La belle noiseuse (1991)

A prize winning four hour masterpiece on two tapes. Artist Michel Piccoli, blocked since abandoning a painting of wife Jane Birkin ten years ago, is tempted to try again when he meets Emmanuelle Beart, girlfriend of a young painter, and stirs up old emotional complications as he becomes obsessive about the canvas. At the risk of alienating uncommitted viewers, Rivette shows the process of creating the work of art in incredible detail, progressing from the first scratchy sketches through to every stroke of the brush although, in the end, we aren't allowed to see the finished work as Piccoli himself withholds it from the public. A profound meditation on the sacrifices and dangers inherent in creation, the film is a very subtle, non sexual eternal triangle story, with performances from Piccoli, Beart and Birkin that are as detailed and persuasive as the documentary style sequences of the painting (the hand of Bernard Dufour takes over for the close ups), and deep conclusions about the actual worth of all the pain and struggle. An ideal sell through title, since people who like it enough to but it are liable to love it enough to watch over and over again. Even for those initially dubious about the length and subject matter, this is a seductive, enthralling movie.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Empire (issue unknown)


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