Friday, May 04, 2007

LA BELLE NOISEUSE



This week's movie:
LA BELLE NOISEUSE

Probably the best movie ever about art.

I had a chance to visit Paris several years ago. My wife and I wanted to make the most of our few days there to see as much as possible. We didn't really plan anything ahead of time – we were winging it. On the day before we came home, we wanted to spend the day at The Louvre. But there was just one problem. It was Tuesday, and everybody knows (except me, that is), that The Louvre is CLOSED on Tuesdays! What's that all about? Tuesday is so random, who would've thought? Anyway, we walked along the river bank until we came to a place where artists like to congregate and paint or draw or whatever. I watched one particular artist draw a portrait. I stood behind and watched him over his shoulder as he worked. Before I realized it, I had stood there for more than half an hour. You might think that it must have been boring - but it wasn't! I was totally into it. It was looking at a creative process as it happens. So intent was his concentration that he didn’t notice that I was there.

This movie is a little like that. There is an intimate relation between an artist and his model, and watching this film is like watching over his shoulder without being seen.

I loved this movie. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize I like it. I can tell what the film is about, but it won’t tell you anything about the film. You'd have to watch it to judge for yourself.

I can tell you the plot, at least. A young artist and his girlfriend go to visit his idol, an aging great painter. But he hasn’t painted anything in years. He’s lost his muse. That is, until he meets the man’s young girlfriend. He’s suddenly moved to perhaps finish his masterpiece “La Belle Noiseuse” if she will pose for him. She reluctantly agrees. There are all sorts of complications. The artist’s own wife used to be his favorite model, and now that he has a new model, there’s resentment.

ASIDE: The girlfriend is played by Emmanuelle Béart. Most Americans won't be familiar with her, but she's HUGE in France, and is fairly well known throughout most of the movie-going world. Check out her IMDB page to find more films she's starred in. She's perfectly cast in this role as she exudes sensuality like most people exude sweat - as a natural response to heat.

Anyway, that’s the basic plot of the movie – but what is it about? I’ll try to explain. In order to paint her, he has to know her – everything about her. Every angle of her body, every expression, every nuance of her posture. He places her in one difficult pose after another while he sketches in his notebook. As he does, he engages her in conversation. He's trying to capture something about her that’s not outwardly evident, her soul, and so he needs her to let down her guard. She’s smart, she’s sharp, she’s beautiful – and he gets it all down in his book.

The big gamble in this film – that could have bombed – but instead, paid off, was to allow us, the viewer to watch as the artist draws sketch after sketch. Sometimes the camera lingers over his shoulder for ten minutes or more while the image takes shape, while all you hear is the scratching of his pen. You might think this would be boring – but it’s actually some of the most riveting footage in the movie. All the while the characters barely move, there is verbal banter and psychological dueling between the two main actors.

The only warning I have is that this movie is not for children. It’s not because of the nudity (I find that children don’t have a problem with nudity as much as adults do), and there's no sex, but it is 4 hours long and most children that I know just won’t sit still for that long.

To my male readers:

Unless you intend to watch this film by yourself, or with a bunch of other guys, you’re going to need a whole lot of justification. Why? Because your wife/girlfriend/whatever is going to want to know WHY. Why you are watching a 4 hour movie. Why you are watching a movie in French, about art. Why are you watching a movie in which the beautiful French actress who plays the model is naked for at least 3 of those 4 hours. So yes, you'll have lots of 'splaining to do. So, it helps to memorize 2 or more of the following – just in case it comes up. But don’t respond too quickly or it will sound rehearsed. Instead, look directly into her eyes, make one of those “why do you think?” gestures with your hands, and repeat one of the following.

  1. No other film portrays the soul of the artist like this one.
  2. This is about “art”. Get your mind out of the gutter!
  3. I’ve always loved movies about art – like …….. er …… Pollack? And the DaVinci Code. And the one about that painter guy – what’s his name? Oh, you know......
  4. FranksFilms said that this was a “must see” film – so, I “must see” it.
  5. This film scored a very rare 100% on the tomatometer. I only watch the best.
  6. What else would you have me watch? Deuce Bigalow?
  7. What? I got this just for you. What would you rather watch? Deuce Bigalow? I think you deserve better.
  8. Everybody else at work is watching it. I’ll feel left out if I don’t. ........and yes, if everyone at work jumped off a cliff, I would too!
  9. This film is featured in Steven Jay Schneider's book, “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”. Another month, another movie ………until I’m dead.
  10. If you don’t believe me, read film critic, Roger Ebert’s review of LA BELLE NOISEUSE here. You can read his review of Deuce Bigalow here.

That’s all I’ll say. I’m hoping many of you will take a chance on it and that most of you will enjoy.


1 Comments:

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