The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.
"La Belle noiseuse" is a brilliant character study buoyed by two astonishing performances from the always-wonderful Michel Piccoli and the stunning Emmanuelle Béart. She's uncommonly gorgeous, has the most piercing eyes of any actress in recent memory and the way she bares her character's soul is completely entrancing.
This is a film for cineastes who enjoy complex, vividly-drawn characters and the slow unfolding of a story. Rivette takes his time telling us this story. We see the artist Eduoard get his studio ready - collecting his pencils and brushes, finding the sketchbook, filling glasses with water, rearranging the furniture, moving aside paintings.
And then there are those moments in this beautiful film where neither Eduoard nor Marianne speaks. All we see is the artist's hand scribbling in his notebook, maybe the nude model's pose and her glare. The only sound is that of the artist's nib scratching paper as Rivette shows us the preliminary sketches the artist draws before he gets to the canvas.
This goes on for several minutes, yet it's far from dull. On the contrary, it's absolutely riveting. We can't peel our eyes away from the artist's hand. We're captivated as the human form takes shape on the paper and canvas. It's brilliant stuff.
This was the film that made Béart a star. Rightly so, too. Her transformation from the loving wife to the reluctant model to ultimately the provocateur is utterly believable. Her performance doesn't have a false moment. It's as intelligent as it is provocative, one that could easily have been overwrought, but is played to perfection.
The scenes between Piccoli and Béart are fascinating because their relationship grows so unconventionally. Rivette turns their relationship into an engrossing battle of wits. Initially, Eduoard manhandles Marianne, moving her arms and legs about as if she were a mannequin. She is shy, uncomfortable with being nude. But as the hours progress into days, her comfort level grows. Soon, as the artist grows weary, it's the model who spurs him on.
True, four hours is a heckuva long time to spend at a film. But there are hugely popular and well-made thrillers that don't come close to being as mesmerizing as this exquisite work of art.
- Aug 1, 2004