After I watched Jacques Rivette’s masterpiece film, La Belle Noiseuse, that won the coveted grand prix in the 1991 Cannes film festival, I knew I wanted to review it, and I knew this director was familiar with psychoanalysis, or had an uncanny sense of the exchanges , developments,failures and successes in intimate relationships such as the one between a therapist and patient. I went to Google and typed in my question. Has Jacques rivette been psychoanalyzed? Three interesting results came up among many others. he is mentioned in The Textbook of Psychoanalysis by Gabbard,Litowitz,Williams, there is a discussion of a scene from LaBelle Noiseuse in Love they Neighbor by Slavoj Zizek which has a Lacanian base, and when Rivette was interviewed at the 1974 New York Film Festival by John Hughes, one paragraph in the long discussion validated my thoughts on him.
“At a certain point, the actor, like the patient in psychoanalysis, falls into a kind of trance and says things…..that suddenly become an integral part of the film. I then select such moments from the footage and add them to the final version. I think that the cinema, even at its most naturalistic, is always secretly involved in levels of dream and fantasy, and we must see the so-called director as a kind of psychoanalyst. Like the psychoanalyst, the director does not talk, he listens—but this is , of course, just a metaphor”. The title of that interview is The Director as Psychoanalyst: An interview with Jacques Rivette. I considered that this strong identification may have occurred in an analysis he had.All this occurred long before La Belle Noiseuse, which many reviewers declare is his masterpiece.
This film asks a lot of you, the viewer,but if you are willing to give your time,and your concentration, you will be richly rewarded. It is a wonderful film. It is 4 hours long (2 discs)and not much happens.Frenhofer (the artist) sketches, draws,paints this lovely young nude woman for most of the movie.There is rich meaningful dialog but sparse,the actors are extraordinary,the insights are brilliant, but not intense,suspenseful, melodramatic,theatrical. what you will be seeing is an artist at work…his filmed hands are really the hands of Bernard Dufour, a French painter notable for his portraits and human figures.It is done in movie real time…as opposed to most movies of artists where after a few moments at the easel, we see a finished work. For 10 real minutes you will be watching Dufour’s hands making a broad charcoal line,rubbing it with a towel, using a thinner darker charcoal crayon , smearing it with his fingers, the heel of his palm, another line, more rubbing and smearing, and eventually we see a human body form… wait….we have more minutes spent on the crease of the buttocks..an elbow. The musical score is the scratch of the pen, as it scratches out lines that will become a breast, a waist..the sound of the pen dipped into the ink, the scratches,the rubbing… there is no music at all…comments?….yes, a lot of them, and at the beginning and at the end,we hear the gorgeous overwhelming music of Igor Stravinsky, the only music writer for the film. It is amazing how quickly the time passes…it is fascinating to watch..in many ways it is a film of the start and flow of creativity..and for me, from the moment we are told this is going to change their lives, the story of the artist and his model becomes a metaphor for the analytic duo.
The story is taken from Honore De Balzac’s novel, “the Unknown Masterpiece” and takes place in France in the Cevennes countryside in a small touristy village. A young talented painter,Nicolas comes to a B&B in the village with his girlfriend, and his art dealer,Porbus. Nicolas admires Edouard Frenhofer, an illustrious celebrated artist who hasn’t painted for 10 years, and lives here in semi retirement. Porbus knows him,and Nicholas asked Porbus obtain an invitation for Nicholas to meet and visit his artist hero. Porbus is eager to please the young talented artist as he knows he will make money from his work, and he also would like to get a painting from Frenhofer as none has appeared in 10 years, and the art public is eager for his work.Frenhofer lives here in the country in a beautiful 18th century stone chateau with his wife, Liz, who was his favorite model. 10 years ago he started to paint a picture of her , did not finish, and stopped painting.He has seen Nicholas’s work and is impressed with the young talented artist, and so welcomes an evening with him to show him his studio, his work, and have dinner. The film opens in the courtyard of the B&B at breakfast, with Nicholas seriously sketching and Marianne being very flirtatious, playing a little game pretending to take outrageous pictures of him as the paparazzi. The English subtitles read that the two young lovers, Marianne and Nicholas, could not possibly be aware that this visit to the Frenhofers is a moment that will change their lives forever.
