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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>
There was no script per se. The film was shot in sequential order and the day's shooting was dictated by what had been filmed the day before. 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 »
Insightful Rivette! Marvelous performances from Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, and Emmanuelle Béart.
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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