106 of 1001 Movies: La Belle Noiseuse (1991)

So this is a four hour movie about a painter painting a woman. On surface level this may not sound like the most entertaining thing, and it has been shortened in certain formats, but if you want to see the movie in it’s original format then you may not want to go that route. Jacques Rivette though has made a compelling movie though about the art of painting, which hasn’t be covered as very tactfully as this film does it. It becomes about something more than art by the end though as we watch the characters grow, even though you can’t deny the pretentious vibe.

Frenhofer is a former famous painter who now lives with his wife in the countryside in an almost castle like home, but when an artist visits him and brings his girlfriend Marianne along the painter finds inspiration he hasn’t in a while, and wants to paint her. The particular painting he has in mind is La Belle Noiseuse (The Beautiful Troublemaker), which he abandon years ago. This painting though will not only challenge Frenhofer, but Marianne as well as she begins the process of reluctantly posing for him. Unknowingly they will walk away from the process more changed than they expected.

This movie is probably best watched in pieces than sitting down for the whole thing at one time. Honestly, I liked it more than I thought, and by the end you do see the character growth intended, though it seems more sad than productive. Most viewers, including me may be disappointed though as you never get to the see art that is created after all that time of watching him try to paint it.

Michel Piccoli is Frenhofer the painter, and he’s really good. The way that him and his wife interact seems broken, but also like he at least is still struggling to find a connection. It’s very sad, but you can also feel the frustration of his wife and understand it. You may even be baffled at how she handles this new woman in his paintings as well as she does, because she used to be the woman he would paint, and even tried to depict her in La Belle Noiseuse. She treats Marianne with only kindness though, but her boyfriend, Nicolas, has very different feelings about his girlfriend being in these paintings, and naturally grows worried that she is falling for the painter.

Though Marianne is mostly nude in this movie, and around Frenhofer most the time it is very astounding how they interact with one another in that situation. There is never any sexual vibe to it even when he is correcting her positions for the model he wants. Marianne has something about her that is intriguing as a character to, and is portrayed by Emmanuelle Beart. She seems very broken, and by the end of this painting seems no better off, but seems like she is tired of hiding from it.

La Belle Noiseuse may feel like a chore for many to watch, and honestly it isn’t really for casual viewing. To probably really find the ability to watch it, then it may have to come in pieces. The film is a piece of art though, and at times may not even let itself be loose enough. It’s very serious, and comes off a little full of itself. It does capture you though, and keep you wondering how this painting will ultimately transform everyone, and in the end you want everyone to be okay. I can’t help but note that this movie does put me in mind of Belle De Jour though.

Rating 7 of 10

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