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LA BELLE NOISEUSE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 20, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cohen Media has given a Blu-ray upgrade to ‘La Belle Noiseuse’ (aka ‘The Beautiful Troublemaker’) on its ‘Film Collection’ label, a thoughtful French film that’s obviously not for everyone (Emmanuel Beart is nude throughout much of the proceedings) but has some things to say about the artist’s struggle that will appeal to the art-house crowd. Here’s my review, published Nov. 13, 1992, in the Deseret News.

In the Martin Scorsese episode of the anthology film "New York Stories" a few years ago, the director made an attempt to explore the nature of the artist's muse, or more correctly, a painter's obsession with purging his demons on canvas.

But the new French film "La Belle Noiseuse" is much more successful at doing the same thing, though it certainly takes its time doing so. Four hours, to be precise. (For that reason, the Tower Theater is showing the film at 1 p.m. daily matinees.)

Is the film worth four hours? Not really; it could easily be trimmed. Does it succeed in making the audience member feel the passion of the painter — and the pain of the model? Very much so.

     

Clockwise from lower left, Emmanuelle Beart, Jane Birkin, Michel Piccoli, 'La Belle Noiseuse'

Despite its somewhat obtuse narrative structure "La Belle Noiseuse" is an impressive work when it concentrates on the painter's passion and his tempestuous work relationship with his model.

The story has Emmanuelle Beart ("Manon of the Spring") and her boyfriend, a photographer, invading the life of a reclusive painter (Michel Piccoli) who hasn't picked up a brush in a decade. It seems he became frustrated 10 years earlier with his inability to capture in paint a portrait that has haunted him ever since. Ah, these temperamental artists.

Inspired by Beart's presence, despite her own reluctance — and, at times, hostility — he tackles the project again.

With painstaking detail, the film zeroes in on Piccoli's efforts to capture something more than Beart's physical charms (she poses nude for him throughout much of the film). We sympathize and feel the pain — both physical and mental anguish — as he demands that she take on the role of contortionist to pose in uncomfortable, muscle-aching positions while he draws sketches of her, over and over again. And later, as he finally takes his brush to canvas and tries to find that elusive something inside his model that will help him express himself.

     

Unfortunately, the soap opera machinations that surround their relationship, especially Beart's battles with her boyfriend and his jealousy over Piccoli's passion for his art, become tiresome. Would it have been asking too much to trim this extraneous material and make the movie three hours instead of four?

Obviously, the film is aimed at a fairly narrow audience — primarily the art community. But the passion felt during those painting-and-posing sequences reaches a much broader spectrum.

"La Belle Noiseuse" is not rated but would get an R for nudity and profanity (though there is not a lot of the latter).