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Watching Paint Dry
Galina_movie_fan22 February 2006
Can watching paint dry be riveting, interesting, and compelling? Can looking at a beautiful woman who is naked for almost three of four hours long movie be not erotic? Is it possible to watch the movie where an Artist creates sketch after sketch of his model in preparation for a painting and many scenes run in real time and not become bored but instead be totally absorbed by the painter on the screen and how he was progressing with his work? Jacques Rivette's "Le Belle Noiseuse" is certainly not for every taste but I found it immensely rewarding. It is one of very few films where creative process with all its tension, uncertainty, selfishness and self-centering of an artist who once he began working is nearly oblivious not only to his model's discomfort but to the feelings of the ones close to him have been shown on the screen with such truthful passion, technical excellence, and tremendous acting. Michel Piccoli as an aging painter Edouard Frenhofer, once famous and productive, Jane Birkin (Liz)- his much younger wife and a former favorite model, and Emmanuelle Béart as Marianne, the young, bright, and intensely intelligent woman whose presence awakened Frenhofer from semi-lethargy and made him want to paint again were unforgettable.

The film also explores a vital for any artist subject – what is more important, the process of creating a work of art or the result?
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A richly rewarding cinematic experience
anhedonia1 August 2004
An absorbing four-hour masterpiece from Jacques Rivette. I cannot recall the last time I was so overwhelmed by a film.

"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.
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I guess I enjoy watching paint dry
kdufre0028 May 2001
Until last night, I have shied away from this film due to its daunting 4-hour length. But watching Jacques Rivette's "La Belle Noiseuse" was not nearly as difficult as I feared it might be. In fact, it actually feels liberating to watch a film that doesn't limit itself to a predetermined time constraint. With most films that rely heavily on an advancing plot, any possible lulls may wear on the viewer. "La Belle Noiseuse" boldly eschews the artifice of plot and standard pacing, and deeply focuses on its story of an artist, Frenhofer (played by Michel Piccoli), finding inspiration in a young model (played by Emmanuelle Beart) to paint again after a 10-year hiatus.

The drawing scenes alone really held my interest. Presented with little dialogue, they really made me feel as if I were witnessing art unfold, which is nothing less than exhilarating. It was also fascinating to see this in combination with the subtle development and changes that take place within Beart's character, Marianne, as she transforms from a fidgety, resentful subject to an impassioned muse who sheds away all corporeal pretense and lends her bare soul to the canvas. Giving support to the complex and nuanced performances of the two leads, the waiflike Jane Birkin is also a standout in the role of Liz, the artist's wife, especially in the later scenes in which she expresses conflict with her husband's art.

I am glad that I have finally seen this movie, and I definitely encourage anyone with a curiosity about this movie to see it too. All it requires is four hours of your time and an open mind. "La Belle Noiseuse" is an extremely long film, but never boring. Watching this film is like slowly immersing your body into a hot bath. Your enjoyment of it all depends on how willing you are to adapt yourself to its pacing. But like a hot bath, it takes a little adjustment.
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not just arty twaddle
eastie23 September 1999
A young artist and his girlfriend run into an aging master who has not painted for many years. It emerges that he stopped in the middle of a painting of his wife which threatened to destroy his marriage. Why this should be so is not at first clear. Over time, however, as the young artist's girlfriend poses for the older artist so that he can finish the painting, it becomes apparent quite how emotionally demanding the artistic process is.

Many people seem to find this film boring or pretentious. It's a matter of taste I guess. I found the long sections of the artist sketching his model extremely compelling. Even if you can't imagine this, give the film a try. I have a friend who hates arty films, particularly if they're in a foreign language. His favourite film is the Rock, yet he started watching this (with the sole aim of seeing Emmanuelle Beart in the buff, which she is for most of the movie) and ended up sitting through the whole four hours. It has a genuinely hypnotic quality.

Aside from the debate about the art sections of the film, its content is superb. The characters are real, interesting and beautifully played. The Beart character in particular is a wonderful depiction of someone who is deeply scarred, but erects a powerful veneer of independence to protect herself. As the artist sketches her from every angle, he gradually gets under her defences, until her entire personality is exposed on canvas. I know this sounds really pretentious, but this film effectively argues that what marks out a masterpiece is that someone's soul - either the artist's or the model's - is put on canvas, and in the process, they and the people close to them are affected irrevocably. Ultimately, the only real flaw in this film is, I'm informed, that the sketches themselves aren't actually that good. If you're like me and have a limited sensitivity to such things, this shouldn't bother you. If not, try not to let it spoil a beautiful, rewarding and profoundly satisfying movie.
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paint a pristine picture
dbdumonteil25 February 2007
Unless you're a New Wavelet devotee or your intellectual capacities are wide, Jacques Rivette is a filmmaker who isn't very close to many average viewers. In many of his films he loses himself amid his intellectual ideas and doesn't mind developing them while neglecting notions of storytelling, progression in narration and time. Consequently, the average length of his works is of about two hours and a half. Many filmmakers left very long films too. But they keep in mind that their films are destined to be understood by the general public and so obey to rules of clarification in their accessible stories.

