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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 <email@example.com>
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 »
When Porbus, Nicolas and Marianne approach Frenhofer's house for the first time, as they cross the street their shadows are towards the camera, but when they walk up the stairs, their shadows are now in front of them - a turnaround of about 135 degrees. See more »
All I love about Rivette is in this film, and lots of it.
(1) The actors create 'souls', personalities and stratagems for their characters in collaboration with Laurent, Bonitzer and Rivette, instead of reciting cut and dried parts. Piccoli, Béart, Birkin and the others work little miracles all the time: their interactions feel shrewd, humane, intense, both mysterious where some background is yet missing to the viewer and utterly believable once it is revealed, without trace of the usual high-strung film acting centered on the single significant moment and rammed down the public's throat in so many contemporary movies.
(2) The setting, the Chateau d'Assas, is completely integrated into and driving the story, and is cleverly employed and fully respected in the mise èn scéne: it is not a quarry for illustrative backdrops and environments, but a real space conditioning the story just like the personalities involved.
(3) The mise èn scéne and cadrage always leave the necessary breathing space and time for story and personality development and interaction. Nothing is ever forced or abbreviated - and yes, this makes movies longer.
The 'plot' is typical for Rivette, as it contains a subtle fantastic element: here the idea, that a painter could find, sum up, condense and make visible the complete essence of a person in a painting. This fantasy lends urgency to the old dichotomies of life and art, of love and creativity. It is otherwise a mere pretext to set the story in motion and expose the characters. (In Balzac's 'Chef d-oeuvre inconnu', the attempt of Frenhofer to capture his model completely only led to a completely unreadable painting.)
The scenes where Marianne models for Frenhofer are to my knowledge unique in cinema. They represent transparently both the very subtle interaction between painter and model, and the genesis of the resulting sketch.
To show spontaneous sketching of highest quality, the hand of Bertrand Dufour was filmed while drawing/painting the posing Béart. Then Piccoli incorporated the gestures of the hand of Dufour into the scenes of Frenhofer and Marianne. Given the complexity and freedom in their interaction, the tension and homogeneity of the assembled scenes is quite a miracle.
No numerical vote, of course: one must never allow the quality of a piece of art to be in any way a subject to voting.
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