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Jacques Rivette
Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, Emmanuelle Béart
Writing Credits:
Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette

The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
French PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 238 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 5/8/2018

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Suchenski
• Interview with Director Jacques Rivette
• Interview with Interview with Co-Writers Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent
• Trailer
• Booklet


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La Belle Noiseuse [Blu-Ray] (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 26, 2020)

From filmmaker Jacques Rivette, 1991’s La Belle Noiseuse looks at the creative processes behind art. Painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) lives in the remote French countryside with his wife Liz (Jane Birkin).

Stuck witj “artist’s block”, Edouard doesn’t paint much, but he encounters revived inspiration when a younger artist named Nicolas (David Bursztein) visits with his girlfriend Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart). Stunned by Marianne’s beauty, Edouard uses her as the model to finish an abandoned project called “La Belle Noiseuse”, all while he deals with the impact her presence has on his life and relationships.

Though I’ve never been much of a foreign film guy, I rented the VHS of Noiseuse back in the early 90s, and I did so for one reason and one reason alone: Béart. I’d heard that she spent a whole lot of time naked and that sounded pretty good to me, so I gave the movie a look.

Well, I gave parts of Noiseuse a look, as I’m pretty sure I made ample use of the “fast-forward” button on my VCR. Heck, it takes the story 75 minutes to get Marianne to disrobe, and I suspect I didn’t even attempt to watch the story – I just wanted the skin!

29 years later, I gave the movie proper a shot and found occasional pleasures beyond the sight of Béart’s lovely form, though not enough to make this an involving movie. A quiet character piece, Noiseuse runs way too long for its subject.

When I think of movies that run close to four hours, I conjure epics like Lawrence of Arabia or Ben--Hur or Gone With the Wind. These offer big, sprawling, larger than life tales that need all that cinematic real estate to tell their stories.

On the other hand, Noiseuse provides a much more intimate piece. It takes place entirely on Edoudard’s estate, and it usually concerns the artist and his model as they work in his studio.

That doesn’t sound like a premise that demands four hours of exploration, and Noiseuse can’t find enough substance to adequately fill the running time. At its heart, it brings a 100-minute movie stretched long past that point.

This leads to many, many scenes of Edouard as he works. And works. And works some more.

In my nightmares, I’ll see Edouard as he does one interminable sketch after another. These moments pay off in a minor way because they let us contrast Edouard’s struggles to paint early in the film versus his more energetic creation later, but a little of this material goes a long way, and the film forces us to sit through far too much.

The first hour of Noiseuse shows promise, as it introduces the characters and situations in a positive manner. It also leads us to see the potential for good drama.

And then we wind up in the studio for those long, long, long shots of the artist at work. Given that we also find many glimpses of Béart’s unclothed form, I can’t complain too much, but in terms of narrative, this becomes a tough slog.

As the movie progresses, it tries a little harder to get into the character dynamics, but these remain superficial. In an act of creative desperation, Noiseuse introduces Nicolas’s sister Julienne (Marianne Denicourt) late in the film, but she feels like a contrivance who doesn’t blend well and adds little.

A film without a real script, the actors essentially improvised Noiseuse, and it shows. We simply find too little drama to sustain us for four hours, so this ends up as a long, sluggish tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

La Belle Noiseuse appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Now there’s an aspect ratio you don’t often see for a movie from the 1990s!

Odd dimensions aside, this became a more than satisfactory presentation, with consistently good sharpness. Interiors could be a smidgen soft, but those created no real distractions, and the majority of the flick delivered nice clarity and accuracy.

At no time did moiré effects or jaggies interfere, and the presentation lacked edge haloes. In addition, I saw no signs of print flaws, and the movie boasted light but appropriate grain.

Colors tended to go a little blue, though these trends remained subdued. The film’s palette felt fairly natural and the Blu-ray reproduced the hues in a satisfying manner.

Blacks came across as deep and tight, while shadows seemed smooth and fairly concise. A few low-light shots could be a bit dense, but those areas remained fine. Overall, this wound up as an appealing transfer.

Don’t expect sonic fireworks from the film’s PCM monaural soundtrack, as it appeared highly restrained. The movie offered no score, and effects stayed firmly in the background. What we heard sounded accurate, but nothing prominent occurred in that regard.

This left dialogue as the most dominant aspect of the mix, and that side of the track worked fine, as the lines appeared natural and concise. While I couldn’t fault the execution of the track, I also found it tough to give a monaural mix from 1990 a grade above a “C”.

A few extras fill out the set, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian Richard Suchenski. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the source novella and its adaptation, cast and performances, sets and locations, story/characters, aspect ratio, music and audio, pacing/editing, themes and interpretation and related topics.

Overall, Suchenski delivers a good commentary. While I’d like to know a bit more of the “nuts and bolts” elements about the production, he still brings an effective overview that keeps us involved for the movie’s long running time.

Next comes an Interview with Director Jacques Rivette. In this 13-minute, 28-second reel, Rivette discusses the film’s origins and development, cast and performances, the alternate Divertimento version of the movie and music. Rivette gives us some good insights but the program lacks focus and doesn’t dig into the material especially well.

We also get an Interview with Co-Writers Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent. This piece fills 21 minutes, 10 seconds and delivers a view of the project’s roots and progression, the lack of a formal screenplay, the aspect ratio, story/characters, cast and performances, and aspects of the production. Dominated by Bonitzer, this reel offers a pretty useful examination of the different subjects.

In addition to a 2017 re-release trailer, the set concludes with a booklet. It provides photos and credits, so it doesn’t add much to the package.

At 100 minutes, La Belle Noiseuse would’ve delivered an intriguing character study. At 238 minutes, it feels stretched far too thin and it wears out the viewer’s patience long before it ends. The Blu-ray offers very good visuals along with acceptable audio and a decent roster of bonus materials. Noiseuse shows solid execution in many ways but it simply lacks the substance to sustain attention across its intensely long running time.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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