"La Belle Noiseuse" is one of his most palatable pieces of work in spite of its challenging length. It clocks in at 4 hours but don't panic, time won't seem long to you for Rivette keeps a decent linearity from the first reunion with the main characters of the film to the surprising final denouement to the agreement of Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart) to serve as a model for the painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli). Along their adventure, some details will witness the progression of the story: Marianne sleeps in Frenhofer's mansion while the latter falls asleep in his studio. An aesthetic refinement freely sourced from Honoré De Balzac's novel "the Unknown Masterpiece" and perhaps the son of "le Mystère Picasso" (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Rivette's piece of work is a dive in the twists and turns of artistic creation and all that it can comprise with its times of hopes, doubts, fears. Frenhofer naturally starts with a series of sketches and continues with numerous paintings attempts and countless, testing poses for Marianne. The two characters are engaged in a creative process that is highly likely to leave them exhausted to say the least. The filmmaker deftly taps the scenery of the mansion and notably the studio where he locks for the major part of the film, Marianne and Frenhofer for better and for worse. A painstaking care is given to sound with the squeaking of charcoal and brush. To better capture the sense of spontaneous creation, Rivette fell back on methods worthy of the New Wavelet and notably Godard's: he shot his film without a script near him and perhaps that's why many moments seem extemporaneous. But unlike Godard's smug works, Rivette's one remains quite understandable as a whole.

A dark legend surrounds this film about its success, one of the few Rivette enjoyed all along his career. Was it due to Emmanuelle Béart's nudity? "La Religieuse" (1966) was banned because it was deemed as shocking for a major part of the population according to the censors. This banning contributed to the popularity of the film. So, it would seem that Rivette has to put elements likely to be scabrous to make himself accepted by general public.
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If you have the patience, La Belle Noiseuse is very rewarding.
ruthierocks15 December 2008
In his four hour drama La Belle Noiseuse, French filmmaker Jacques Rivette has painted a haunting portrayal of an artist, a model, and the effects that a work can have on those involved. It is a brave piece of film-making, featuring physical and emotional openness. The film moves very slowly, but is very much worth watching. La Belle Noiseuse allows us to watch the creation of a piece of art and how it can change a person. This is a true accomplishment. The actors are all very much on key and, with no real script, provide real and believable dialogue. Rivette paints these characters in a very human way: it's easy to imagine these people existing. There are no movie tricks. It's a truly naked film in that it offers such an intimate look into the hearts of the main characters. Anytime a film can do this, you know it's something special.

La Belle Noiseuse revolves around two couples. Marianne and Nicolas are a young couple. Nicolas is an artist and has been invited to take a look at the studio of Frenhofer, a once revered and respected painter who has given up his art. While discussing a painting that Frenhofer never finished – the "La Belle Noiseuse" – Nicolas suggests that Frenhofer use Marianne as his model. Frenhofer agrees. However, Marianne is not very happy about this. She arrives at the studio very disheartened. As Frenhofer draws and paints her, the two of them get to know each other. Marianne's resentment falls away and she becomes more open with Frenhofer, doing as he says, asking him questions, posing how he'd like. Frenhofer wants to dig deeper. As a painter, he feels the need to really capture the essence of his model. His wife, Liz, was his last model. As a result of this need to dig deeper, he was forced to either give up painting or give up his wife. The film spends much of its four hour running time in the studio with Marianne and Frenhofer. Otherwise, there are scenes with Frenhofer and Liz, as well as with Liz and Nicolas, and Marianne and Nicolas, who are growing apart by the day.

