La Belle Noiseuse
Nicolas (David Bursztein) is an up and coming artist who is thrilled that art dealer Porbus (Gilles Arbona) has arranged for him to meet the great painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli). He and his beautiful young wife Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart) first visit with Frenhofer's wife and last muse Liz (Jane Birkin, quietly compelling). When 'Frenho' arrives and takes them on a tour of his atelier, they learn of his frustration over never having completed the work with Liz which was to be his masterpiece and relationships will be tested when Marianne poses for "La Belle Noiseuse."
Laura's Review: A
Winner of the Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, "La Belle Noiseuse" is largely considered the best of French New Wave director Jacques Rivette's films. Those who may hesitate due to the film's four hour run time rest assured - the time flies by, every minute spellbinding. This is a movie about the making of a masterpiece which is itself a masterpiece, one of the truly great movies about artistic creation. In his atelier, which reminds Marianne of her school's chapel, Frenhofer tells them that La Belle Noiseuse was 17th century courtesan Catherine Lescoult, a woman on the verge of madness. But his attempt to capture her had 'no blood on the canvas,' and, therefore, no truth. Perhaps hoping to ingratiate himself with the master, Nicolas agrees to allow the elder painter to use his wife, Marianne, as his model. When Marianne learns this later on, she is incensed that she was not consulted, yet the next morning, she creeps out of bed and heads to the Frenhofers' majestic chateau before Nicolas awakens. After sharing some breakfast, Frenhofer and Marianne head to his workplace where he spends so much time arranging his space it seems like a delaying tactic. Over the course of the film, Rivette, a film director with a love of the theatrical, will use the atelier like a stage, his painter its director, set designer and stagehand, furniture constantly being reconfigured, props moved about the space. When the artist gets to work, he begins with a dip pen and ink, its nib loudly scratching against paper. Marianne is drawn leaning against a stool, then is informed there is a robe upstairs. She will be nude for the remainder of their work, which will progress to charcoal, then oils. But this artist is not interested in seduction. Frenhofer is intent on 'crumbling' Marianne, breaking her down until he can see her soul. He moves her limbs into awkward positions, at one point quite literally crucifying her. It is a battle of wills. When Marianne senses his resolve slipping, she takes control, the two collapsing into laughing fits as he trips trying to view her at just the right angle. As their work intensifies, Nicolas worries about the breakdown of his marriage, his wife growing ever more distant. Liz, who spends her time on bird taxidermy, pinning the creatures into position, warns Marianne not to let him paint her face. The film's final act is almost Shakespearean, the actors coming together in pairs in various parts of the chateau to wind down their individual stories and relationships. We've seen inspiration like a seductive siren, taunting, yet its culmination is brutal, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Beart's eyes flash madness before she hides behind her mask and Frenhofer surprises with a gesture towards his wife, whose clear-eyed, loving embrace is where happiness lies. The Blu-ray: First and foremost, Cohen Media's 4K blu-ray restoration is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and it looks glorious. The film is divided into two discs, separated by the film's original intermission. (Both begin with ads for Cohen Media's new channel on Amazon Prime, which will feature their classic films along with extras, as well as trailers for upcoming releases.) Extra material includes an interview with Rivette, apparently from around the time he recut the film down to 125 minutes as "La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento" for television. The clips used in the interviews, yellowing and masked into different aspect ratios, highlight how dramatic the disc's restoration is. A playful Rivette reveals that the genesis of the film was a joke. While making "La Bande des Quatre," he had a character relate Honoré de Balzac's story 'An Unknown Masterpiece,' then began saying that that should be his next film because if people didn't get it, he could claim it was because it was an unknown masterpiece. Stating that it is impossible to adapt Balzac, but that he is a good source to steal ideas from, Rivette called the film "La Belle Noiseuse." There is a lot of interesting discussion about "Divertimento," in which different, often completely uncut takes were used. We see the dinner scene from both versions of the film and one wishes "Divertimento" were included in this package as well. Rivette also explains how he involved painter Bernard Dufour, who appears in the film as the artist's hand. A second interview with screenwriters Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent reveals more literary influences, like Henry James. They also note that the character of Liz was invented for the film and that it is her storyline that dominates "Divertimento." A commentary track by film historian Richard Suchenski is also included. Grade:
Robin's Review: B
I do not know a lot about art, but I do appreciate a quirky talent that has the ability and durability, and single-minded vision, to last and evolve over seven decades. Yayoi has lived through some of our most turbulent times as a teen in WWII Japan, struggling artist in 50s and early 60s New York City art scene, anti-war activist in the 70s and, finally achieved the fame she worked so hard for. The diminutive Yayoi marched to her own tune throughout her life and, even if you do not like art, her energy, imagination and penchant for bright colors (flowers are an early influence), you should appreciate the effort by docmaker Heather Lenz. Her dedication to her subject is near equal to Kusama’s own. She utilizes many talking head interviews of those who influenced and were influenced by the artist (like Andy Warhol), archival footage and early video and, of course, her art through the ages.