It is the evening of the visit. With Porbus they walk over to the chateau…and after a long while, Liz answers the door to say she was helping to make a Torte. She is not dressed up but Marianne and the men are..they seem almost to be not expected. She invites them in …she has no idea where Edouard is..they sit in the magnificent living room, a tad awkward as there is no host.Outside a young girl is practicing ballet. Bye and bye after much small talk Edouard walks by the room,unshaven,not dressed up for a dinner party and not remembering he has invited guests.But he recalls, and has a drink with them, and becomes a genial host. After a short time he invites them into the studio. The men walk in the downstairs part, and the 2 women enjoying their own conversation go up to the balcony.Marianne is questioning Liz what she might have become if she hadn’t met Edouard. Oh, I think I wanted to be architect, Llz says. Frenhofers studio is huge, with windowless white stone walls on which massive paintings,sketches lean….it is in another building at the end of the mansion.. stairs lead to a 2nd floor, banded all around with a balcony where one can view the paintings below or step to an outside balcony to enjoy the pastoral scenery of southern France. there are pieces of furniture….rough unfinished wood…. an architects drawing table , a few stools and benches,rails, blankets in a heap on a wood floor,hanging canvases, big sketch books, easels…and paints and brushes. It has a look of disarray.
Frenhofer shows them his paintings. He doesn’t seem to like them too well…dismisses them and moves on around the room. He picks up one. Ah, he says, this is a nice one. It wasn’t done by me…not mine.All the while , he is talking about painting, his painting.He says for him, the stroke is everything. the soul of the painting lies in the stroke.He claims other artists don’t see the importance of the stroke…and don’t acknowledge it. He says what he is looking for is truth in painting. that is what is all important for him. without that he is not much interested. He looks at a very large canvas of a charcoal nude figure….not definite, but not abstract..has an ethereal quality. He says to his guests…this is nice..and they nod in agreement. Then, he says No. It is not good. To be good, a painting has to draw blood. I have to destroy the canvas and draw blood. He looks at Nicholas and asks if he has destroyed his canvases..drawn blood. to him that is the test of a painting that shows truth.
He said he did that once. He started a painting in which Liz was the model. the title of it was La Belle Noiseuse. That was a name given to Catherine Lescault, a 17th century courtesan who lived a very troubled life (and evidently her story fascinated Frenhofer) He tries to explain what noiseuse means. Marianne supplies it for him. It means “nuts”. Exactly.He is pleased with her. Marianne explains that she lived in Quebec, and in contemporary Canadian French it is used for a woman who drives men to distraction and causes pain. He says he could not finish the painting because it drew blood and he lacked the courage to continue on so he destroyed it. But it was his attempt at a masterpiece. It is gone. Not so, says Liz from the balcony. He contradicts her, and she persists. He becomes very annoyed. The men are drinking heavily from a bottle Edouard produced from behind a work table,and while sitting around another makeshift table,Porbus falls to the floor in a dead faint.Liz rushes to him.Let me take care of it. She lifts his head, applies ice cubes from the pitcher, and brings him back into consciousness.None seem aware, that her competency,and lack of alarm suggest she has been here before with this man. She suggests perhaps they should move to dinner…and the 2 women leave for the kitchen.She answers Mariannes question. It was an epileptic attack.
The men continue their conversation for awhile…Frenhofer saying he paints no more as he is only interested in doing a masterpiece. He tried it 10 years ago..he couldn’t do it, and the time has passed for Liz and for him. Porbus suggests perhaps he could achieve success using Marianne for a model. He considers this,and says yes, that is a possibility.The men look at each other…and a little slowly, Nicholas says that Marianne will do it. Porbus is delighted, and says sight unseen, he will buy the painting. It’s a done deal and they smile to each other.
