La belle noiseuse

Filmmakers have attempted to put “the artistic process”—its creation, creators, and collaborators—onscreen for decades, but few have succeeded like Rivette with his four-hour work La belle noiseuse, inspired by Balzac's story “The Unknown Masterpiece.” Living in monotonous contentment in a cavernous country chateau, the aging painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) decides to finally finish his long-abandoned portrait piece La belle noiseuse with a new model, the beautiful Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart), replacing the old, his wife (Jane Birkin). Faced with a gap on canvas as tauntingly wide as the one between them, artist and model willfully maneuver to revive the inspiration and liberation that time (for Frenhofer) and fear (for both of them) have eroded. Unlike other “art films,” La belle noiseuse never shies away from the intense physicality of the creative process, its false starts and constant labor. It also expands the canvas to reveal not only the artist and model, but the realm around them, whether physical surroundings or emotional relationships. Not only about a work of art, La belle noiseuse is a film about the work of life.
—Jason Sanders

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