The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 240 min.  |   Countries - France  |  
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Review by Mark Deming

The creative process is a largely internal affair, which may be why so few good films have been made about it: it's all but impossible to make thought visually interesting. But, more than almost any other film, Jacques Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse makes visual and narrative sense of the annoying, exhausting, frustrating, but joyously fascinating work of creating art. While painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) and his model Marianne (Emmanuelle BĂ©art) often discuss art, life, and creativity during the film's 240 minutes, much of the time we're simply looking over Frenhofer's shoulder as he works, first making preliminary sketches and then putting paint to canvas. While it doesn't sound terribly interesting (and in many hands it might not be), Rivette's patient eye and subtle rhythm allow us to see how scratchy lines or blobs of paint can grow into a portrait of a beautiful woman. Rivette also shows how many paths are explored and abandoned, how many choices are made and then revised, how many variables have to be worked out, as the artist attempts to create something unique. In La Belle Noiseuse, art is damned hard work, and, if it's a long and agonizing process, Rivette makes it almost as interesting to watch as to do.