At dinner, Marianne is seated next to Frenhofer. He pursues a dialog with her , but she is a bit distant. He wants to know what she does. Well, she is a writer, but what she really does, is to love and nurture Nicholas.He wants to know what she will do if she discovers that he loves painting more than her…he may leave her because he loves a painting more than her. This conversation is annoying her. She suggests that she might be the one leaving, and not him. He also goes on about his necessity to find truth in painting. The young couple say their goodbyes. Frenhofer says to Marianne. I’ll see you tomorrow. When they leave,she asks Nicholas what he meant by that, and Nicholas tells her. She is furious with him. She hates Frenhofer and considers him crazy with his talk of truth in painting, and the stroke. She has seen his paintings. She knows that she will have to be naked. She screams to Nicholas, you have sold my arse.They go to bed in anger. But the next morning, she is up early while he still sleeps. She puts on ripped jeans , and a print blouse and walks over to the chateau.Liz invites her in where she joins an silent Eduardo and quiet Liz. Liz leaves,Eduardo finishes his coffee, and she follows him into the studio.He says not a word to her. She finds a stool and sits on it staring at him…She has no smile but only anger.
He starts to arrange and clean his studio..especially his work desk which is a tilted architects drawing desk. He tells her to help him adjust the legs. She does, he says nothing and she goes back to her stool.He rearranges his all ready quite neat arrangement of brushes..he opens and closes the lid of a jar of paint. He wipes some cloths. He walks around the studio where the paintings lean against the wall, and turns all of them so the painting is not visible. He takes his stool over to her, beckons for her to give him the one she has and makes the exchange. Later he goes back, and makes the exchange again taking back his original stool. This all takes considerable time.
Then he selects a large sketch book,turns many pages of drawings of Liz,finds a clean page…looks at her and says straighten your shoulders. She assumes a stiff upright pose.He starts.He tells her that to begin,you can start anywhere. it doesn’t matter. one choice is as good as another.Each one does it his own way, he continues. Some go right to the canvas, and don’t do sketches. Does Nicholas sketch? She doesn’t answer.
He draws in charcoal….looks at her and draws. he asks her to come closer. Put your hair up. She takes a paint brush, pulls up her hair, and fastens it by putting the paintbrush through it. He tells her that her stare annoys him. she continues to stare. After 2 sketches, he says to her, excuse me,. there is a dressing gown upstairs. She goes up, puts on the robe,returns, stands, staring at him and removes the robe
Frenhofer is a man in his 60′s (he looks 70+)serious,committed to his art, and Marianne is a 23 year old dazzling beauty with a magnificent body…very full high breasts, rounded hips,full, quite protruding buttocks…a sensual womanly figure, nude through most of the film.She has a sullen angry look,which changes as a relationship develops between the two. He stands at a table…tells her to position herself somewhat sitting on the stool, somewhat on the floor…very uncomfortable position. He dips a pen into a bottle of ink, and starts to sketch.pale, faint ink lines, seemingly disconnected…big round dots of ink, darker. The pen scratches and scratches..he dips for more ink. This goes on and on, and a figure develops out of the pale lines and the dark dots..an outline of a torso….2 little curves, the bottom of the breasts…a nipple, another, a navel. He studies and scratches the pen. She is getting tired..as he looks down, she scratches her leg…she yawns. Finally she says my legs are pins and needles.
Lets stop,he says. I’m not doing good.
So its over she says. He looks at her, and makes a little laugh as if she can’t comprehend. Well, yes he says. She runs upstairs, dresses, comes down,and says well, goodbye, see you in Paris, or somewhere. He looks at her. Tomorrow here, 10:00. Is that too early?
She says I thought you said it was not good.
Well, yes, he says ,but that is normal. there’s a paralysis We go on?
She extends her hand and they shake.
In the meantime Nicholas has run over to see Liz to find out where Marianne is. He is let in by Magali, the housekeepers daughter, and scares Liz who is deep at work in her workshop.She mounts birds. She thought it was the police as she is illegally mounting endangered species of birds, and using an underage child,Magali, in a workplace with dangerous poisons..Yes. Marianne is with Edouard. He wants to know how many models Frenhofer has had before her. Liz tells him none, as she has been his favorite for many years, and he hasn’t painted in the last 10 years. She assures him that he not worry. Edouard is a gentleman, she says, and nothing is going to happen. Nicholas asks if she knew Frenhofer before she became his model. She says she had never heard of him. She did it to pay for her studies. She became infatuated with him right away. Nicholas says that 3 years ago he met Marianne in the Metro. She was going to throw herself down on the rails, and he convinced her not to. She needed him then, but today it is he who needs her. He says she is everything to him, and he cannot be without her. He leaves, and she meets Marianne leaving. Marianne says that she is not cut out for this, but Liz pleads with her to stay. She says it is so important to Frenhoff…that she will find it interesting, and she mustn’t leave.
