Wednesday, November 20, 2013

832. La Belle Noiseuse/The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)

Running Time: 237 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Rivette
Written By: Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette, from the novella Le Chef-d'Oeuvre Inconnu by Honore de Balzac
Main Cast: Michel Piccoli, Emmanuelle Beart, Jane Birkin, David Bursztein, Marianne Denicourt


Fellow Netflix members who are also interested in "La Belle Noiseuse", may have realized that the film is currently (and has been for some time) on a "very long wait", which is what prompted me to go hunting for this one and thankfully finding it uploaded to YouTube.

The plot isn't too hard to follow, considering the film is four hours long, directed by Jacques Rivette (see "Celine and Julie Go Boating") and French - the French sometimes have a way of leaving me with a perplexed look on my face, wondering what I've just witnessed. The film revolves around a painter named Frenhofer (Piccoli), who one evening has some admirers over to his house for dinner. The one who is most excited to dine with Frenhofer is Nicolas (Bursztein), a fellow painter and a big fan of Frenho' (which is what he is called by his wife). Also dining with Frenhofer and Nicolas is Marianne (Beart), Nicolas' girlfriend and Liz (Birkin), Frenhofer's wife, as well as another friend of Nicolas. Over the course of the evening, the conversation takes many directions, but eventually lands on La Belle Noiseuse - a painting that Frenhofer has never been able to capture on canvas, one that has plagued him for many years. Nicolas is encapsulated by the idea of such an elusive thought as La Belle Noiseuse that he offers up Marianne to Frenhofer as inspiration for La Belle Noiseuse, without her consent. That night, Nicolas tells Marianne of his offer and needless to say, she's pissed. However, the next morning before David awakes, Marianne sneaks out and goes to Frenhofer to begin modeling for him. After a while, David becomes jealous of the relationship that is developing between Frenhofer and Marianne - the powerful relationship between model and master.


I've honestly been sitting here for about five minutes just thinking - thinking about what I want to write and how I want to sum up this movie. As I sit, looking at my blank, white, cyber canvas, I can't help but be reminded of the Frenhofer character, as he took meticulous care to make sure his drawing table was just right, before dabbing his pen in the ink and starting to draw the first lines of Marianne's body. It makes you realize that art and expression exist in all forms - not just as paint brush on canvas or pen on paper, but sometimes even as words or even as a thought. The film to me was the ultimate portrayal of a painter's process. Look at the exhaustion and the agony that this character of Frenhofer went through as he struggled to create something that he didn't know if he could create. During the process, he questioned his own agility, knowing that he was an old man now and wondering if he'd lost the gift of being able to take on such a task. He forced himself to stare youth in the face and try to recreate something that would not impact him, but would impact the model upon it's completion.

According to a few pieces that I've read following my completion of this film, it seems to me that it was only Marianne who would know when the painting was finished and judging by the look on her face, Frenhofer would know whether or not he had succeeded or failed. The 'La Belle Noiseuse' was something that would show Marianne a different version of herself and probably change her in some way - what way, I do not know. In the end, Frenhofer buries the painting alive, hoping to someway protect Marianne. Notice the way the two look at each other at the end of the film, knowing that they spent a considerable amount of time in Frenhofer's studio and knowing they uncovered certain pieces about one another that no one else could ever see. Did the two have an affair? Not in the traditional sense, but I think Nicolas' fear of losing Marianne was totally justified, because he knew the power that this relationship had - the relations between the model and her sculptor. Yes, the two had a raucous affair, that went beyond the physical act of making love. This is evident throughout the film, in the growing fear that begins to exist and grow inside Liz. At first, she's totally fine with Marianne posing for Frenhofer, even convincing Nicolas to let her come back. Then, as the film goes on, she grows uneasy and scared, knowing that her youth has escaped her and that she no longer has what it takes to symbolize La Belle Noiseuse.

What is La Belle Noiseuse? I haven't a clue, but to me the whole idea just represents something that exists on canvas and is ever elusive - something that must be searched for and perhaps stumbled upon. Something that Frenhofer sees in Marianne, but didn't see in his own wife. Despite an easy blueprint, the film definitely makes you think and isn't a bit boring. Whether or not I've even slightly cracked the nail on the head, I do not know. However, I definitely have some thoughts and I like what I've come up with.

RATING: 7/10  I'll just stop there and let that speak for itself. I almost can't even justify the '7' rating, but I know, for the most part, I liked the film and the four hours was quite easy.


November 20, 2013  10:33pm


  1. It has been a while since I saw this one, and the memory of the details are fading somewhat.. but I remember enjoying it, but feeling it was a tad drawn out.

  2. The film does wear out it's welcome. Chop of an hour and we may have been dealing with a '10'.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

Running Time: 120 minutes Directed By: Jacques Deray Written By: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jacques Deray, Alain Page Main Cast: Alain Del...