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The former famous painter Frenhofer lives quietly with his wife in his countryside residence in the French Provence. When the young artist Nicolas visits him with his girlfriend Marianne, Frenhofer decides to start working again on a painting called 'La Belle Noiseuse', which he gave up a long time ago. And he wants Marianne as a model. The ensuing creative process will change the characters' lives. It will become a struggle for truth and meaning, and the question about the limits of art will arise. Written by
Jens Bertheau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Frenhofer mentions a sculptor, Rubek, and his model, Irene, who both died in Norway. This is a reference to a play by Henrik Ibsen, 'When We Dead Awake'. See more »
In Frenhofer's studio, the position of Marianne's legs changes between the long shot (right leg bent and forward) and close shot (left leg bent and forward) when Frenhofer is telling them that they will be unhappy as well. See more »
"La Belle Noiseuse" is one of the most unusual films of our time, or any other, a four hour excursion into the convoluted, and sometimes scary, process of creating a work of art. A low-key film that makes all of its points casually, "La Belle Noiseuse" never tells the viewer how to feel or think about its events and characters, but gives suggestions instead, with a line of realistic dialogue, or the length of a shot, or an unexpected closeup. This is the modus operandi for most of the great French films, and here, director Jacques Rivette outdoes himself and the majority of his contemporaries.
The film captures several salient features of painting, and of viewing a finished work in a gallery or museum. Rivette lingers on the artist Frenhofer's hand, and his pen and brush strokes, to show the chaotic and unpredictable way a portrait comes together, revealing the artistic mind as no other film I know of. Each finished sketch is a revelation, because it only partially resembles the subject, and shows Frenhofer's grasping for something more than just a simple nude figure.
Gradually, as Frenhofer works and studies his subject, Marianne, she becomes a collaborator, pushing and challenging him as much as he provokes her with his silences and his brutal poses. Remarkably, Rivette touches upon all the intricacies of this transition by throwing traditional cinematic pacing out the window. He gives each moment of change in both artist and model its due, and that simply takes awhile.
"La Belle Noiseuse" is not a film for everybody, and especially not for those seeking an entertaining weekend diversion. As with many great paintings, and films, viewers have to give up their resistance and relax into what the artist is showing them, which is never simply about the surface of a thing or person or situation. The artist who is truly plugged-in to the currents of life often winds up showing us things we don't understand, or more often, what we don't want to know, because he or she has the patience to look beyond the surface, and to ignore the chatter of polite society. As a result, many artists like Frenhofer are frustrating people to know, because what they do ultimately upsets the comfortable illusions of the world around them, themselves included.
Thus the title, which is generally translated as "the beautiful troublemaker," may not only refer to Marianne, but to Frenhofer as well. The ultimate object of a work of art is to help us see in a new way, whether the perspective is disturbing, or revealing of an aspect of beauty we never previously considered. By any estimate, "La Belle Noiseuse" fulfills these aims many times over.
Michel Piccoli gives one of his very best performances as the self-absorbed, obsessed Frenhofer, and Emmanuel Beart is given the rare opportunity to transcend her mere physical beauty and give us several glimpses into the psyche that Frenhofer is trying to capture on canvas.
A one-of-a-kind film, beautifully photographed and edited.
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