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April 13, 1992 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-04-13

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The Michigan Daily
Rivette's Belle
paints falsely
* Well-actedfantasy is still not art

Monday, April 13, 1992

Page 5

La Belle Noiseuse
dir. Jacques Rivette
by Aaron Hamburger
It's obvious that La Belle Noiseuse
was dreamed up by filmmakers, wri-
ters, and producers - everybody
except artists ...
If you're looking for a movie that
reveals the mysteries of the creative
process, La Belle Noiseuse isn't it.
Instead, the latest film from French
New Wave director Jacques Rivette
offers a four-hour allegory about art
which manages to be compelling and
fascinating, even though the allegory
doesn't always work.
La Belle Noiseuse, based loosely
on a story by Balzac, opens with
young artist Nicolas (David Bursz-
ten) and his girlfriend Marianne
(Emmanuelle Beart of Manon des
Sources) paying a visit to the
reclusive Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli),
an old artist who hasn't painted in 10
years. Frenhofer is haunted by a
painting he abandoned called "La
Belle Noiseuse;" which, loosely
translated, means "the beautiful
Nicolas offers Marianne as a
model to inspire the old man to get
back to work, and Frenhofer accepts.
Marianne agrees to model for Fren-
hofer, at first because she wants to
spite Nicolas, but ultimately, be-
cause she is intrigued by the creative

The strengths of the movie lie in
the tension-filled modeling sessions
between Marianne and Frenhofer.
Their relationship affects every other
character in the film. Beart skillfully
conveys defiance with a quick
glance or in the way she stiffly holds
her body in Frenhofer's demanding
poses. Jane Birkin (Daddy Nos-
talgia) is exceptional as Frenhofer's
wife, who is too old to pose for him,
yet sympathizes with his need to
paint the lovely Marianne.
Difficulties arise when the movie
tries to describe the process of creat-
ing art. Part of the problem is rooted
in the fact that La Belle Noiseuse is a
story about artists made by people
who know too little about art. Much
of the conflict in the film is supposed
to arise from the fact that Frenhofer
doesn't just want to capture the way
models look - he wants to capture
the essence of their souls on canvas.
Apparently, this essence captured on
canvas is too overwhelming for any
model, including Marianne, to bear.
It's interesting that the actual
finished painting of mythic power is
never shown. Beyond the thematic
context, the reason behind this move
is simply because no painting in the
history of art could ever do what
Frenhofer's canvases are supposed
to be able to achieve. This
phenomenon of capturing the
deepest essence of someone's soul is
something that does occur in writing
and filmmaking, but rarely, if at all,
in painting. When the filmmakers try

Frenhofer (Michael Piccoli) speaks to his objet d'art Marianne (Emmanuelle Beart). "Move your head dammit, I'm trying to capture your soul."

to generalize this phenomenon to
apply to all the arts, the concept just
doesn't work.
The film's depiction of the art-
making process is inaccurate. Fren-
hofer is supposed to be some kind of
genius, yet the sketches we see in the
film, done by the French artist
Bernard Dufour, do not indicate any
great talent. Furthermore, as

Frenhofer sketches, he mumbles me-
lodramatic meditations on painting,
such as, "I want to capture the blood,
the fire, the ice, all that's inside
you." These things have little to do
with. the arrangement of visual
forms, which is the true business of
Somehow these are excusable in
light of a terrific production. Every

member of the cast, except for
Bursztein, is first rate. The screen-
play, by Rivette, Pascal Bonitzer and
Christine Laurent, does an excellent
job fleshing out a memorable por-
trait of each character's unfulfilled
longings. The photography of the
French countryside is breathtakingly
expansive, while the interior of
Frenhofer's studio is intimately

See La Belle Noiseuse for its real-
istic depiction of a group of disen-
chanted friends in the French coun-
tryside. As far as art goes, however,
the film is pure fantasy.
LA BELLE NOISEUSE is playing at
the Michigan Theater.

raaQ kMoon buried in the Basement

by Vicki Briganti
Lost in the shuffle of this week-
end's publicized events was the
Basement Arts production of Eugene
O'Neill's Moon For the Misbegot-
ten. Basement Arts produces its
shows in the Arena Stage, tucked
away on the first floor of the Frieze
Building. Perhaps this theater is less
well-known around campus due to
the limited seating capacity and lack
of funding for elaborate publicity.
However, it should warrant larger
crowds since audiences can see ori-
ginal theater free of charge.
All Basement Arts productions
are directed and acted by students. It
is a unique venue to test new scripts
and explore various texts, such as
Moon for the Misbegotten.
To see students take this difficult
play and deal with it effectively is an
impressive feat. Producing O'Neill's
work poses aachallenge to profes-
sional directors, let alone undergrad-
uate students, since his writing often
contains characters who express
many levels of emotional turmoil;
and in addition, Moon for the Mis-
begotten, the Irish dialect is tough to
Despite these difficulties, director
Clint Bond Jr. says he chose Moon
for the Misbegotten because, "It is
my favorite play; it has a romantic,.
poetical style. O'Neill's plays are
kept on shelves of libraries, or may-
be studied in literature classes, but
they aren't brought to the stage, be-
cause they are considered dated.
This play deals with finding love,
and we still look for that today."
Rather than tackle the entire play,
Bond focuses on Acts I and II in
which Josie Hogan's father, Phil
(Tom Daugherty), devises a scheme
I - -aasano

