E1 Entertainment // 2012 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // March 12th, 2014
Art is Life. Life is Art.
The artist and his muse. The main source of any writer/painter/sculptor/actor's inspiration. Much has been made about the connection between the creative type and what conjures up said originality, especially in realms where the link (film) is less than obvious. In the case of The Artist and The Model, the premise is obvious. An old man (Jean Rochefort, Lost in La Mancha) who once palled around with the greats, is now nearing the end of his life. Living in the South of France during World War II, he feels relatively safe from the Nazi's desire for literal domination. Sensing he is lost and needing some support, his wife (Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon a Time in the West) discovers a young woman washing herself in the town fountain. Figuring her husband's legitimacy (and libido) could use a bit of a tussle, she invites Merce (Aida Folch) home with her. Soon, she is part of the artist's daily ritual, though her past comes back to haunt her and everyone she is currently living with.
The Artist and the Model is not a bad film, just a very slow and highly redundant one. Leaving out the political subplotting for a moment, this is nothing more than a monochrome showcase for aging French icon Rochefort and the obvious nubile graces of Ms. Folch. With a deadening pace that provides little except sun-dappled excuses for exposition, we are supposed to get wound up in Marc Cros' creative discontent and its rejuvenation via Merce's youthful curves. All we really end up focusing on is how good Claudia Cardinale looks and how dull everything else is. Director Fernando Trueba, perhaps best known for such efforts as Chico and Rita, The Girl of Your Dreams, and Oscar winner Belle Epoque, isn't really out to skewer his elderly subject or suggest that Merce's situation (she's a refugee from Franco's despotic regime) means much. No, unlike Guillermo Del Toro whose milked much out of the same scenario, we are simply supposed to watch as pretty scene after pretty black and white scene passes by.
Of course, the script strives to suggest more. Cros sees all women as a sign from God, their bodies and their beauty the result of divine doing. He also tries -- the key word being "tries" -- to keep work and play wholly separate. This makes for a maddening experience, especially for those of us in the audience young enough to full appreciate Aida Folch's figure. Frankly, the memories of Ms. Cardinale circa the 1960s provide ample carnal consideration. Then there is the ending, a pat experience that wraps everything up so neatly that department stores should hire it for year-end gift giving consideration. Instead of taking a more complicated or compelling way out, The Artist and the Model does exactly what you think it will do. The result is a failed experience, with some excellent acting and intriguing local (and lady) color on the side. Some will be mesmerized. Others will be put to sleep.
As for the Blu-ray package, Cohen Media Group does a completely serviceable job. The bonus features include an interesting and insightful interview with Trueba, a photo gallery, and a trailer. While a full length commentary would have been nice, the Q&A will have to do. The image is 1080p and presented in a high definition aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Keen viewers will instantly notice the "not film" feeling and there is an overall softness and lack of contrast. Still, we get quite a bit of detail and some excellent looking sequences. On the sound side of things, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does a good job of delivering distinct dialogue (in French, with English subtitles) with nice back speaker ambient effects. One last comment on the choice of black and white. While it does recall the past and add a bit of dramatic heft, the film could have easily been made in color and had the same middling impact.
Indeed, the one thing The Artist and the Model isn't is dynamic. It just sits there, looking pretty, hoping you get the same amount of inspiration out of it as Cros is getting out of his naked subject matter. Merce is ripe for such motivation. Her movie story isn't.
Guilty. A good looking snooze-fest.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated