LA BELLE NOISEUSE (Jacques Rivette, 1991)

Inspired by Balzac’s “The Unknown Masterpiece,” Jacques Rivette’s four-hour La belle noiseuse is about creative process and the competing claims on an artist of his calling and the sensitivities of the other persons in his life. The artist is Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli, excellent), who hasn’t painted in a decade, having given up on completing “La belle noiseuse,” the portrait for which the woman to whom he is now married, Liz, modeled. When Nicolas, a young admirer, at dinner offers his girlfriend, Marianne, as a fresh model, Frenhofer seizes the opportunity to paint again and complete “La belle noiseuse.” Frenhofer’s artistic pursuit ends up running roughshod over the feelings of his wife, Marianne and Nicolas.
     There are several wonderful passages, one of which is stunning: during their first session together in his studio, Frenhofer’s initial sketches of Marianne. Very little conversation passes between them (Marianne is outraged that her boyfriend pressed this arrangement without first asking her), and the sound most notably interrupting the silence is an unpleasant one: the scratch and scrape of pen on paper. This passage, among Rivette’s most mesmerizing ones, anticipates by one year Victor Erice’s masterpiece, Dream of Light, which documents Spanish painter Antonio López García at work.
     On the whole, however, this is not one of Rivette’s better films, much less one of his great ones. Everything to do with the sketching and painting fascinates; but the trite melodrama with which it is surrounded, thin material that is stretched ever thinner, is dubious. Jealous fits, temper outbursts, apologies abound; suppressed feelings tumble out.
     Moreover, I scarcely know what to make of Nicolas’s relationship with Julienne, his “sister.”

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dennis+Grunes&x=14&y=16

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Dennis+Grunes&x=14&y=19

Advertisements

One thought on “LA BELLE NOISEUSE (Jacques Rivette, 1991)

  1. This isn’t my absolute favorite Rivette (that would be the delightful ghost romance History of Marie and Julien), but I do think it’s a masterpiece. I can maybe see your point about the melodramatic plot, but that stuff seems so secondary to the erotic tension and examination of creativity that dominates all the artist/model scenes, that it’s virtually irrelevant to the film as a whole. Emmanuelle Beart is amazing in this, projecting a fiery intensity that is every bit a match for Piccoli.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s