For those who can endure the extreme running time, La Belle Noiseuse is a fascinating film to watch. The characters, as I said before, are very real. Much of the film features Marianne (played by the lovely Emmanuelle Beart) posing nude. It's a bold performance for the actress, who must bear her soul as well as her body in order for the performance to be effective. She is absolutely wonderful, as is Michel Piccoli as the bitter painter. The only problem I have with the film is not that it's so long, but that much of it focuses on the drawing. There are five and ten minute scenes where the audience watches Frenhofer sketch and paint. It's fascinating at first, but eventually becomes a bit tedious. This should not steer anyone away, though. Anyone who can appreciate slow moving character studies should be fine.

To sum up, I would recommend La Belle Noiseuse. However, a person should probably know what they are getting into prior to watching. The film is not for everyone. It takes patience to enjoy, but for those who can, it is very rewarding. Jacques Rivette is a truly revolutionary director. The other film I've seen from him, Celine and Julie Go Boating, is just as wonderful as La Belle Noiseuse, but is in a completely different universe. He is a very versatile, unique, and underrated director. La Belle Noiseuse shows this. It's a beautiful film.

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It Can Change Your Life
b-gaist4 November 2005
This is one of those films which remains etched in the memory and can even change a person's life in a subtle way; certainly it can offer an insight into the art of painting unlike any other film I've seen. It is long, in the sense that classics of world literature can be lengthy - in other words, in an epic sense. I simply cannot restrain my enthusiasm for this film, which is ultimately nothing less than a psychological study of the creative process and its effect on human relationships. Every frame of those 4 hours of viewing is in its own way intriguing and inviting, and of course Beart is very beautiful. But the scenery, too, the old estate on which Frenhofer lives, is a character in the film, reflecting the artists own genteel, yet restless seniority perfectly. Shall I say more? Buy a good bottle of French red wine and sip it with relish, while immersing yourself free of preconceptions (about long movies or artistic pretentiousness) in this masterpiece! It is not about showing off, it is about the human condition. Nothing is entirely infallible, of course, so 9 out of 10.
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A great Rivette
berengar-17 March 2004
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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Insightful Rivette! Marvelous performances from Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, and Emmanuelle Béart.
ruby_fff4 November 2001
Having seen "Va Savoir" recently prompted me to rent Jacques Rivette's 1990 "La Belle Noiseuse," a daunting runtime of 240 minutes (though I noticed it was only 3 hr. 48 mins.) It's well worth the time and experience. An experience in painting - nude figure drawing to be precise. But it's not a film merely about lessons in nude figure modeling from the beautiful Emmanuelle Béart, or meticulous details of an artist's painting process from veteran actor Michel Piccoli, there is a Rivette storyline depicting multiple relationships, himself literally painting us psychological pictures/sketches. He's truly the French filmic master of human predicaments between man and woman. Rivette has such visions, skillful techniques, and superb craft in telling his story with thoughtful details - never misses a beat.

The beginning scenes put us in a comfortable rural setting outside of Paris - beautiful open views of the village town, captures of the villa architectural interiors, and tastes of the lovely airy gardens and shady greens exterior. Yes, there are plenty of dialogs, but the inclusion of real-time ambient and environmental sounds made "La Belle Noiseuse" experience whole. It has the most wonderful ordinary sound of the studio door with latch creak opens and closes - it comes so naturally. There's the pen nib scratching against the sketchpad paper, the chalk against the surface of a canvas, even the quick ruffling of sheets when Béart the model swivel-turned in defiance - such detailed little sounds simply add to the flavor and tone of the story. We see two pairs of relationship and then some: between the mature and weathered pair of Edouard Frenhofer the painter and Liz his wife (who used to be his favorite model) portrayed by Michel Piccoli and Jane Birkin; the younger set Marianne and Nicolas, yet to absorb the trials and zest of life, portrayed by Emmanuelle Béart and David Bursztein; then the twists of the mercurial commercial-minded Balthazar Porbus, the unrelenting insistent Nicolas' sister Julienne, with gentle relieving pauses from young Magali, daughter of housekeeper Francoise, not to forget Justine the Cat.

Other then an Igor Stravinsky piece used for the beginning/ending credit roll, and Magali's brief morning ballet exercise, there's really no background music used. The occasional church bell rings, sounds of cicada and rustling leaves provided serene accents. Much is said in the unsaid, and the ending portion sure makes one wonder and prompts reflections. Rivette has a flair for unsuspecting ending drama, almost philosophical, or could it be renewed beginnings?

