Ruiz’s Proust adaptation sounds like a dream come true – I held off watching for years, hoping a blu-ray would come out – and it did! From the opening titles, the camera is already doing something dizzying, and there’s a feverish guy in bed, the furniture moving by itself. So far, so close to Mysteries of Lisbon. This turns out to have more stylish flourishes and be more properly expensive looking than Lisbon – but Lisbon is more interested in telling a story than Time Regained is.

The video extra by Bernard Génin says Rene Clement, Luchino Visconti, and Joseph Losey all tried to film Proust. Volker Schlondorff’s Swann In Love is good except for Alain Delon’s casting (“sacrilege”), and Nina Companez’s four-hour miniseries is “a creditable effort.” Ruiz skipped entire books and episodes, including the ones covered by Schlondorff and by Chantal Akerman in The Captive, looking for a way to convey Proust’s prose and time slippages through cinematographic means (including long takes and alarming edits). I haven’t read any Proust, and sometimes I can’t tell one identically-dressed mustached man from the other, so didn’t follow the story so much as enjoy the trip.

Gilberte:

Edith:

“Then, one day, everything changes.” Proust is in bed at the beginning, dictating to serious-looking Mathilde Seigner (Venus Beauty Institute), then he’s played by different actors at various ages throughout the story.

Red-haired Gilberte (La Belle Noiseuse star Emmanuelle Béart) is with blond Robert Saint-Loup (Pascal Greggory from a bunch of Rohmer and Patrice Chéreau movies), but when he’s supposedly on business trips he sneaks off with Rachel (Elsa Zylberstein, star of That Day). Gilberte confides in Marcel (usually played by Italian Marcello Mazzarella), arrives in one scene dressed as Rachel – not the only time the movie tricks us by substituting identically-dressed women. Oriane (the great Edith Scob) is pissed at Gilberte, thinks she was sleeping around, and not Robert. He eventually enlists in WWI, thinking the war won’t last, and dies in battle.

Saint-Loup’s tribute to The Prestige:

Charlie Morel is a longhair violinist, wanted as a deserter (Vincent Perez, star of The Crow 2). Jacques/Bloch (he changes his name) is Christian Vadim (Night Across the Street), and the “American” woman he’s with is Arielle Dombasle (La belle captive). John Malkovich is Baron Charlus, who pays young men to beat him bloody. Catherine Deneuve appears in at least two time periods, looking the same in each. She is Gilberte’s mom, and each of them changes names at least once, adding to my confusion.

In here somewhere is Melvil Poupaud (the kid from City of Pirates and Treasure Island), still looking younger than his mustache… party host Madame Verdurin (Marie-France Pisier of Celine & Julie)… and Marcel’s girl, the curl-haired Albertine (Chiara Mastroianni of Bastards)

Mouseover to see a false Mme Verdurin become Marie-France Pisier:
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The DP worked with Resnais, and the editor with Rivette, which feels about right.

Played Cannes with Rosetta, Ghost Dog, Kikujiro, and Pola X.

Slant called it “one of the boldest literary adaptations ever made,” and calls out the sound design: “the intense care placed into using sound to capture the material’s subjective perspectives. Small noises like the scratch of a pen on paper or distant bells can become deafening in the mix as they trigger new reminiscences.”

Ebert’s review is the only great one, taking the movie’s (and novel’s) focus on memory and loss to heart.

A vacationing Marianne and Nicolas visit the estate of long-idle painter Frenhofer and his wife Liz, where an unguarded look by Marianne gets Fren’s artistic urges raging once more. Nicolas tells Fren that Marianne will pose for a painting without asking M.’s permission first, but she comes anyway, with an angrily determined look on her face, to spite Nic. First few scenes when she goes naked in the studio are just astounding. Frenhofer goes about his work, setting up a drawing table, sketching some lines (Rivette, in his usual fashion, shows us the entire artistic process, omitting nothing for the sake of runtime), while M. has this incredible internal struggle visible on her face. It probably helps a lot that the film was shot in order, so the character and the actress become increasingly comfortable with her nudity as the audience does too.

