if the truth annoys you...

film diary

8 February 09

La Belle Noiseuse (1991)

Jacques Rivette, Dir.

... a film to live by ...


In Rivette’s film, an artist, Frenhofer, visits his studio – he had given up painting ten years earlier.

Frenhofer: I don’t want to stay here. It was difficult even to come. When I see a recent painting… the suffering here is unbearable.

Nicolas: At least it’s cool here. There’s silence.

Frenhofer: Silence? Can’t you hear the forest? The sound, the murmuring, all the time. It’s like the sea. Just like the sea. It’s the fossil sound of the universe. It’s the sound of the origins. The forest and the sea mixed together. That’s what painting is. Don’t you think?

Nicolas: No, I don’t For me it’s not that. For me painting is the stroke. A colour that stands out. A cadmium yellow, a flashing red. Something sharp, finished.

Frenhofer: Really? Every time I felt I’d finished a painting, completed it… I always said to myself I should have gone further, try a bit harder. Take the risk.


Later, Frenhofer speaks to Marianne, his model:

I’ll get to know what’s inside… under your thin surface…
I want the invisible. No, it’s not that! I want…
It’s not me who wants…

It’s the line…

the stroke…

Nobody knows what a stroke is.

And I’m after it.


La Belle Noiseuse is a brilliantly stunning film. I’m not certain that silence has ever been more effective in cinema. The emotional tension in the artistic process is strong and palpable.

When the artist was at work – and I should add that half way into the film, the model takes over and leads the artist – I became absorbed by those scenes, watching the film as though I were inside it.

This is one of the most important films – on both an artistic and a personal level – that I have ever seen. A major work.

1 comment:

Pris said...

I hope it's on Netflix. Thanks for the heads up. It does sound wonderful.