The late Michel Piccoli in the role of his lifetime, as an artist in Jacques Rivette’s ‘La Belle Noiseuse’

Posted on May 28, 2020

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It’s not about the product. It’s about the process. If you romanticise art, this film is a kid-in-a-candy store experience.

The French actor Michel Piccoli died on May 12, and when I looked at his filmography — filled with great works like Godard’s Contempt and Buñuel’s Belle de Jour — one film stood out. It’s a film about an artist. It’s a film about art. It’s a film about a painter, yet a film that stands for all forms of creators. It’s Jacques Rivette’s 1991 masterpiece, La Belle Noiseuse.

Take this scene where the Piccoli character, named Frenhofer, begins work on a painting he’s been wanting to do his whole life, even after his mental block. (The film’s title is what this painting is called.) If he’s Ahab, “La Belle Noiseuseis his great white whale. He begins by making rough sketches in a notebook. He tells his model (Marianne, played by Emmanuelle Béart as), “Some prefer to go straight to the canvas. A jump into the unknown. Everybody’s different.”

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