It is still very tense between Marianne and Nicholas. To irritate him, she states what happened as exciting. Nicholas knows she is lying, but is distressed that she is going back as he thought it was for one day. Edouard leaves his studio, catches up with Liz on the lawn, puts his arm around her, and they walk together. It was a good day. She asks him if he likes his new model. He says she annoys me, but he concedes she has a good breast. If she tried to leave him, he would run after her and bring her back,he says. He is not going to lose this girl.They happily walk together into their home.
The next morning,she appears all ready wearing the dressing gown, Frenhofer is more pleasant to her..offers her a cup of coffee. She disrobes and he says that because he is having trouble sketching her he will start the way the academy students start..with the back. That way he will learn her foundation and how she moves. He tells her to turn around and stand very straight. He gets a huge sheet of paper clipped to a very large easel. He dips the scratchy pen into the inkwell and with faint lines starts to sketch. He makes a strong straight line down the middle of the paper…somewhat below the middle on each side of the line, he puts 2 little parenthesis curves,curve side down, shooting up, and he has buttocks.I did this on my notepad and had a great laugh. This movie is fun.
There can be 10 minutes in the movie when you will be watching his hands sketch.His sketchbooks and the studio are becoming filled with pictures of Marianne. He looks at her… takes the scratchy pen or selects a charcoal crayon, and makes a long line sometimes straight,sometimes with a slight curve…thats all you see. then he takes his hand and rubs it almost out…really rubs it hard, this way and that…he make take a towel and rub it harder…so now there is a smeared line.then he might take a pointed dark charcoal and make a darker narrower line…more lines , more rubbing, perhaps a fat brush to smear a cloudy charcoal colored water, or something that looks like whiteout around the lines and you begin to see a torso develop..a curved body..an outline…maybe its just her breasts..maybe just the crease in her butt…over and over, he works on that portion of her anatomy for a long time, the entire day, or He may end the whole thing and drag a huge piece of paper…pin it tightly and begin all over again.It is so fascinating having this intimate position to watch something being created and the time seems too short. There is silence except for the scratching of the pen..which serves as the musical score…He is totally immersed in his work and except for very carefully observing her body, the bones, the shadows,pays no attention to her person.He insists on the exact placement of a hand,how she stands on her weight. She says it hurts. He says forget it. He tells her in the past they tied the models by their hands and ankles to get the position they wanted. he walks over to her..selects a bench,a railing , a stool, a blanket and barks at her to stand straight..then he tells her how to position herself and she does in impossible unnatural poses he orders. He pulls an arm, an elbow, her neck, her shoulders in the position he wants….the poses are excruciating ones, and there she stands or kneels or crouches for hours. He walks over now and then and shoves the arm more curved,more straight..whatever he wants..his concern for her safety or for her comfort doesn’t exist. He says he has pulled Liz’s shoulder out of joint. He says when he was a small boy, he loved to take his toys apart..dolls, figures, he wasn”t happy till he took them apart. There is not much talk…she looks as if she hates him. He is totally absorbed with his work…. When he becomes very dissatisfied which is frequent,he starts again.
He says, what are you thinking of? this moment? your lover, Nicholas? No, she says, I’m thinking of me. I hurt. I have a cramp.
So move a little,he offers. She stretches.He barks at her . Turn away. I don’t want to see your face. None of the sketches have a face.
When she is resting, robed, laying on the couch, and aggressively biting into a big ham sandwich, she offers him a bite. He is busily bringing in more paper rolls, hanging and tacking. He scarcely is aware of her. He nods no…interrupted in his thoughts. She says you never eat. I could eat 10.
