Confronting the issue of creativity with honesty and insight, Rivette's loose adaptation of Balzac's short story 'The Unknown Masterpiece' is for the most part hypnotically fascinating. Hidden away with wife Liz (Birkin) in their rambling Languedoc mansion, Edouard Frenhofer (Piccoli) has painted next to nothing for years; but when a friend introduces painter Nicolas (Bursztein) and his lover Marianne (Béart), Frenhofer is so taken with the girl that he asks her to pose for a masterpiece he abandoned a decade earlier. So begins a battle of wills waged between the artist, his recalcitrant model, her increasingly jealous lover, a wife wary of his motives, and his own self-doubt. Firmly anchored by a strong cast, the relationships are explored in exhaustive detail, so that the tensions arising, as the painter's cauterising work proceeds, are convincing throughout. (Rather less plausible is the suggestion that Frenhofer is a genius, since the canvases we see - painted by the off-screen hand of Bernard Dufour - are hardly wonderful). As impeccably shot as its subject deserves, the film is more accessible than most of Rivette's work, with characteristically playful passing nods to the relationship between life and performance.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette|