La Belle Noiseuse

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La Belle Noiseuse
Belle noiseuse.jpg
French theatrical release poster
Directed byJacques Rivette
Written byPascal Bonitzer
Christine Laurent
Jacques Rivette
Based onLe Chef-d'œuvre inconnu
by Honoré de Balzac
StarringMichel Piccoli
Jane Birkin
Emmanuelle Béart
Marianne Denicourt
Music byIgor Stravinsky
CinematographyWilliam Lubtchansky
Edited byNicole Lubtchansky
Pierre Grise Productions
Release date
  • 4 September 1991 (1991-09-04)
Running time
237 minutes
LanguageFrench / English

La Belle Noiseuse is a 1991 drama film directed by Jacques Rivette and starring Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, and Emmanuelle Béart. Its title (pronounced [la bɛl nwa.zøz]) means "The Beautiful (female) Troublemaker". The film is loosely adapted from the short story The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac and also includes elements from The Liar, The Figure in the Carpet, and The Aspern Papers by Henry James.[1]


In the south of France at the Chateau d’Assas, Nicholas and Marianne go to visit the old yet famous painter Frenhofer. Nicholas is a young painter seeking to meet a master painter. Frenhofer has however been inactive for years and may not be the best model for Nicholas to have chosen as a young painter trying to find inspiration. After some initial exchanges, the conversation between them begins to die off when Nicholas suggests that Frenhofer use Marianne as a new model to help inspire him. He was working on a painting he had long ago abandoned using his wife as a model. With Marianne he decides to take another chance at finishing the uncompleted art work.

Marianne is at first somewhat reluctant to become a model for the old dried-up artist. Frenhofer is not much better in warming up to his new model. He makes various pen and ink drawings of her with washes in trying to acquaint himself with his new model. The preparatory pen and ink washes he draws begin to take hold upon his artistic imagination and he soon gets his model to pose nude for him in various semi-erotic and sensual poses.

Marianne seems to be willing to follow her artist's lead and complies with his requests for her to take up revealing poses for his figure studies of her. The young woman's form begins to inspire him as he varies her poses with more and more confidence as if seeking a perfect expression or mood in her countenance or manner of presentation. The sexual nature of the poses in his figure studies become unmistakable and the old artist appears to have found at least a spark within his new muse to inspire him.

Their relationship becomes both more fractious and more intimate with neither artist or model caring about their surroundings. The project of completing the unfinished art work has captured both of their imaginations. Neither knows what the final product of their effort will turn out to be. It becomes unclear for the couple, and those observing them, how long the project will take, and that the length of time devoted to completing the art work has taken on a life of its own. The effort put into the creation of the work of art appears nearly to rival the importance of the yet to be completed work of art itself. It becomes unclear if the process of creating a work of art is as important as the created art work; whether the creative process itself has come to mean more to the aging Frenhofer than completing an unfinished work of art.



The film won the Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

The film had a good critical reception, and occasioned much comment on Béart's extensive onscreen nudity and director Rivette's characteristic use of a long running time (in this case, roughly four hours).

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert added the film to his Great Movies collection in April 2009.[3]

The film holds an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.08/10. The site's consensus reads: "A sensual and hypnotic masterpiece, La Belle Noiseuse luxuriates in its four-hour run time while holding audience attention".[4]

Alternative version[edit]

Rivette used alternative takes from the film and made changes in the scene order to produce a shorter, 125-minute version, La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento, for television. It was also released theatrically in some countries.


  1. ^ "Entretien Jacques Rivette - L'art secret". Les Inrocks.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: La Belle Noiseuse". Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  3. ^ "La Belle Noiseuse (1991)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  4. ^ "La Belle Noiseuse (1991)" – via

Further reading[edit]

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