As he pins a large sheet, he says Did you know Rubek? No, she shakes her head. A sculptor, he says, now dead. He died in an accident with his only model. He did 2 or 3 things that were not bad…in marble. He could have been great. Its a pity. He was looking for possession. That is what we are all looking for. Possession. They don’t know its impossible. He goes to the couch and pushes Marianne into a reclining artificial position… her back to him. He says, in this pose, you look somewhat like her. You remind me of her a little.(supposedly Irene) Her death was so disconcerting The sandwich done, she removes the robe. He has her sit on a couch with legs crossed.He stretches the leg cross and the feet..pulls out the arm to an unnatural extension and bends it. He shoves up her chin.straightens her head,her foot. it hurts. She looks at him with hate, but doesn’t say a word. He takes charcoal sticks, thin and fat, and starts lines,background black scribbles, blows the charcoal dust, wipes his forehead,wipes the lines on the drawing,selects a mop of a brush,and fills in spaces.I watch carefully what emerges.The body that is drawn is so beautiful..so eloquent. Its as if it could speak.
.Then he does the same position looking at the back…her spine becomes a central figure.
After seemingly hours, he says her name was Irene. Marianne makes no response, it makes no sense. Irene and Rubick, he explains. a strange girl. I think a little crazy. I knew her before Rubick. She was my first model. Until Liz there were so many. I can’t remember them all. I picked them up in the streets.
Marianne says, they consented?
What was her name? there was one I kept a long time. She had an indifference…almost insulting. Naked she looked dressed, and dressed she looked naked. He brings over a railing. Marianne puts a cigarette in her mouth. What are you doing? I want a cigarette, she says. He removes it. Later,he states.
He arranges her on the railing…arm outstretched with the hand resting on the fingertips. Straighten the fingers and he pushes the arched hand into a straight stiff position..and the rest of her body too. It hurts just to look at it…but she looks beautiful.
What about Liz?, Marianne wants to know. Did you pick her up in the streets?
No. I saw her in a cafe in the Odeon. Her back was bare and she was shivering. It was April and cold. I wanted to paint her back, but I wanted her before I wanted to paint her. She told me that she posed for money.A co incidence. I like coincidences. When I painted her,for the first time I felt fear.
Fear became the driving force behind what I did,from then.A change of speed. Like a whirlwind. I became blind. It’s as if the fingers commanded themselves.
It’s what I want. Yes, that’s it .its what I want.
That’s when I became a real painter.
Why? Marianne begins.
Why didn’t I continue? I would have died..or she would have.
He shakes himself out of his reverie. He is pinning papers up and she is sitting on the couch. Come. We’ve had our rest. Back to work, and he positions her again.This time it is a rattan backless stool, He places one foot on the floor and one on the stool seat,and the arms impossibly twisted,and pushes a curved body. She says Ow.
Edouard says, I’ll break you to pieces.
Marianne says haven’t you done it all ready?
He continues, I’ll get you out of your body. I want to know the inside your body. He walks to the easel and says, You are not free and neither am I. I’ll crumble you to pieces. How many models have I wrecked? He positions her in another excruciating pose.
I want the whole body–not just pieces. I don’t care abut your breast,your hips, your buttocks. I want the whole body. He continues pushing,yanking her body, making another pose. I want everything , blood,fire,ice inside your body. I’ll take it all.
He lays a blanket on the floor and twists her into a reclining position on it. I’ll get to know whats inside of your thin surface.you won’t be able tell who you are. you won’t have memory. I’m going to crumble you. you’re going to break up. we’ll see whats left of you. we’ll see what you remember,he says.
He does still more positioning and he continues
I want the invisible.
No, its not me who wants it. its the line, the stroke, Nobody knows what a stroke is, and I’m after it. I’m running, running…where? to the sky. He is now yelling. He yells to her, why not?
No more breasts, no more thighs,no more buttocks, no more …whirlwinds. galaxies, the ebb and flow. black holes. the original hubbub. have you heard of it? Thats what I always wanted from you. He looks at her.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get it back….if you still want it.” Marianne says, “You’re rotten”.
He continues. “What? I want nothing. you and I. we’re just involved. it’s the painting.” He arranges her.