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Fren’s relationship with his wife Liz proves to be complicated. She was once his model, and the very painting he’s attempting to achieve with Marianne was once begun and abandoned with Liz. In her conversations with Fren and Marianne and Porbus the art dealer (with whom she once had an affair) and in her movements and her uneasy looks we get a wonderfully conflicted character. She’s never showy or artificial – the only one here who fits that description is Marianne’s boyfriend Nicolas, who grows increasingly absent. He comes back towards the end when his sister arrives to artificially force a closure to Nic and Marianne’s long limbo-vacation. Marianne, either dedicated to the painting or still stubbornly trying to prove her mettle, refuses. When she sees herself in the finished painting, sees what she’d been trying to hide while apparently so exposed, Frenhofer watches her expression, and what he sees convinces him to hide the painting forever behind a brick wall and stay up all night creating a substitute, a less powerful work which pleases Porbus and sickens Nicolas. I wonder if Frenhofer’s falling in love with Liz prevented him from ever finishing the painting a decade earlier, for fear of scaring her, or if his falling in love prevented him from being able to see that part of her which would enable him to finish it. Either way, a very satisfactory ending, the masterwork completed but Frenhofer, a greater man than Nicolas, hides it for the well-being of the two women.

Simply filmed, mostly in long takes in authentic locations. I mean, the shots aren’t Tarr-long, or even Rivette-long, just longer than most films – though there are authentically long insert-shots of sketches and drawings created from scratch before our eyes. I watched with headphones and found the sound of Fren’s pen scratching across his notepad to be almost unbearable. Rivette’s usual favorite sound effect of footsteps on a wooden floor can be muted when convenient, as when Liz comes into her husband’s studio and watches unnoticed.

Frenhofer = Michel Piccoli – Simon Cinema himself, of lots of films by Ruiz, Oliveira, Godard, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Varda, Demy, Resnais, Malle, Clouzot, and Mario Bava.
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I just saw Emmanuelle Béart as Marie, and she’s been in two different movies called L’Enfer.
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Jane Birkin was in Love on the Ground, Same Old Song, Kung-Fu Master, Keep Up Your Right and Blow-up.
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Art dealer Porbus (right), Gilles Arbona was in similarly-titled La Belle Captive.
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Nic’s sister Julienne, Marianne Denicourt (left with David Bursztein as Nic), later starred in Haut bas fragile and played Victor Hugo’s wife (?) in a French TV biopic of Balzac.
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“And the hand of painter Bernard Dufour.”
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Towards the end, when Frenhofer is through sketching and has started to paint, we see the first slash of red across a canvas. There’s more red during the next painting session, and when we glimpse the bottom of the “true” completed painting from under a sheet it’s mostly red). The false ringer painting is almost all light blue.

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J. Heilman:

The film begins unassumingly in a hotel courtyard where we see a young man stealthily sketching some seemingly oblivious English-speaking tourists. As Rivette’s camera continues to pan, however, we find that our casual artist is actually the subject of another’s art. A woman on the hotel’s balcony furtively snaps a photo of him, but is noticed by sketcher, who becomes visibly irate. As soon as he confronts her, though, it becomes immediately apparent to us that most of this incident was a ruse. The two artists are lovers, and their coyness was entirely put on. Spurned by the excitement of their charade, they retire to the bedroom. The stunt even continues a bit farther than planned when one of the tourists watching this amorous French drama unfold says to another in mock culture shock, “Well, what do you expect?” This seemingly frivolous episode resonates throughout the rest of the film, since it manages to say much about the relationship between an artist and subject, the secretive, similar natures of art and love, and the need to sometimes create an environment where ever-fleeting inspiration might strike. It’s these themes that come to the fore during rest of the long journey that La Belle Noiseuse takes.

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K. Uhlich in Slant, less reverential than most, says it “vacillates between genuine insight and didactic mystique-of-the-artist bullshit.”

Won the grand jury prize at Cannes, but didn’t have quite enough of that barton fink feeling to take the golden palm. Did not take the nation’s award shops by storm – lost the Cesar to some Gérard Depardieu flick, and wasn’t nominated for an Oscar or much else. But it did put Rivette’s name back into public circulation.

I watched two-hour edit Divertimento a couple months later.
“The hand of painter Bernard Dufour” barely appears in it!

Music by Igor Stravinsky, and the name Divertimento was stolen from the short version of one of his works. An in-joke for Stravinsky fans. That fits in with the Balzac references and the fact that the entire project was based on a joke, a flip fake answer Rivette would give when asked about his next project.

Jacques Rivette:
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