LA BELLE NOISEUSE
DIRECTOR: JACQUES RIVETTE
COUNTRY: FRANCE 1992
CINEMATOGRAPHY: WILLY LUBTCHANSKY
CAST: MICHEL PICCOLI, JANE BIRKIN, EMMANUELLE BEART, DAVID BURSZTEIN, GILLES ARBONA
SUPER FEATURES: THE ART, and that hand.....
I can only think of two countries where film is treated as pure literature, and very often allowed to live as such. RUSSIA has a history of film that is always in the neighborhood of three hours long. And FRANCE.
And the reason why these films are long, is because both of these countries have a fascination with the artist's thoughts at its deepest....what drives them, to create. Or, as is the case in many Russian films, the character studies always have to live out their life, be it in pain, or in sweetness. A little of the Dostoyevsky style to their film, if you will.
Jacques Rivette, has never made it as big as Francois Truffaut, or Jean Luc Godard, or Claude Chabrol, or Eric Rohmer, but if LA BELLE
NOISEUSE is any indication, he is better than those ever were. To be perfectly honest with you, LA BELLE NOISEUSE is not a film, but really a special work in progress, and you should only sit through the four hours, if you enjoy the suspension of disbelief ( and belief ) to watch a film maker that allows the hand to paint at its own pace, and an artist ( and model ) to go through their inner changes... with the inevitable result at the end as a finished piece. THE FILM IS JUST THAT. And even as the aging Frenhofer says himself, it has no meaning, it just lives, there are no rights or wrongs, just moments, where the sparks fly and the canvas is on fire, or nothing happens.
And there is more open moments for adlibbing in this film than Godard ever created. It strikes me that the dialogue was set amid ideas, and the actors were allowed to flow with it until a result was achieved. And the director, of course, has the same dilemma as Frenhofer, because he has to find those moments. And indeed, HE DOES.
The story is really simple, and has nothing to tell us. An aging artist named Frenhofer ( Piccoli ) who has been living with Liz ( Jane Birkin ), has stagnated for ten years since his relationship to Liz either has softened, or lost its spark. Before that he painted with wild abandon, and spent much time with her. And in many ways, the film immediately suggests that it is the fact that they were involved which hurt his art, since now it is personal, intimate, and there is a tendency to be protective so not to hurt it ( which could have happened before ) along the way. In comes a 'student' who wants to learn, but it is his girlfriend ( Emmanuelle Beart ) that ends up being asked to pose for the aging painter, much to the chagrin of her lover.
And the film starts the process in motion. We follow the hand as it draws its very first lines in years, and it is shy, and unsure of itself. And the next two and a half hours are an incredible array of images of painter at work, and resetting his model, in search of a special moment in time. Just about intermission time, the real battle shows up. There is a certain point where many artists have been, that can be a bit dangerous.
And that is called the 'point of no return' with a model, and the effect can be invasive, and uncertain, and often extremely un-nerving to those involved. Here, either the two continue the work, or they get involved. And the consequences can destroy the work in progress. The emotional bond diminishes the work, or so it seems, and Frenhofer makes a point of saying. It isn't her body he is after, and neither her ideas. When he admits that he is afraid of hurting his model, the young woman immediately jumps out and demands that he continue. She is not enamored with the job, but has come to allow, and appreciate a little of his nature. And in the end, when he has found something, the model
takes a look at it. And she doesn't like it. Here it could be inferred that it showed the real 'her', and that she didn't like it at all. He has succeeded. But she is an internal mess. And totally unsure of herself, not because she does not know anything, but because she has to evaluate herself. And she proceeds to do so. She dissolves her relationship with the student, the young man who wanted to learn from Frenhofer, but didn't have the courage to go beyond a certain point in his work. The happy artist has done his job. The frustrated artist ( the young one ) , still can't figure out his job, or his relationship to it.
Using the hand of a real artist ( Frenchman Bernard Dufour), doing work in real time, the life in the canvas begins to grow, from mere sketches to a real piece of work.
IT WILL KEEP YOU THINKING THE WHOLE TIME.
BEAUTIFUL ART, and a chance to see an artist at it. ( If you get bored easily, forget this film ... )
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