“Faster, faster until you see nothing, feel nothing.Your ears are not buzzing? I have no ears. I feel nothing..neither can I..I’ve got it..I’ve almost got it..we just need” (but he is beside himself with emotion) Marianne is crying.
He looks at her..like waking up out of a trance. He looks moved. she cries
He says” I’m sorry. what?its what I’m saying?”
No, she cries, it’s me not you..she uncontrollably cries, but the hysterical outburst has an element of laugh..she is laughing and crying at the same time. He stomps away…throws his brush on a table and goes out on the balcony where he leans against the building, breathes deep breath, surveys the quiet landscape and walks away.
She waits, goes back into pose, puts on the robe, walks around, lays down on a couch and falls asleep.
He comes back, sits on the arm of the couch, and gently wakes her. “How long have I been asleep?”
“An eternity..quarter of an hour.”
She smiled. “I was dreaming I had an enormous cat hanging from my fingers.” Can we continue? He leads her to a table with an attached bench. she sits and asks,” like that?” Yes.
as she sits there,posing, she is surprised to see Liz on the steps watching. She says to her, “Sorry I didn’t see you.”
Edouard ignores Liz, but snaps at Marianne. “I didn’t tell you to turn your head”.He continues to paint, ignoring Liz. Marianne watches out of the corner of her eye.
Finally he puts the brush down and walks towards Liz. Not in a hostile way, he says to his wife. “So?Can you see anything?” She says “yes, I think so, yes. Is it really what you want?”
He goes over to Marianne, straightens her arms, goes back to paint, and ignores Liz again. Liz seems very upset by this…and stumbling says…”I have to go. I have to help Francoise..I’m leaving.” And she does.
Marianne says to Edouard after a bit. you told her to come. He answers, “none of your business.”
“Why”, she asks.
After more time, she says, “why did you abandon it?”
“the old painting”.
“that was Liz. Its not you”.
“You want to start that painting again?”
He says, “you can never start again.”
“Tell me, she pleads. I’m naked in front of you! why me?”
He says, “it was Liz , too.”
“You’re too curious.You want to know everything.Before everyone else. You can only know after, and then not for sure.”
Marianne is upset. “What are you using me for? You said you wanted to paint me.” “It’s you and it isn’t you. But its more of you than you can imagine. If the painting is true then it will be you.”
She says “I don’t understand.”
He says,” Neither do I. All the better”
She says, “But I need to understand..to know.”
Edward says, “nobody wants it—to understand”.
She says, “You want me to flee–from the beginning.”
“No, I want you to fight back. I’m beginning to see you–just beginning. But stand up straight”.
Now she is in a different pose.
When the camera shows her in a different pose, this means that time has passed. All this occurs over a rather long period of time..but is shot without a break. Only the new poses designate the passage of time.
Another time, another pose.
He is painting. stops to survey what he has done. Goes over to a desk, takes out a bottle of liquor and has a drink.
She says,” you want to stop”.
“I think it better. something is wrong. I just don’t know. Somebody can get something out of it. Just not me.For a while I believed I had found a miracle,but No. I’ve done that (his picture) 100 times, I can do it , better or worse. What’s the use? I’d rather die.” Marianne says “you give up too quickly”
“you’re telling me.”
“You told me to fight…if we give up now, you’ll think its because of me.” He says. “My words made you drunk. Its all I can do. Enough. This is all I can still do.” Marianne comes over to him with her robe on.
“No. I count too.
You just hurt me so much that for a moment I couldn’t breathe. Neither could you. Something has happened.” She looks at him and says” We can go further.” He says,” further? yes. To the famous point of no return. that’s what I can’t do anymore.” Marianne says. “you took me with you. Whatever you say, you forced me to go. you can’t leave me like that–all alone in the void.” She continues, “You’re scared. I’m not scared anymore. I’ll be here 10 am tomorrow morning.” She leaves. He sits thinking.
She comes in the morning, and Liz says he is still asleep. Liz says to Marianne, “be careful. He values his work more than anything. If he wants to paint your face, refuse.” Marianne says no…goes to the studio, puts on the robe and waits.