The paintings/drawings were from the hands of Bernard Dufour. Cinematography by William Lubtchansky, especially inside the studio, captured the critical chiaroscuro (light and shadows) of drawing/modeling sessions. Michel Piccoli is a regular in Luis Bunuel films; "Belle de Jour" 1967, with Catherine Deneuve is one example. Jane Birkin has such a gentle yet fortified disposition; she's in Bertrand Tavernier's "Daddy Nostalgia" 1990, opposite Dirk Bogarde. I really enjoy Emmanuelle Béart's performance in Claude Sautet's "Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud" 1995, with Michel Serrault, who was equally brilliant.
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Great concept, but falls short (and not in runtime :)
gbill-748773 February 2021
I liked how this film immerses us into the artistic process, and via many (very) long takes, makes us feel the struggle to find truth and expression. The setting, an old French chateau, is beautiful, as is of course Emmanuelle Béart, who plays a young woman who poses nude for an aging artist trying to complete a painting he abandoned long ago. He moves her body around as if she were a mannequin at times, and there is something pretty cool about seeing her form through his eyes as he sketches away.

Despite its interesting setup, however, the film never really turned the corner for me, and grew tedious over its 4 hour run time. The conversations about art didn't have much depth, and the work the artist produced never inspired me. The relationship issues both artist and model have with their partners were melodramatic and didn't add anything either. To his credit, Jacques Rivette didn't have the story play out in an artificial or cliché way, but I just wish I had felt something deeper in the characters, their conversations, or the art itself. As it was, it felt self-indulgent and gratuitous with Béart's body.
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"Searching for Something You Might Have Seen"
tedg8 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I recommend this little film to you. It is an interesting confluence of two threads.

One of these is the French New Wave itself. New Wave films are — were — stories combined with essays about film-making and associated matters. Nearly all these guys were film commentors before becoming filmmakers. The only problem was that the ideas about film weren't particularly deep or useful. And the merger of metastory with story was often clumsy.

Now comes a film from one of these fellows, someone eschewed by the group and not particularly interesting in the past. But he has set a very clever but simple construction to merge the film with a story about film (here tokenized as a painting). "In painting, what is said doesn't count."

The slant is successful because it is personal and dangerous and is about personal and dangerous things, which brings us to the second thread: movies about some other deep enterprise. Often this class is about painting, but as likely we have mathematics, music, writing and dance. A touchstone of such movies is the genius and his or her struggles with the laws and forms of the world they've entered.

The interesting thing about these films is how little they actually convey about that world. Movies about mathematics — movies like "Pi" or "A Beautiful Mind" or "Good Will Hunting" — are particular offenders. They don't seem to have ever understood the world in the first place, much less found successful cinematic means to transport the uninitiated.

But movies about the arts have a keen trap: showing the art and its creation or performance. Thus, in "Hilary and Jackie" we get the cellist sawing away in appropriate trance. In "Pollack" we see energetic dripping. In "Girl with a Pearl Earring" we see serious furrowed brow. But in terms of the story, we might as well be watching someone with a banal passion, a boxer, say.

There's nothing about the art, no entry into the world. All we see are actors acting tortured or otherwise jostled by the art, but never the art itself. Never do we leave our world and enter theirs. In terms of painting movies, that's true of "Pollack," "Earring," "Sirens," and "Stealing Beauty." "Maze" is a film about Tourette's done in a Tourette's style. "Draughtsman's Contract" is extraordinary in merging the drawing with what's drawn, but even it avoids tourism into the mind of the artist.

Not so here. In this case, there's lots of talk, but it is exposition in the service of helping us enter the world of the painter and his model. We do enter that world. We see art being developed and the art isn't just filler, the artifacts act. The initial sketches are by a tentative, lost artist and are indeed tentative and lost. As the thing develops, we see the sketches change accordingly. We see many of them being made in an extraordinary mix of the actor's hand and that of a superb painter.

Put these two threads together and you have — finally — the culmination of French New Wave: a bona fide film that stands on its own merits that is also a film about the creative process of making a film. It works because we actually stand by the side of the painter/ filmmaker. We actually see the actress/model as she hesitantly shows up, gets engaged, and ultimately has her engagement mature above her reach.

This is "Day for Night" done right.

And here's the amazing dramatic device: we never see the painting. We see it secreted instead. At the end, in good New Wave fashion, the inner story is made to disappear as the metastory engulfs the finale.

This has perhaps the best use of sharp sound in any film.

The story itself, for those interested, is centered on Jane Birkin's character, though most of the attention focuses on the painter and his (new) model. Birkin plays the painter's wife and former model. She captured his interest as a model and he began a masterpiece titled the same as this movie. He abandoned it because he knew he would destroy her soul if he finished it and he would rather have her love than continue as a painter. So he says and we believe them both.

