La Belle Noiseuse Screen 7 articles

La Belle Noiseuse


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  • The revelations of La Belle Noiseuse are decidedly obvious and small, and rendered nearly insignificant by the ill-fitting actions of the peripheral characters whose petty problems (arising from the actors’ own improvisations) offer a less-than-satisfying counterpoint to Frenhoffer’s intense and invasive creative process.

  • One need only study the splendid scene of the first work session between Frenhofer and Marianne – his nervous but steady setting-up of the room, her open expectancy – to see how Rivette conjures all human relationships, even the most tense or difficult, in the form of a dance... As Frenhofer faces the disturbance in his marriage to Liz, warily watches the emergence of a new generation and confronts the spectre of his own death, it is hard not to see in this sad hero the director's self-portrait.

  • ...The fact that La belle noiseuse is four hours long makes this even more of an achievement--and, incidentally, confirms that in spite of some disapproving guff over the years about Rivette's long running times being overly self-indulgent, his best films, with very few exceptions, are his longest. Duration and process are central to what his movies are about, and the longer they run the more disciplined and purposeful they usually turn out to be.

  • It's four hours, carefully segmented internally into dramatic acts, but also externally, by a break which the film itself announces. Thus, when the model in the film gets giggly from exhaustion, and several times grabs for a cigarette, the film advises patrons in the cinema to take a break as well. La Belle Noiseuse is nothing if not aware of the kind of 'special occasion' contract it has with its audience.

  • From the lyrical opening sequence of Nicolas and Marianne's staged seduction, Jacques Rivette uses his distinctive, recurring narrative device of performance within a performance in order to illustrate the film's theme, not only of the social propensity to create insulating (and protective), emotional adaptation through masquerade and façades, but also the revelatory nature of art that results from passion, diligence, focus, sacrifice, and abandonment of fear and inhibition.

  • The end result of Piccoli and Béart's labor may ultimately elicit shrugs—the title of Balzac's story could refer to a hidden gem, or to a work that some might not know as a masterpiece—but getting there takes extraordinary effort. A cynic might liken the experience to watching paint dry, but the insistent scrape of Piccoli's ink pen and the whoosh of his brushes (both wielded by real figurative artist Bernard Dufour) are alive with creative tension and conflict.

  • It’s the Jacques Rivette movie for people who can’t stand Jacques Rivette movies — and yet no one else could’ve made it . . . Perhaps Rivette was being cunning in front-loading his epic (which it is, though perfectly typical on a Rivettian scale) with so much explicitly erotic context. But in its own way this sensual, granular experience is just as pure and obsessive as Rivette’s less hospitable masterpieces, and almost as mysterious.

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