La Belle Noiseuse Reviews
Now, I am not diminishing the quality of this hypothetical alternative project. On the contrary, I think that all events in the life of a person, particularly of an artist, are equally important as those events in the life of any other human being. However, if we try to make a historical recollection about fascinating, insightful depictions about the methodical evolution of the creative process in the artist's mind, maybe we would be left blank-minded.
La Belle Noiseuse is an essay like no other, but if it is meant to talk deeply at a particular viewers segment, it is that represented by art supporters. Personally, I am an avid fan of all arts, not only cinema, so this meta-art project (which is certainly not the first project of this kind made by Rivette) spoke of so many things that matter to me in art. It is an extraordinary, complete project about the creation of art and its meaning.
Any art form represents a human exercise to externalize the content's of oneself's soul through a language that can assign it a perpetual value. That's my favorite definition. Art pieces depend solely on the internal state of the author. Influences execute an extraordinarily important force in this inspiration process, but in the end, an art form is a decision incarnated. Under this definition, Rivette is a true artist. The emphasis on how an idea begins from an event, and this event materializes from scratch, beginning with the trace of a line, is a beautiful event explored in the movie. Maybe after the cellular formation of any living being until its birth, the creation of an art piece is the most wonderful thing to happen in this God's creation.
On the other hand, art is subjective, and the toughest juror of an art piece is the creator himself/herself. It makes matters even more complicated when you, as an artist, are currently uncapable of doing at least either one of the following two things: a) to know what you're seeking, and b) to know what are the motives behind your work. Even if you had no motives, then that would be a motive. Still, point a) breaks down into another issue: to know whether if what you are seeking is something you have seen before. The process of mental idealization can be very dangerous, given that your potential masterpiece looks so wonderful in your head, that an attempt to physically replicate that idealization can ultimately lead to frustration... maybe even to the death of the inspiration itself. That is a groundbreaking event, and that is maybe the conflict of the protagonist.
Finally, we have what the finished art work means both to the artist and to the inspiration behind it, in case that such inspiration turns out to be a person. Nudism in particular has an impactful effect on me as an art admirer because it is one of the numerous, and yet efficient ways to emotionally break both the body of the model and the perseverance of the artist. Both discover themselves. Both can establish an intangible relationship of almost metaphysical proportions between each other, and also they discover themselves individually. I never thought this movie would be capable of reaching that topic barrier, but it did, against all my expectations, and therefore assuring itself the highest rating accolades.
What a wonderful picture, truly. Rivette is a magician, beyond all doubts. He can transform 238 minutes into 140 with no complication. La Belle Noiseuse is both an essay of this creative process and a reflection of Rivette engaging in that process himself. There are always layers in any meta-art project, and they are always interesting to discuss.
A marvelous triumph!
Of course that comparison is in jest as the goals of each film is very different. La Belle Noiseuse gives an extended view into one elderly man's creative process as he tries to paint what he thinks will be his masterpiece when inspired by a new muse Marianne. We see Edouard sketch, and sketch, and sketch some more. Extremely long takes often with fixed camera positioning captures an image emerging from the blank page. This could truly be a fascinating record if the artist was Renoir or Francis Bacon, but I am largely unimpressed with his technique. I certainly can't reconcile his precise demands that his model hold a difficult position when his crude darwings exhibit very liltle detail. I would call him an expressionist in that he states that he is trying to capture the essence of his subject, but achieving limited success.
Another problem concerns the exaggerated drama in the story. A young artist Nicolas offers his girlfriend Marianne as Edouard's subject. She is disgusted that she wasn't asked first, but when she agrees Nicolas thinks it's out of spite and moans that she must be boinking the guy 40 years her senior. Meanwhile Edouard's wife Liz warns Marianne "be careful or he will ruin you" because of his honesty with a brush. These are some pathetic human beings if their feelings are this fragile, and therfore I found these entanglements which are supposed to play out over a 3-day stay hard to swallow.
I did appreciate the scenes of drawing and painting to a point, watching his approach, and especially his interaction with Marianne. This was the real value to me, the relationship between the artist and his model. They talk about inspiration, dedication, sacrifice, and the fleeting mystery of the creative mind. My favorite scene happens when they have both drunk too much wine, and really the only time the overly serious mood is lifted. Marianne is played by Emmanuelle Béart who is one of the most beautiful actresses in film history, and in this role she is completely nude for at least an hour of screen time. I can't think of anyone more daring at baring their body, and studying her form is a providential privilege.
Even with the scary length, extremely slow pace, and above criticisms, it did not feel cumbersome until around the 3-hour mark. I'm conflicted about the rating because it provides a worthy experience in several respects, but I have a strong feeling the re-edited and much shorter Divertimento would qualify as a significant improvement and thus the preferable version. If that turns out to be untrue, I may have to recalibrate this one.
Endnote: The common English title is "The Beautiful Nuisance" but according to the desription given during the movie about what a "noiseuse" is, I am inclined to translate as "The Beautiful Nutcase" since they say a noiseuse acts crazily with a tendency to be a nuisance. However, I can understand an arthouse distributor wanting to class it up a bit.
The film touches on lots of rich emotional ground, about the evolving nature of long relationships, youthful artistic vision vs. autumnal artistic closure, the creative process and its volatility and the toll that art takes on love. Huge long sequences that feel almost 'real time' show the artist sketching in long drawn out shots, with the intense sound of a scratching pen and shots of Beart straining in a series of excruciating poses. These moments are utterly engrossing and take a large bulk of the film's running time, depicting an endlessly complex collaboration between artist and model, Piccoli and Beart are totally committed to their roles and boundlessly interesting throughout. The twists and turns of their relationship are riveting or Rivette-ing.
Rivette doesn't even show the final painting to the audience, (though the model and the wife see it, their reactions are unforgettable) and it didn't annoy me! It's almost too sacred to show. This snail's paced film will not appeal to everyone, it lacks the thrills per minute of The Avengers, and is even more slow paced than lugubrious flicks like Melacholia and The Tree of Life. However, if you're into thinking about art and you've got four hours to spare, your patience will be richly rewarded. Noiseuse is one of the crown jewels of the French cinema.
I wanted a 'wow' moment when the paintings were finished.....and there wasn't one. Also, i didn't fall memorized by the scene - It just could have been done with more awkwardness, and more tension. Sorry, not blown away by this.