At some point near this decision, she (Birkin) had an affair with the dealer/patron. He still loves her dearly and prompts the painter to get reinvolved with the project. His involvement is complex, but not nearly as much as Birkin's, who is employed literally as a taxidermist and as preserver of the aging, lost painter.

He re-enters the world of decomposition of surfaces and elements. She does too, with more art.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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The Paint Never Dries
museumofdave17 February 2013
You've heard the expression about as exciting as watching paint dry. With this version of Rivette's glum excursion into an artists blockage, the viewer has 236 minutes to watch the paint dry--and often watch the sketching, which is dull, indeed. Four glum people sit in beautiful surroundings in what appears to be a summer mansion, and either don't say much to one another, or complain about lack of feeling. While its obvious the filmmaker is sincere in attempting to explore the development of human character through interaction and decision making, Rivette also neglected to remember what I think is a cardinal rule of motion pictures--they move! I can recognize some folks will become entranced by the dedicated portrayals of talented actors, and also understand while folks will be driven out of the room by the sullen inactivity--how many ways can one woman pose for a painting in one day without anything apparently happening? Id like to see the two-hour version of the film, which might be a little more riveting
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A different world
elision108 September 2020
I came here already to use the "about as exciting as watching paint dry -- oh, wait" line, but I see it's already been done a few times.

I don't like to criticize what I don't understand, and if its RT is 100, and Ebert says 4/4, and some people say it changed their life forever...well, who am I to say it's pretentious garbage?

But I can say with some assurance that it will be a (very) long haul for some.
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An interesting portrayal of the relationship between artists and models
davidemartin12 January 2001
Usually when films portray the relationship between artists and models, they transform it into some soap opera where the artist and model are trying decide whether to be romantically involved. This is NOT one of those films. Picon as the artist and the lovely Emmanuelle Beart as his reluctant model are both too busy wrestling with their own souls to wrestle with each other. Picon is a once-great artist who has been stuck in creative limbo for years, trying to create the one perfect painting. When Beart arrives, he hopes she may be the key to finally unlocking his skills, creating that painting, and regaining his self-with as an artist.

Emmanuelle Beart is dragged into the situation by her boyfriend volunteering her services. She is angry and disgusted at her boyfriend, the artist, and as is revealed, herself. She bares her body to the artist and the audience but more importantly, as the film progresses, she bares her soul. (By the way, Emmanuelle is nude for the majority of her scenes.) Few actresses could pull of the powerfully emotional scenes she does, stripped of clothing and pretense.

The film actually works quite well as a play. Most of the film takes place in the artist's studio and only involves the artist and model. Of course, if it were a play, you have difficulty watching the artist work. And that may be where the movie has pacing problems-- the camera is looking over the artist's shoulder as he draws and paints. The movie sometimes switching gears an becomes a straight, voiceless documentation of an artist actually at work. An an artist myself, I found this fascinating. BUT, as an artist myself, I really wish the director had chosen an artist with a more interesting style! I mean, a woman as lovely as Emmanuelle Beart deserves a Renoir and instead we get a Picasso.....
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Varlaam12 August 1999
Seeing Emmanuelle Béart in the altogether is the only possible reason anyone would want to sit through this twaddle, a 4-hour joke being had at the audience's expense.

Béart is the sole reason some priapic critics have taken a shine to Rivette's film. Even then, most people will find her pretty poor compensation for exposing oneself to these anaesthetizing musings on art.

The current issue of the UK magazine "Bizarre" has a forthright article on French softcore sex trash masquerading as "art" film. This little gem is front and centre. The article coins the term "art-wank" to describe movies of this kind, and if the rubber fits ...

Consider that many of the world's great art museums can be given a perfunctory walk-through in 4 hours. The choice is entirely in your hands.
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the process
SnoopyStyle4 April 2017
Famed painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) has been living in quiet secluded retirement with his model wife Liz (Jane Birkin) on a large country estate. They are visited by Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart), her artist boyfriend Nicolas, and an art dealer. Frenhofer is taken with the beautiful Marianne. She inspires him to restart his abandoned La Belle Noiseuse painting with the young nude model in long sessions.

