The Artist And The Model

The Artist And The Model


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This lovingly crafted drama from Fernando Trueba has the nature of life and love at its heart. These age-old themes are examined through the affect that a young, wild muse has on an elderly artist who has lost his inspiration, against the backdrop of a backwater of occupied France.

Before he took a side-step into the world of animation with the colourful and energetic Chico And Rita, Trueba's last live-action film was The Dancer And The Thief. It struggled to hang together in the face of too many characters and over-plotting. Here, the director and his co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière swing fully in the opposite direction, with the gentle pace and lack of incident threatening to leave The Artist And The Model standing as immobile as a statue in places.

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At one point sculptor Marc Cros (veteran Jean Rochefort) tells his young model Mercè (Aida Folch) she needs to "learn to look at things with attention" - almost certainly as much of an instruction to the viewer as it is to the muse.

Mercè seems to be a product of the land, her hair unruly, her legs frequently bearing the whip-marks of bracken. Marc's wife Lea (Claudia Cardinale), an early muse who now prefers to stay at home, comes across the youngster in their town square, sleeping rough and washing in the fountain. Seeing something of herself in the woman, she brings her home and explains that if she agress to model, she will be paid for "not moving".

This last, is harder than it sounds, for Mercè, whose very nature is movement - in sharp contrast to the ageing deliberateness of Marc. He sees her as someone to be posed and considered as an object of beauty and yet, all the while, her life-force bubbles up. This is encapsulated by her frequent outbreaks of laughter that, in one of the film's more memorable moments, is echoed by Marc, with Rochefort's portrayal of the emotion as something that had, until that moment, almost been forgotten. This sense of rediscovery of sentiment provides Trueba's strongest scenes, epitomised, perhaps, by a moment when Mercè, with her emotional engagement to the fore, makes him see a much-loved Rembrandt drawing from a fresh perspective.

Subsidiary characters, resistance fighter Pierre (Martin Gamet) and a German soldier Werner (Götz Otto), bring with them a breath of politics but Trueba and Carrière only let them intrude so far and no further, which is a forced constraint. The problem is that, with the focus so tight on the artist, Mercè feels more like a type than a fully rounded character. Rochefort's performance is lovely and yet the insular Marc keeps you at arm's length. More sedate than scintillating, it is nevertheless impressively shot by newcomer Daniel Vilar - a name to look out for - and beautifully acted.

Reviewed on: 03 Sep 2013
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An elderly sculptor, tired of life and mankind’s folly, rediscovers the desire to work again, thanks to the arrival of a young Spanish woman who has escaped from a refugee camp.
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Director: Fernando Trueba

Writer: Jean-Claude Carrière, Fernando Trueba

Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Götz Otto, Jean Rochefort, Chus Lampreave, Aida Folch, Christian Sinniger, Martin Gamet, Mateo Deluz

Year: 2012

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Spain


SSFF 2012
Glasgow 2013

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