- At two minutes shy of four hours—Rivette is an auteur who certainly uses duration and works in long form. I’m not entirely sure if Rivette was part of the Andy Warhol avant-garde influence in the 1960’s or not
- Starts and ends with Emmanuelle Béart’s voice-over narration. The film is split into two parts like a 1960’s epic (no musical interlude or anything though)—there is one “but the next morning…” title which is a wink to Rivette’s 1974 Celine and Julie Go Boating
- It is a detailed portrayal of the artistic process – Michel Piccoli’s Edouard Frenhofer is creating a work of art with Emmanuelle Béart’s Marianne as his model/inspiration. There is also a complex struggle between the two and their lovers (played by Jane Birkin and David Bursztein)
- Piccoli is wonderful—along with Contempt this may be his best work. He absolutely inhabits the aloof “what day is it today?”, irritable, brilliantly (and brilliantly tormented) artist. “I need a masterpiece or nothing”. Piccoli doesn’t give the appearance of acting at all (he is so natural in his denim uniform just moving around the barn studio in silent scenes arranging his brushes and bossing her around) and it is a character study of great depth—for Béart it is nearly an equal feat, too.
- Rivette’s triumph is a little tougher to reconcile. It is a methodical study of the process and I can appreciate that Rivette is using duration as a weapon. He’s simulating the authentic documentation of the creative process. If it were 90 minutes it would be easy and it would mock his intent. His camera is just off to the side watching hands (not Piccoli’s) sketch, stumble, sketch again, and so on for a long time. Sometimes Rivette holds for a long time, sometime he jump cuts within the same set-up to speed up. He has a slow zoom a few times but not a real repeatable form or balance or routine (this isn’t Jarmusch capturing the process in Paterson which is the far stronger formal achievement).
It is a detailed portrayal of the artistic process
- A very nice Antonioni-like shot of Piccoli through two sets of doors at the 198 minute mark…. but beautiful frames or camera movements isn’t Rivette
- Yet- there is a remarkable joust and relationship between the two actors and characters. There’s a symbolic rape—he’s breaking her down (he says that explicitly) but he also exhausts himself and there’s doubt, too and she pushes back. She’s a strong character.
- Recommend / Highly Recommend border
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