JAN COX, a painter’s odyssey

Co-written with Bert Beyens

  • Prix de la Meilleure Monographie, Festival International du Film sur l’Art, Montréal
Director:Bert Beyens, Pierre De Clercq
Narrator:Jeroen Krabbé
Cinematographer:Remon Fromont
Music:Walter Heynen
Producers:Willem Thijssen, Hans Otten
Production:CinéTé Antwerpen/Amsterdam
With:Harry Cox, Yvonne Van Ginneken, Adriaan Raemdonck, Pierre Alechinsky, Fred Bervoets, Hugo Claus, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Marc Mendelson, David Barbero, Beatrice Farwell, Thomas M. Messer, Perry T. Rathbone, Paul Shapiro a.o.
Original language:English, Dutch, French
Running time:75 minutes

“Biographical film about the life and work of the Belgian painter Jan Cox. Cox had a tempestuous youth, during which he co-founded the Jeune Peinture Belge group and worked on the fringes of the Cobra movement. In 1956 he left for America, where he lived for the next 18 years. There he was recognized as an inspired painter and teacher, but he returned disillusioned following a failed marriage, financial problems and an emergent alcoholism. He finally committed suicide in 1980.

The directors incorporate archive material, canvasses, photos, reminiscences and writings into their film, built up as an odyssey in 24 cantos, each with its own style. They paint an intriguing picture both of Cox’s artistic drive and the tragic dualism between dream and reality that tore at his personality and would eventually lead to self-destruction. In this context, Cox’s paintings are used to reflect the events presented or alluded to by the film. The 24 cantos are subdivided in accordance with the three phases in Cox’s life: 1919-1949 (Telemacheia), 1949-1969 (Odysseia) and 1969-1980 (Nostos). On its release, the film garnered much praise, not merely for its intricate construction which took it beyond the bounds of a conventional documentary, but also because it so successfully evoked the spirit of Cox.”

Michel Apers, Belgian Cinema,
The Royal Belgian Film Archive, Brussels, 1999