The plot is simple. The characterization is compelling but the movie is slow and it is extremely long. It is four freaking hours. This is more about the act of creating. Despite the extended scenes, the drawing process is quite riveting even when Béart isn't naked. There is a hypnotic feel watching him create something on the blank page. The movie is too long for most audiences. Painting may be fascinating but it's not worth sitting for four hours straight.
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On the capacity of art to bend perception and behaviour and understanding
philosopherjack4 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed from one perspective, Jacques Rivette's La belle noiseuse is one of the most specific films ever made about the creative process: it spends well over an hour of screen time observing the painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli, with a major assist from the hand of Bernard Dufour) as he prepares to paint a long-brooded-over project for which Marianne (Emmanuelle Beart) will serve as the model: his process involves first sketching in a book and then progressing to large canvases, studying her in ever-more rigorous poses in a search to excavate some kind of truth. One may often get lulled during these sections into the feeling of watching a form of displaced documentary, but Rivette's rigour and scrutiny mystifies as much as it clarifies, and this is the source of the film's true genius - to evoke, in a way which evades precise explanation no matter how often one sees the film, the capacity of art to bend perception and behaviour and understanding. Like many Rivette films, the film has elements of classic myth or fairy tale: Frenhofer's vast home evokes an ancient castle with endless rooms and possibilities; his wife (Jane Birkin) evokes a lovely but somewhat doomed princess; there are hints of past traumas and conflicts which manifest themselves in various forms in the present; the finished painting is in various ways a site of danger and rupture, and must be banished for the sake of stability. All of this suggests an inwardness and hermeticism, but at the same time the film feels wondrously open and probing.The climax plays like a form of dance, the characters swirling around each other, testing new parameters and chemistries, but the final note suggests a wound that won't readily be healed. The film is playful but never trivial, beautiful but never merely scenic, erotic but never prurient; it's long (although not by Rivettian standards) but inexhaustible.
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You have to respect the mystery of the other
StockholmViewer14 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Seen at face value this movie does not make any sense at all. There is no such thing as a piece of art that in a magic way encompasses deeper, troublesome, unknown truths about a portrayed person which will change the person's life forever (which is a presumption in this movie). That is only a romantic cliché. It is especially difficult to believe that the bleak and anonymous art created in this movie could have that effect. Art can - at its best- reveal a lot of the artist and of the world as seen by the artist, and - at rare moments - art can change the life of the spectator. But art that will change the life of the model? No, I don't think that is very probable.

But seen as a metaphor for one person (the old painter) helping another person (the model) to find new truths about herself it makes all the sense in the world. Then we can easily understand the models first resistance to the meeting with the painter, the path leading through difficult moments and joyous moments and finally to the revelation of hidden truths that will change her life forever. (She decides to leave her boyfriend.)

Seen in this way the surprising ending where the painting is stuck away for no one to see makes real sense. Of course it is only of value for the model to understand her inner truths, you don't have to tell the world about them. The painter also was kind enough to do another portrait of her to show the world, a portrait where the inner meanings again are hidden. A most satisfactory ending I would say. As a french nun once told me: "Il faut respecter le mystère de l'autre" or "You have to respect the mystery of the other". How true doesn't that ring.

If a liked the movie? Yes, it is mesmerizing all four hours. And the twists at the end complete the picture fully. It is a masterpiece.
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Some Say It Is Watching Paint Dry
gavin69426 April 2016
The former famous painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend (Emmanuelle Béart) of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.

The film is loosely adapted from the short story "The Unknown Masterpiece" by Honoré de Balzac and also includes elements from "The Liar", "The Figure in the Carpet", and "The Aspern Papers" by Henry James. One does not need to have read any of these works to appreciate the film, however.

Some critics say the film is like watching paint dry, because very little happens and it has a running time of over four hours! But, at the same time ,this is sort of its charm. It just goes slow, unfolding, and getting the job done. Is the story of the artist or the model? Do they grow together, or grow apart?
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The Painting
kurosawakira15 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The best films, for me, are not essentially different from a nice walk, a wonderful meal, interesting sounds, interesting light. And this is not to say that film is something one might call mundane, as in devoid of life. I'm merely saying that life is magical. I'm not surprised, then, that this film, so very effortlessly, speaks to me without trying to say too much. I can now say I've been a witness – I was there, I saw him, I saw her. I was both him and her. I was outside, too, looking in embarassedly, full of shame and anger for not knowing, not being part of it.

I can't ask much more from a film, really. This is the first film I've ever seen by Rivette, and while I'm not in a rush to go to see more, "La belle noiseuse" (1991) is among the most rewarding and memorable film experiences of my life.

The great motif is time. It's a presence on its own, the space and air in which we live, either strengthening us or eroding us, even evading us when we chase its tail.

