Art in real time

The artist Frenhofer (here played by Bernard Dufour; elsewhere in the film played by Michel Piccoli) makes a sketch in La Belle Noiseuse (1991), Jacques Rivette’s three-hour-plus meditation on art and fidelity.  It’s an intriguing, mysterious, and very difficult film, in large part due to its formidable length.  But the most fascinating moments are the ones where we simply watch Frenhofer at work, often for ten minutes at a time, scratching away at his sketchbooks and canvases, trying things out, abandoning them, starting again.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film come this close to depicting art in “real time.” 

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