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Film / La Belle Noiseuse

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"La Belle Noiseuse" is the best film I have ever seen about the physical creation of art, and about the painful bond between an artist and his muse.

La Belle Noiseuse (the title translates loosely as "The Beautiful Troublemaker") is a film by Jacques Rivette, loosely based on a story by Balzac, The Unfinished Masterpiece. Starring Emmanuelle Béart and Michel Piccoli, it was released in 1991.

Nicolas, a young artist, visits in the company of his girlfriend Marianne (Béart) a famous painter, Frenhofer (Piccoli), who has for the last several years been living as a recluse with his wife in their old house in Provence. Frenhofer no longer paints, and among his unfinished works is a portrait of a nude woman, "La Belle Noiseuse", for which he had used his wife (Jane Birkin) as a model.

At the urging of his agent, Frenhofer agrees to resume his work on the nude portrait. Nicolas, in Marianne's absence, decides to "lease" his girlfriend to the painter so she can be his new model. Incensed that the deal took place without her consent, Marianne nonetheless agrees to pose in the nude for Frenhofer. Inspired by her youth and beauty, the painter starts over with a new version of "La Belle Noiseuse" with a vengeance.


A shorter, different version was released in 1993 for TV under the title La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento; Rivette used the same footage but re-edited it, so that the story is told from the point of view of the artist's wife.

Contains examples of:

  • Fan Disservice: This creeps up interestingly: although Marianne has reluctantly agreed to pose nude for hours on end, she's understandably in a really foul temper and the resulting Mood Dissonance is what makes the film much more than just four hours of Emmanuelle Béart with no clothes on.
    • The sheer repetitiveness of the constant nudity tends to drain it of eroticism.
  • May–December Romance: Averted. The relationship between the old painter and his twentysomething model is erotically charged, but remains platonic and non-romantic.
  • The Muse: Marianne to Frenhofer; reluctantly at first, then willingly.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Would you like to see Emmanuelle Béart naked? But see above.
  • Public Exposure: Marianne poses nude for a painter for four hours. She's rather reluctant and irritated about being badgered into it.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Marianne resents that she's been tricked into posing for Frenhofer, but she ends up spending most of the movie nude.
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  • Take Our Word for It: The finished painting is not shown on-screen.
  • Talent Double: When Frenhofer's hands are seen in close-up while he's painting, the one holding the brush is actually a professional painter.
  • Untranslated Title: The Naughty Beauty
  • Worth It: Played with. Marianne constantly wonders why she's letting herself model for Frenhofer; she's cold and physically uncomfortable; an old guy is staring at her naked body for hours every day; his wife (the original model) resents her and her boyfriend has essentially pimped her out. In the end she decides that, since Frenhofer has recovered his inspiration and she's the subject of a great painting, it was probably Worth It.
  • Writer's Block: The painter's equivalent thereof, and a long-term problem for Frenhofer, who has not painted in years.


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