Some films insist the viewer feel the passing of the time with intense awareness. Béla Tarr works this way, "Sátantangó" (1994) and "A torinói ló" (2011) two examples. In those films time persists, it hangs over the viewer heavily like a pregnant cloud or thick mist. There part of the point is to react, then subside. This is how I feel about those films, the former which I've seen about a dozen times, the latter only once and would struggle to see again in its entirety.

But here, time flies, or as the Latin saying quite aptly has it, time escapes. I was shocked at how engrossing every single moment is, a testament to Rivette's expertise to rivet us, to make us care. About what, exactly? The painting? Marianne? Edouard? The film? Ourselves as witnesses? Art? Ourselves as artists? Voyeurists?

Does it have to be either/or?

The ending is appropriate, and is, below the surface, a thunderous climax – what we see is not what we've witnessed, and, as accounted by the narrator, Marianne would after the experience merely assume a new mask. The dialogue between Edouard and Nicolas about the former's categorical impetus for truth contributes to the film as an appropriate summa.
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Mag-1327 December 2000
Overpaid modern artist needs muse. Perfectly normal girl is taunted by her suck-up photographer husband into taking the job. Artist tries to physically force the model to "be herself" so his work can be honest. Too bad. What is obvious to the audience in hour one of this foot-wiggler only becomes obvious to the artist and his model in hour four: The model and artist will only be happy when he lets his subject do her own thing.

In the background, meanwhile, as in almost all literature about art and artists, REAL people do the artist's dishes, cook and clean for them. Those people deserve a movie. While the artist starts his scratching on paper at 10 a.m. ("Is that too early?" he asks the model), his house is already cleaned and breakfast has been cooked by the maid.

There were two honest people in this film: one was the model's sister-in-law, who admits without shame that she doesn't understand "modern art" and the other was the REAL artist who drew those pictures. Only his hand showed, but it was amazing to see that passionate hand dipping pen and brush into pots of progressively darker inks. I recommend watching those drawing scenes in fast-forward mode. Four hours! Please!

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Responsibilities of an artist shown through Rivette's singular cinematographic vision.
FilmCriticLalitRao7 August 2007
Edouard Frenhofer-a renowned painter left his supreme creation "La Belle Noiseuse" unfinished for ten years.His wife Liz modeled for it.He receives Porbus-an art agent and a young ambitious painter Nicolas in his château in the south of France.Porbus convinces him to complete the painting with a fresh model Marianne.This leads to an emotional turmoil between Frenhofer,Liz and Marianne.Jacques Rivette has created films which are fascinating examples of human emotions.As an avant-garde filmmaker,he relies heavily on literary texts.The film is a loose adaptation of Honore de Balzac's short story "The Unknown Masterpiece".La Belle Noiseuse is an honest film about creativity and its implications on our daily lives.It is true that Rivette took 4 hours of screen time in order to get to the bottom of his protagonists' emotional turmoil yet the wait is worth it as it is too small a price to pay.La Belle Noiseuse demands active participation on audience's part as Rivette makes us examine all aspects of creative art.Frenhofer,through his art attempts to make us comprehend basic human weakness felt by an artist.He dropped the idea of La Belle Noiseuse as he was scared and had not set foot in his atelier for a long time.The four-hour La Belle noiseuse was also released in 1993 in a two-hour version,entitled Divertimento as France 3 felt that a shorter version would be easy for everyone to grasp.The 4 hour film will certainly prove to be a nerve wrecking cinematic encounter for laid-back viewers who are not used to Rivette's protracted style of film-making.
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Watching Paiint Dry
kenjha4 July 2010
A retired painter picks up his brush after meeting a woman that he wants as his model for an elusive masterpiece. This film is literally like watching paint dry, as the viewer is subjected to watching a number of portraits being drawn or painted from start to finish. It's interesting to watch the creative process the first couple of times, but becomes somewhat tiresome after a while. There isn't enough material to sustain the extensive length, but the filmmakers deserve credit though for keeping it mostly interesting despite the three-hour running time, although the ending is unsatisfying. There are good performances from Piccoli and Beart.
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It's that old tortured artist drivel all over again... with implants.
fedor815 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Summary of a 4-hour movie: a sex-starved old bald artist gets to watch a beautiful naked woman for hours every day.

If you want to see the height of French (or European) cinematic pretentiousness, go ahead and watch this dull piece of celluloid nonsense. However, if you want REAL entertainment, no need to watch a different movie: I suggest you take a peak at many of the favorable reviews of LBN. However, if you're a fan of drivel like this, you'll most likely enjoy them and mark this with a "NO" (and then phone up all your friends to mark it with more "NO"s). Just make sure you don't break your keyboard when you smash a "NO" vote...