He doesn’t come. She walks out on the balcony and starts to go and wake him. But as she turns the corner, she evidently sees him as she quickly goes back into the studio. He arrives,makes some coffee which he offers her. She refuses, pointedly saying she had breakfast…2 croissants. He starts to arrange things.She starts to talk to him, but he doesn’t look at her. She says,” look me in the face, the only thing you forget. Let me find my own place, my own way of moving”. He sits on the arm of the sofa just looking at her. “If you don’t like it, we’ll stop”, she says. She darts around getting what she wants in place. She tosses a mattress on the floor and covers it with a sheet.She lays on it, and says, “when I was here for the first time, this place reminded me of my boarding school chapel. I did very bad at school, Everything was forbidden. I was ill all of the time. I stayed crouched in bed.I had terrible fevers. like that “and she huddles in a small crouch like position. “Where are you,” she says. “I’m here listening, watching”, Edouard says. She continues, “until they threw me out. Shall I go on?” Yes.
“I lay in bed with a fever and all night long I had nightmares.” “And Nicholas?” Edward asks.
“Nicholas does nothing. he hates me. He thinks I’m in love with you. He’s a fool and a bastard.Its all his fault..and mine. He needed a pretext. He’s proud to have something to do with your work.He should stop pretending, as a cat in front of a a bird.” “what?” She thinks she hears him say something.
“Until I met you my life is coming to a stop. Its all over between Nicolas and me, and I don’t know how it happened. Nicholas is the only man I could live with, others I could spit in their faces including you”.
“What violence, “he says
“Thats it! Make fun of me. I don’t care about you and Liz.” She gets agitated and moves.
He yells,” No!!! Why did you move?– the gesture–the look. It was just fine.” He tosses his drawing pad in frustration.
One day he hangs a large canvas with a painting of Liz. It is LaBelle Noiseuse from10 years ago.He goes to Marianne and arranges her. She is standing, back to him,arms outstretched with one hand, palm side facing the painter, with curved tight fingers.She can’t see the canvas. He takes some white, and starts to white out Liz on the canvas. It is slow laborious work. As he is doing that, he is painting Marianne on the same canvas…the pose that she is standing in. He has turned the easel so Liz instead of standing up,now her face is sideways on the left side of the canvas. He is busily wiping out all of her except the face. Marianne’s body is painted up and down vertically on the canvas, taking up most of the canvas. Her butt is right at Liz’s face which is getting more and more covered with now blue paint, and white out removing neck, part of the sides of the face.mostly just the eyes, some hair, and a little cheek bone remain.The nude of Marianne is large and covers most of the canvas.He paints well into the night. She becomes very tired and asks if she can sleep there. Certainly not, he says, but you can stay in the house. they have rooms for friends.
She phones Nicholas she is not coming home. Edward and Liz take her up to a seldom used room on the 3rd floor. Liz gets out a blanket. It will turn cold.She says there are some nice things in there pointing to a chest of drawers. She takes out a necklace and gives it to Marianne. Marianne refuses it saying she doesn’t like jewelry. but Liz starts to put it around her neck, and says you’ve never had anything like this. Marianne strikes Liz, knocking her down with the necklace. She says, “stop treating me like a doll.” they leave and she goes to bed.
When they get to their rooms, Edward says he cannot sleep. Liz goes to bed and he goes to the studio and continues on the masterpiece painting. very early in the morning,Liz wakes up to realize Edward has not been in bed. She goes down to the studio, sees him asleep on the couch and softly walks in.She goes over to the painting. Mariannes naked torso dominates the canvas, with a faded view of whats left of Liz’s face off to the left side. All down the naked body of Marianne is a bright red slash..blood like.She looks at it in horror and leaves.In the morning when he wakes up and tidies…he sees in the chalk dust on the floor, a footprint that he knows is Liz’s.She walks barefoot most of the time.
When he returns in the morning, she offers him coffee and tells him she has been to the studio. “I know “,he says.”I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it from you. Its a work in progress.” She asks, “if you’re doing a new one, why destroy another one?Its not old, not abandoned”. She says , “I liked it. You wiped me out.”
“I didn’t” , he says.
She says “buttocks replaced me in place of my face.”
