Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
If this was a Hollywood movie, the story most probably would be about the rise and fall of a painter, how his work reflected his personal life, it would bring to light the reasons of why he gave up his profession, and would place the whole creative process that restored his inspiration - depicted here in around 205 minutes - in just 5 minutes, with quick and fadeout editing techniques as an irrelevant part. It would then give a closure of his decision, highlighting the final painting in full detail.
Now, I am not diminishing the quality of this hypothetical alternative project. On the contrary, I think that all events in the life of a person, particularly of an artist, are equally important as those events in the life of any other human being. However, if we try to make a historical recollection about fascinating, insightful depictions about the methodical evolution of the creative process in the artist's mind, maybe we would be left blank-minded.
La Belle Noiseuse is an essay like no other, but if it is meant to talk deeply at a particular viewers segment, it is that represented by art supporters. Personally, I am an avid fan of all arts, not only cinema, so this meta-art project (which is certainly not the first project of this kind made by Rivette) spoke of so many things that matter to me in art. It is an extraordinary, complete project about the creation of art and its meaning.
Any art form represents a human exercise to externalize the content's of oneself's soul through a language that can assign it a perpetual value. That's my favorite definition. Art pieces depend solely on the internal state of the author. Influences execute an extraordinarily important force in this inspiration process, but in the end, an art form is a decision incarnated. Under this definition, Rivette is a true artist. The emphasis on how an idea begins from an event, and this event materializes from scratch, beginning with the trace of a line, is a beautiful event explored in the movie. Maybe after the cellular formation of any living being until its birth, the creation of an art piece is the most wonderful thing to happen in this God's creation.
On the other hand, art is subjective, and the toughest juror of an art piece is the creator himself/herself. It makes matters even more complicated when you, as an artist, are currently incapable of doing at least either one of the following two things: a) to know what you're seeking, and b) to know what are the motives behind your work. Even if you had no motives, then that would be a motive. Still, point a) breaks down into another issue: to know whether if what you are seeking is something you have seen before. The process of mental idealization can be very dangerous, given that your potential masterpiece looks so wonderful in your head, that an attempt to physically replicate that idealization can ultimately lead to frustration... maybe even to the death of the inspiration itself. That is a groundbreaking event, and that is maybe the conflict of the protagonist.
Finally, we have what the finished art work means both to the artist and to the inspiration behind it, in case that such inspiration turns out to be a person. Nudism in particular has an impactful effect on me as an art admirer because it is one of the numerous, and yet efficient ways to emotionally break both the body of the model and the perseverance of the artist. Both discover themselves. Both can establish an intangible relationship of almost metaphysical proportions between each other, and also they discover themselves individually. I never thought this movie would be capable of reaching that topic barrier, but it did, against all my expectations, and therefore assuring itself the highest rating accolades.
What a wonderful picture, truly. Rivette is a magician, beyond all doubts. He can transform 238 minutes into 140 with no complication. La Belle Noiseuse is both an essay of this creative process and a reflection of Rivette engaging in that process himself. There are always layers in any meta-art project, and they are always interesting to discuss.
A marvelous triumph!