Piccoli plays an old artist, who has stopped painting/drawing i.e. scribbling crap-on-a-canvas, due to some tortured artist reasons. More likely, he stopped because he lives in the South of France and he'd rather just have fun in the sun and have sex a bit, occasionally wining and dining with friends. It's understandable. In the movie, however, the reason for this becomes apparent later: he tried painting his wife, and that pretty much ruined the fun in art forever for him. After all, would YOU want to spend hours and days painting your wife? Especially when she looks like Jane Birkin. No wonder Piccoli is tortured, suffering and all that: with a wife like Birkin it's a miracle he didn't end up killing himself like all those young tortured poets.

But... Voila! Ms.Beart enters the picture, his life. She is young, has a pretty face, and likes to be naked in front of old men. What man, old or young, could resist that? Suddenly, and veeeeery mysteriously, Piccoli is interested in painting again! Of course, officially his reasons are artistic, not sexual. How dare I even suggest that an artist might think with his genitals first, and his divine artistic soul/mind second?? No, no, no: Piccoli is NOT sexually attracted to the beautiful Beart; he just wants to paint her because she has that certain... aaahh... je-ne-sais-quoi.

What follows in this monstrously long movie are scenes of Beart undressing, dressing, posing, changing poses, getting bored, and Piccoli trying to calm himself down, i.e. Piccoli hiding his pitched tent while trying to focus on his "art". It is a pervert's dream. A movie the pervert doesn't have to hide from his visiting friends, but actually boast about. Two flies with one swat: watching breasts AND being able to pretend you're a clever art-movie lover. Or loveur.

Occasionally, there is some rather dull dialog that serves more as relief for male viewers who are struggling with their sexual feelings towards the naked Beart.

In the end, we get to see a large collection of drawings, all based on the body of one called Beart. Needless to say, the drawings are all horrible. All that effort, and for nothing! The reason they are so bad is two-fold: 1) nowadays bad art sells better, and 2) it is very difficult to concentrate on your artistic outpourings of inspiration when sexual feelings hang over you like an albatross. I understand Piccoli's character fully.

Oh, and those breasts are fake. This is Beart in her post-silicon, pre-enlarged-lips-like-a-duck phase. I am not a fan of implants at all, but I guess art lovers will not be bothered by the only bit of fakeness in an otherwise impressive feast of utter genuineness. The movie stinks of authenticity. It reeks. I'm impressed.

I wonder what the shooting of this movie was like? Did Piccoli have sex with Beart every morning, before the shooting commenced, so he can focus more easily on his lines? No, that can't be it. I just remembered: he barely has any lines. He just sits there and draws.

I once watched a chimp with a brush, a canvas, and some paint. There's much more to be learned from that...
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Are you kidding me?
jcjs33314 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Elitist porn i suppose. Acting is mediocre and it's all contrived and silly. Typical French cinema. Italians are warm and smart and this is cold and dumb. An aging artist getting his kicks out of being sullen and uninteresting. The aging artist has a wife who used to pose for him and they almost split up over it. Big deal! They all sit around eating or hanging out when not doing the art naked bit. The conversations are as stilted and boring as anything i've heard. French mumbo jumbo yakking and yakking and yakking about 'nothing of any importance. They have a tone in their voice as if to say their talking is important and it's as trite as can be. There's no substance or plot. I think i could have liked it if it were 90 minutes long. But, even 90 of this is too much. Whether his art is 'good' or 'bad' is irrelevant. Everyone is an 'artist' i some way. Just slow pretentious talking going nowhere. 80% of the film is just scratching paper. I guess were supposed to think this is 'the artists process' which is ridiculous since all artists work different. There is no humor anywhere in the nearly 4 hours. I can't recall one ounce of humor or levity. Artists i know , during posing sessions may carry on a conversation but it's not going to be pretentious short of the mark philosophizing from nowhere going nowhere. There's no point to this bore. The words are put in these folks mouths by writers who have their heads in the clouds. One guy said 'good show if you like watching paint dry'. That sums it up perfectly. I wouldn't watch the rest if i hadn't paid to watch it. I'm writing this while the aging artist and wife are arguing with words that mean nothing. The model is so stilted and dull. I don't think there is even a smile. Everyone is SULLEN and SAD. Dull people doing dull things. Blows my mind people like this. I ain't on that band wagon' This flick is ridiculous.
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