Study of the artistic process is sublime but rather lengthy

September 10, 1992|By Stephen Hunter

It's four hours long. It's about a man painting a woman. It's four hours long.

Connoisseurs of the exquisite ought to get themselves to the Baltimore Museum of Art either tonight or tomorrow night at 7:30 for the premiere of "La Belle Noiseuse," Jacques Rivette's sublime study of the artistic process. But a study at four hours' length is just too scary for the commercial exhibitors.

The movie examines the late career of an artist named Edouard Frenhoffer (Michel Piccoli), who has given up painting until he becomes obsessed with a younger artist's mistress (Emmanuelle Beart) and urges her to pose for him. The film basically covers the painting of one picture, as the relationship between artist and model deepens passionately.

The story is derived from Balzac's short story, "The Unknown Masterpiece." It is in French, with English subtitles. It's four hours long.

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