22 March, audiences have endured weeks of waiting in anticipation of its public release. Finally, the season opener was made available worldwide last week, accessible in Spain from 26 April.

The National Geographic series was immediately devoured by critics. It garnered a mixed response, from outright enthusiasm to reviews that were tepid at best. However, most are in agreement about the lengths that Malaga-born Banderas went to in order to bring life to the city's most famous artist.

Variety magazine wrote “when Picasso is at the forefront, Genius is impressive”. The New York Times observed the “superficiality” of the series, but also commented that it “can be enjoyed for its surface attributes, including Mr Banderas' impressive make-up and expectedly seductive performance”.

For its part, the Argentinian newspaper Clarín spoke of the second season of Genius as a production with both good and bad aspects, but “Antonio Banderas standing out as the mature Picasso who fights to remain relevant and inspiring.”

In contrast, the series' most disparaging critic was The Hollywood Reporter, whose writer considers the format of the programme to be “obsolete” and that the biopic gives us less information about Picasso's process than a “coffee table book”.

The San Francisco Chronicle does not share this view of the series, which was partly filmed in Malaga. “The solid performances and attention to production details of setting, design and costumes enhances our knowledge and goes a long way toward making us want to know -and see- more.”

Miguel Ángel Oeste, SUR expert and critic commented that “Antonio Banderas' efforts are undeniable (in fact in his eyes we can glimpse Picasso's)”, but considers the telling of the story of the painter's life to be wasted through “lifeless direction and a script which lacks emotion, weighed down by melodrama”.

During the world premiere, Banderas himself told SUR that the series “couldn't have been filmed without the support of Picasso's family”, although he also mentions that days before filming started, they nearly called the whole thing off. One of Picasso's relatives insisted that the series could not include scenes wherein Banderas was actually painting. Only blank canvases and finished pieces could be shown, never the creative process.

After the critics' verdict, the next challenge for Genius: Picasso is the public. The aim is to surpass the 45 million viewers that watched the first season of the programme, which was based on the life of Albert Einstein.

If the series manages to rake in these numbers, the beautiful scenery of Malaga will surely touch viewers all over the world.