Wednesday, June 4, 2014

La bėllė noisėusė (1991)

Today's film is La belle noiseuse.  An old, retired painter named Frenhofer lives a quiet life in France with his wife, his former model.  A young, up-and-coming artist named Nicolas comes to visit and brings his beautiful girlfriend along.  Ten years ago, Frenhofer was working on what was to be his masterpiece, a painting of a beautiful woman titled La belle noiseuse.  Looking at Nicolas' girlfriend, Marianne, he is inspired to try again.  Nicolas volunteers her to be his model without even asking her.  At first, she is angry at him, but goes to Frenhofer's house to model anyway.

Marianne has a cold, distant personality and we don't know much about her.  At first, she is okay posing in her clothes, but eventually she's going to have to take her clothes off so he can sketch her body.  Now, I've been modeling for many years, and I'm always nervous the first few moments around a new (or unfamiliar) artist.  This nervousness and uneasiness was very apparent in Marianne.  But, after a couple days, she's totally comfortable being nude and even tells stories from her past.  While modeling, the artist will ask you to pose however they want you to, but it's never as extreme as how Frenhofer posed Marianne.  After all, this is nude modeling, not yoga class!

The best part about this film was the sounds.  Without a score, the sounds were overly apparent.  The only sound I didn't like was the skritch-skrittch of the ink pen as he sketched.  By the way, his sketches are awful. One of my favorite sounds was when he was drawing on the canvas with charcoal.  That was a wonderful sound.  All the sounds made me feel like I was sitting right next to Frenhofer as he drew.  If you get a chance (or another one) to see this film, try wearing headphones.  The sounds will feel like they're all around you.  It is so wonderful and relaxing.

Both Madame Frenhofer (his wife/former model) and Nicolas are supportive of Frenhofer achieving his dream of painting his masterpiece, but they don't want to alienate Marianne or their own friendships.  M. Frenhofer was especially mad that he painted straight over a painting of her (his first attempt at the masterpiece) instead of using a new canvas.  Nicolas is uncomfortable about Marianne being naked for hours in front of another man.  There is sort of an erotic feel to what Frenhofer says to Marianne and the poses he forces her to do, but there's no outright sex.  He sketches for hours and hours and he is such a perfectionist that he is going to overdo it.

 M. Frenhofer, who was the original model of his masterpiece before he gave up, gives Marianne some advice: Don't look at the painting.  However, she had been working with him for several days, so it was too tempting to not look at it.  She sees it and is stunned.  Her face is cold and not was she expected.  Frenhofer hides the real painting behind a wall and paints a different picture that doesn't show her face.  So he does all that work and we don't even get to see the real painting?  There is a good reason for that.  The film is about Marianne and her experience with Frenhofer.  Her reaction to seeing her own face on the canvas can never match anyone elses' reaction.  I know sometimes I hate seeing pictures or works of myself because I think that I could have done more to make it better.  Did I pose right? Did the light hit my body correctly?  Am I just ugly? (Of course the pictures are perfect.  These questions are just brought on by anxiety.  If we were to see the real painting, it would have been beautiful.  But to Marianne, it's not.  The way I see pictures of myself will never match how others perceive it.)  But, Frenhofer is respectful of Marianne and paints a different picture to replace it, one of her specifically hiding her face, curled up in a ball, as if she's protecting herself from something.  Or maybe protecting herself from everything.  Both paintings raise many questions.  I hope Marianne learned from her experience and she and Nicolas will have a good relationship again.  I will give this film a 9/10.

Bye from Florida and see you next time!

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