Thursday, August 01, 2013

“The Artist And The Model” – Movie Review



This week in the final summer session of my movie class, we saw the Spanish drama, “The Artist And The Model”, starring Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.  


When the wife of an elderly artist brings home a young girl to work as his model, will this inspire his creativity or only serve to cause more problems for all involved?  


During World War II, Marc Cros (Rochefort) is an elderly artist who lives in the French countryside with his wife Léa (Cardinale).  At this stage of his life, he is facing something of a professional challenge – although successful in his earlier days, he now feels that his best creative work is far behind him and that there is nothing left for him to do.  While in town shopping, Léa discovers Mercè (Aida Folch), a beautiful young woman who seems destitute.  A sympathetic Léa invites Mercè back to the house for lunch with her husband and together they learn that the girl recently fled Spain when Franco took over. 

Considering both her husband’s situation and this waif’s dilemma, Léa offers Mercè a job working as the artist’s model; Mercè gratefully accepts the offer and moves in to Marc’s studio.  With no experience as a professional model and unaccustomed to being naked in front of complete strangers, Mercè is extremely uncomfortable in her new role, which immediately irritates Marc, who must instruct her at every step of the way.  Eventually, though, Marc recognizes the beauty Lea saw in her – in fact, Mercè reminds them both of what Léa used to look like decades ago when she first posed for Marc.  Seeing her in this way now serves to fuel Marc’s creativity; he begins sketching her, painting her and in his grandest work of all, sculpting her likeness. 

Over time, Mercè learns how to become a model, albeit with great difficulty given that she has problems holding a pose for very long.  One night while taking a walk, she stumbles upon Pierre, a handsome young man who turns out to be an injured fighter in the underground.  Mercè brings him back to the studio where she can care for him.  However, upon the arrival of a German soldier writing a book on Marc, suspicions become aroused and Pierre realizes he must leave.  Will everyone be endangered at this point or will Marc be able to finish his sculpture?


While I’m sure that most of the professional film critics will fall all over themselves with praise for “The Artist And The Model”, I’m going to be one of the amateurs who has to admit that this one really left me scratching my head wondering exactly what the hell I just watched.  The movie seems very muddled in the sense that there doesn’t appear to be a clear vision for a narrative tale that the filmmaker was trying to tell – it was really all over the place and quite unfocused.  Was this going to be a love story between the artist and the model which threatened his marriage?  Or was this going to be a suspenseful tale about defeating or evading the Nazis?  It seems as though the film couldn’t manage to make up its mind.

In addition to the clumsily-told story, I found much of the behavior of some of the characters rather confusing at times.  Why was Léa not jealous of Mercè’s youth and beauty?  Was she so magnanimous as to subvert her ego in the greater good of restoring her husband’s creative inspiration?  Why was the German soldier not more suspicious of these strangers whose presence was not completely explained?  Also, I found Marc’s narcissism as an artist a bit of a turn-off and why Mercè didn’t rebel at his grumpiness and leering will forever remain something of a mystery, I suppose. 

Prior to the screening, our instructor interviewed both Director Fernando Trueba and Aida Folch, who played the model.  Trueba talked a bit about how he got into film when he watched old Hollywood movies as a teenager; his first film was made when he was only 24 and it was quite successful.  Despite seeing the acclaim he received for his work, following its opening, Trueba’s father asked him if he had gotten this whole filmmaking thing out of his system and would pursue a real career.  Folch talked about getting the role for this movie.  Having worked with her on another film a few years before, Trueba called Folch and told her he was thinking of her for a part in this film, then inquired as to whether or not she spoke French.  Regrettably, she told him she did not, so he abruptly ended the conversation.  Folch then moved to France for a number of months and upon returning to Spain, contacted Trueba and showed him her new-found proficiency in French, proving that she was now capable of the role he had in mind for her.


The Artist and the Model (2012) on IMDb 6.8/10205 votes


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