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La Belle Noiseuse

New Yorker Video // Unrated // July 6, 2004
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Lecter | posted February 22, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

align="left" hspace="0" width="200" height="150">Winner of the
Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, Jacques Rivette's La
Belle Noiseuse
is about as good as any film about the
creation of art can possibly get. Nearly four hours long, the
film tells the story of Frenhofer - a once-famous artist - who
hasn't painted anything worthwhile in ten years. He has
aspirations to complete his latest work, "La Belle
Noiseuse" ("The Beautiful Annoyance" or "The
Beautiful Troublemaker"), which he thinks might just be his
masterpiece, but has yet to find the right tools with which to do
so. When an admiring artist and his girlfriend Marianne come to
visit Frenhofer, he immediately regains his inspiration and
persuades the reluctant Marianne to be his model.

For a film with very little in the way of action, La Belle
is surprisingly suspenseful and tense. Rivette
builds this tension by taking his time. His camera glides
languidly in and around the scenery, showing as little as
possible of each individual drawing and painting until it is near
completion. Through Michel Piccoli's wonderful performance as the
tortured Frenhofer (and Bernard Dufour's painting and drawing),
we get to see exactly how each piece of art progresses from blank
page (or canvas) to finished product. While the film has a
penchant for intricate detail, these scenes in particular show a
dedication to detail and trust in the audience that few
filmmakers would have the courage to attempt. Shots simply of
Frenhofer drawing go on for minutes at a time, without cutting,
creating almost a time-lapse effect as the drawings come to life.

align="right" hspace="0" width="200" height="150">Scenes between
Marianne and the famous painter alone in his studio make up
probably more than half of the film, and although they often find
themselves doing the same things again and again, these scenes
never become boring or predictable. Their relationship progresses
naturally because Rivette allows them the time needed to gain
confidence and trust in each other. It is a testament to the
performances of Piccoli and Emmanuelle Béart (8 Women)
that what begins as a troubled, hostile relationship transitions
seamlessly into a sincere collaboration that both characters need
to see through until the end.

To put it plainly, La Belle Noiseuse is a masterpiece of
filmmaking. The only real mistake that Rivette makes is putting
even the slightest bit of emphasis on the few subplots that run
throughout the film. While these threads do very little to
actually harm the film, they only keep the audience from seeing
more of what is the true heart and soul of La Belle Noiseuse
- the interaction between Frenhofer and his model. This film is
so incredibly good at showing the often-torturous hard work of
creating art that I could have easily stayed in the studio with
Béart and Piccoli for the entire duration. Their performances
are truly as stunning and passionate as the film itself is



align="left" hspace="0" width="200" height="150">La Belle
is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame
format, which benefits from having the film spaced out over two
discs. This two-disc set divides the film at its original
intermission point, a bit more than halfway through the film,
with each half getting its very own disc. The image is mostly
sharp and detailed with only minor edge enhancement throughout.
Colors are a bit soft, however, and there is a bit of flicker
present from time to time as well. Lighting and shadow are nicely
delineated, while flesh tones are accurate and blacks are deep. A
fair amount of grain appears occasionally, but the print is
predominantly clean. The only other downfall to be found is a
very noticeable layer change. Nonetheless, it was a wise decision
on the part of New Yorker Video to spread the feature over two
discs, as I fear that the image quality would have been highly
compromised had they attempted to cram everything on one DVD. As
it is, this is probably the best the film is ever going to look.


The original French-language audio on this disc is presented in a
Dolby 2.0 stereo format that doesn't fair quite as well as the
video. Dialogue is always clear and crisp, but the rest of the
track comes across as a bit muddled. Sound effects (including the
intentional near-constant humming of crickets) merge with ambient
noise, and there is no real separation across the front channels.
What is presented as a stereo mix is really more of a mono track,
which serves its purpose just fine for a film such as this.


Included on this disc are a few nice extra features, all of which
can be found on disc one. The interview with director
Jacques Rivette
is a little less than fifteen minutes
long and includes optional English subtitles. He explains how the
idea for the film actually started as a joke, from another of his
films, until it eventually stuck in his head that he had to do
it. Rivette details Bernard Dufour's work as the real painter on
the film, and even talks about his 2-hour edit of the film,
called La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento, comprised of
entirely different takes than the original version. We even get
to see one scene from the alternate version as Rivette explains
the differences.

Also included is an approximately 20-minute long interview
with co-writers Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent
which also includes optional English subtitles. They expand a bit
on the influence of Balzac's novella, "The Unknown
Masterpiece," on the film, and even talk briefly about
working with Rivette on La Belle Noiseuse. They also
explain why Rivette decided to shoot the film in a 1.33:1 format
and how cinematographer William Lubtchansky had to make sure that
the film would not be too badly mutilated when projected at the
1.66:1 aspect ratio in theaters. Not as interesting as Rivette's
interview, this is still a nice companion piece to the film

Rounding out the package, we have a few selected filmographies
and a theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Jacques Rivette takes more chances and has more patience in his
direction of La Belle Noiseuse than you'll find in any
film in your local theaters for a very long time. He shows
complete trust in the intelligence of his audience and never
allows his characters to stop seeking the ultimate truth about
art, for which they are desperately searching. It is this
steadfast approach to his vision that makes Rivette's film so
powerfully engaging.

Understanding the importance of the film's audio-visual quality,
New Yorker Video made the right decision in spreading this
lengthy film across two discs. Their inclusion, as well, of some
interesting extra material is a welcome bonus to a film that
would easily warrant a purchase even in a bare-bones release. It
would have been great to have the two-hour version of the film
included as well, but overall this is a very nice package for a
tremendous film, and one that I highly recommend as a wonderful
addition to any discerning cinemaphile's DVD collection.

Buy from






Highly Recommended

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