to bring Josie (Sara Mathison) closer
to her love, Jim Tyrone (Hunter
Foster). Bond's goal was to use
these acts as an performing exercise.
"The actors have to be honest
with their characters," he says.
"They can't fake anything, or the au-
dience won't believe them." On-
stage, the performers engaged in an
intense interaction between two real
people who need one another. Bond
finds this truth of emotions with a
highly talented cast.
Mathison's portrayal of Josie was
candid. The actor possessed the rare
ability to remain open to impulse
and not get ahead of the moment.
Nor did she stifle her emotions;
instead, she allowed the audience to
share in her discovery of her cha-
racter. Her performance was so
engaging that I saw the play twice.
Foster, as Jim Tyrone, mastered
the monologues in which the chara.

quality due to the strong exploration
of character development and the
risks taken by the cast. Bond was
also able to draw out the intricate
subtleties of relationships, making it
-the best play I've seen from Base-
ment Arts in the last three years.
The Arena Theatre can hold
many more than the fifteen people
who attended last Thursday's per-
formance. If the show had been bet-
ter publicized in the glossy-poster
tradition, a larger audience might
have been assembled. The intimacy
of the Arena, perfect for O'Neill's
intense drama, would not be chosen
by larger-scale University shows be-
cause of space restrictions.
By the same token, University
Productions would not chose Moon
for the Misbegotten for a Power
Center show since only three cast
members are involved. These are not

Joanne Leonard's 1991 photograph with collage, The Mansion of Happiness (2nd version) recalls the past.
Joanne Leonard's photographic
memories trace her fanily s past

If the show had been netter publicized in the
glossy-poster t~aditiow:. a larger audience might
have been assembled. The intimacy of the
Arena, perfect for O'Neill's intense drama,
would not be chosen by larger-scale University
shows because of space restrictions.

Not Losing Her Memory: Stories in Photography,
Words and Collage
University Museum of Art
Imagine living in a vacuum, a world where memory
and past experiences were destroyed, and history had to
be rewritten. It's a scary thought.
University Art professor Joanne Leonard is currently
exhibiting her latest series of work at the University
Museum of Art called Not Losing Her Memory: Stories
in Photography, Words and Collage. It focuses on the
central themes of memory and loss, mortality and
immortality. Memory becomes a catalyst for Leonard's
The artist focuses on generations of women in her
family, using recent and antiquated photographs. She
juxtaposes the prints with personal letters, images of
candlesticks, wallpaper, dalmations, statues of women,
teapots, cups, ladders, stairs, maps, newspapers and
roads. Even when the actual photographs of the mem-
bers of her family are not clearly depicted, their sil-
houettes symbolize their integral place in the artist's
Many of the images are accompanied by handwritten

Leonard exposes a great deal about her personal his-
tory. She tells her story again and again in the context
of her artwork, helping her to realize where she comes
from, and where she'll go. The artist's work shows the
progression of her life from year to year, generation to
She tells her story again and again
in the context of her artwork,
helping her to realize where she
comes from, and where she'll go.
generation. She discovers her roots by exploring genet-
ics, personal and political histories, feminism and pho-
Teapots and cups are used to represent women as
holders of treasured memory and important information.
Photos, cards, kept letters, and invitations are all tacked
to a bulletin board as a storehouse of memorabilia.
Leonard writes that she has always had a photogra-
phic memory. Her mind is like a camera which captures
images and freezes them in time, creating a space for
them to become immortal.
Leonard writes in one photograph/collage, "In these
photos I am like an actress portraying myself portraying
my grandmother. Is there a tendency for daughters to

ter discloses his painful regrets of
the past. He was able to successfully
make the difficult transitions from
present conversation to his memo-
ries, while remaining personally in-
vested in the text.
Daugherty interpreted his charac-
ter energetically, keeping O'Neill's
potentially somber writing style
from becoming too depressing.
However, Daugherty's melodramatic
movements intended to liven up the
performance were unnecessary, and
reminded me of the Scarecrow in
The Wizard of Oz.
Overall, Moon For the Misbegot-
ten glimmered with professional

enough of a draw from the pool of
theater students.
Basement Arts can use a vehicle
like an O'Neill play primarily be-
cause it is non-profit. Why aren't
more people, aside from the theater
majors I recognized in Saturday's
audience, taking advantage of such
good productions, especially since
it's free? Perhaps it's because the
performance time is at 5 p.m.; per-
haps it's because the Basement Arts
shows are not always consistently
effective. However, the fault proba-
bly lies more in the lack of funding
for publicity. There is a cost for
priceless theater.

Newly married shock comedian
SamKinisonis deadatage38
Controversial shock comic Sam Kinison was killed in a head-on collision
with a pick-up truck Friday night. He was 38. Ironically, the hard-living
comedian - who even extolled the virtues of drinking and driving in his
stand-up act - was hit by two drunk teenagers. Despite pandering to the


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