He says, “I couldn’t do it differently. It brings up memories,old regrets and believe it or not it wasn’t easy for me.” “I can imagine, she replies sarcastically. You must have had a dreadful night.” He says dryly, “It was uncomfortable from all points of view.” “You think I’m just jealous. you expect I’ll burst out. I won’t.” , Liz says. “But 10 years ago when you started the work you’ve just botched up—remember? We didn’t go out of the studio for a week. we slept on the little mattress…there was no day…no night. remember?” “I do. But I don’t want that memory.”
“At that time you were so full of ideas and energy. Do you know what I thought when I saw you asleep?” “Don’t tell me.”
“ok, I won’t tell you.”Don’t you remember. You quit searching. You got scared. I would have gone along because we had each other and it was stronger than before.” He reminds her of an affair she had with Porbus..
She says, “who cares about him. He’s suffered more than you.” “You made us sick of each other.”,he comments on it
she says” Don’t talk like that.”
“Because we’ve had a nice life together or happiness as you call it.” “Happiness at this price is sad.”, he says.
“You are sad, Frenhofer. You’re sad because you’re no longer young. Your strengths have left you.” “10 years ago that painting was the beginning of a story.But now its not a new beginning. Its the end.” “You say it so coldly”.
“How do you want me to say it?”
“You are cruel.”
Liz says,” haven’t you noticed it before. I’m cruel.”
Later that morning he is finishing the painting with Marianne posing. He is cranky. He arranges her. “Don’t get flabby…stretch.” He commands her.
She turns to him. “you’re searching for something you’ve once seen.” “Maybe.”
She leaves and returns to the studio dressed.He is still painting. “Is it finished?”
“Can I look?”
“You tell me.”
She looks at it for a long time. then she looks at him with hate and leaves.She locks herself in the bathroom to cry. Magali crawls in through a window to get her out.
Nicholas has been having a hard time as Marianne no longer loves him. He phones his beautiful competent sister, Julianne to come and help him which she does. Julianne now has met everyone, and is trying to put together what has happened. She talks with Liz about Edouard and the painting. Liz tells her that Nicolas is afraid that Marianne is having an affair with Frenhofer. He is wrong. that is not going to happen.Frenhofer is finishing the painting, and Marianne should not see it, because Frenhoff won’t protect her. She tells Julianne,” I have been his model for a long time. I am unique.First he wanted to paint me because he loved me and then because he loved me, he didn’t’ want to paint me. It was me or the painting.” that’s what he said.
“I don’t understand”, says Julianne, “It wasn’t a question of life or death”. “why not,” says Liz.
“It’s like drowning. It is said that before you drown all of your life floats before you.Can a painting, a canvas hold an entire life? To capture all of that in one painting, that’s what he was looking for. It’s something..”. Julianne supplies the word,” shameless?”
“Yes, shameless. its not the flesh that is shameless, not the nudity..its something else.”
Marianne talks to Julianne and tells her she is leaving Nicholas. Julianne says it will destroy him. Marianne says she can’t stay with him. She doesn’t love him enough. She tells Julianna she saw the painting.” It was a thing that was cold and dry. It was her.”
Later Liz steals back into the studio, and on the back of the picture where Frenhofer has signed and dated it, she paints a cross and leaves. He comes in during the evening before the day, that Porbus is to buy the painting. He has Magali with him. He tells her that they will have a secret they must never tell anyone,and she will help him.He puts a cloth around the painting,and sets it in an alcove intended for a window. then he takes brick and mortar and with the help of the young girl he bricks up the painting. He tells her that the painting never existed. that is what they must say. She leaves. He gets a large canvas, dips his brush into blue paint,and starts to paint a nude with a background of blue. He finishes it. The next day Porbus comes. Everyone is dressed up. Edouard makes a speech about the new painting. “It is difficult for him…its not the happiest day. A painting is like a new born”. Porbus buys the painting. He is happy to have one. A festive table is set with fruit and wine.All talk , and more or less enjoy the occasion. Nicholas tells Frenhofer that he is sorry for him. Marianne tells Nicholas that she is not going with him.Everyone leaves. Stravinsky is played.