Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

La Belle Noiseuse (1991)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

La Belle Noiseuse (1991, Fr.) (aka The Beautiful Troublemaker or The Beautiful Nuisance)

In French director Jacques Rivette's very-lengthy (almost four hour) and beguiling drama, with minimal dialogue (except for the first hour) - it was nominated for the Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and won the Grand Prize of the Jury award. In the film's plot, during a 4-day ordeal of painting a fully-nude woman (for a portrait known as La Belle Noiseuse) and attempting to capture her true essence on canvas, the creative process produced troubling and unforeseen repercussions for all of the related characters' lives - the elderly painter, his ex-model wife, his young nude model, and her boyfriend. [Note: an abbreviated modified version was titled Divertimento (1992).] See Sex in Films - for the uncensored version:

  • the married, impatient, reclusive and aging French artist-painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), who had lost his artistic inspiration, was creatively inspired to return to work (after 10 years) on an abandoned, neglected masterpiece of ten years - a painting known as "La Belle Noiseuse"
  • ten years earlier, Frenhofer's original and favorite model had been his wife Elizabeth (Jane Birkin). But then his inspiration abruptly ended and his portrait was left unfinished
  • attractive, aspiring children's book writer Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart) and her boyfriend (of three years) - gifted young painter-artist Nicolas Wartel (David Bursztein), were visiting at Frenhofer's rural Provence chateau; the night before they were planning to leave, Nicolas told Marianne that Edouard had asked him to have Marianne pose for him: "I think he'd like you to pose for him, very much...He asked me if you would...Well, I said yes"
  • Marianne was very upset that she had been volunteered to be Frenhofer's newly-acquired muse - without her permission, and she complained: "Naked, I suppose. I've seen his paintings....You sold my arse!'; he tried to persuade her to agree: "He wants something different than a simple portrait....Maybe I was wrong, but I had to help him"; she argued back: "Even if it were the masterpiece, you should have let me decide"; he reemphasized: "It is the masterpiece. Anyway, it can be. It's La Belle Noiseuse. A project he gave up 10 years ago. He wants to start it again with you"; she continued to complain: "I don't give a damn about it. That guy's ridiculous"; she called her boyfriend "pathetic" for being duped by the crazed painter, and told him to "F--k off!"

Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli)

Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart)

Elizabeth (Jane Birkin)
  • the next morning, however, she appeared at the chateau, and over breakfast with Frenhofer, asked him: "Am I too early?"; he walked with her to his vast, long-neglected stone-walled studio, where he set up and began by making multiple pen and ink artistic sketches of Marianne, the first two with her clothed; he told her: "I really didn't think you'd come"
  • at the start of the film's lengthy, captivating, pain-staking process, accompanied with minimal dialogue, Frenhofer began to work on his long-postponed masterpiece; he asked her to put on a dressing gown, after which she was required to remove it and pose nude for the remainder of their time together
Stark Nude Posing of Marianne
  • after the first day of painting, she told Elizabeth that she had been asked back for a second day, but admitted it was very awkward: "I'm not made for it"; Elizabeth encouraged and persuaded her to return for a second day: "Please try, it's really important to him"; Marianne responded: "I don't know why he needs me"; Frenhofer admitted to Elizabeth that he wouldn't let Marianne get away and not return for another session, although he added: "She pesters me"
  • to annoy her boyfriend, Marianne told him about her first days' experience: "More than good....This guy's a magician. He goes straight to the point. What happened to me is unique"; originally, she thought it would be only a one-day modeling assignment, but she told Nicolas: "I'm going back tomorrow"
  • on the second day, he made many more preliminary sketches of her in various static naked poses, as he attempted to capture her essence from various angles; Marianne complained of having to pose in painful, demanding, contorted, cramping and unmoving positions as he touched her to set her postures, but she took the artist's challenge seriously; he insisted: "I don't want to see your face"
  • Elizabeth assured Nicolas: "Don't worry. Frenho's a gentleman. You don't have to be afraid." She further explained her own posing for him years earlier before they married: "I hadn't known him at all. I did it to pay for my studies..."
  • while painting, Frenhofer remembered: "In the past, they tied up the models. They hanged them by their wrists or ankles to keep the pose"; he described how his wife was one of his early models: "Anyway, at first I wanted her, before wanting to paint her. For the first time, I was scared. The fear became the driving force behind what I did. A change of speed, like a whirlwind. I became blind. A tactile painting. As if it were - as if it were my fingers that saw and commanded themselves. That's what I'm looking for. That's what I want. Yes, that's it!" - he admitted that was the moment when he became "a real painter"
  • when he threatened to keep forcing her into various pretzel-shaped positions: "I'll break you to pieces. I'll get you out of your body, get you out of your carcass," she admitted that he had already done so; he insisted that she give him more, so that he could possess her from the inside out: "I want to know and see the inside of your body"; he told her his goal was all-encompassing: "The whole body, not just some pieces - I don't care about your breasts, legs, your lips. I want more. I want everything. The blood, the fire, the ice. All that's inside your body. I'll take it all. I'll get it out of you and put it into this frame.....I'll get to know what's inside under your thin surface. I want the invisible"
  • she almost broke down as the second day's work temporarily paused, and told him: "As you wish, but I'm fed up"; he yelled at her: "No more breasts, no more stomach, no more thighs, no more buttocks! Whirlwinds! Galaxies, the ebb and the flow. Black holes! The original hubbub, have you never heard of it? That's what I always wanted from you. I'm going to crumble you, you're going to break up. We'll see what's left of you when you forget everything. Don't worry, you'll get it back, if you still want it"; she called him "rotten"; he replied: "I'm nothing. I'm doing nothing. I want nothing, I told you. It's the painting...", but she felt like she was going numb ("I can't feel my body"); she began to cry - but then apologized; he took a break and went outside for fresh air
  • end of Part 1, beginning of Part 2: when they continued again, Liz briefly observed from afar and then left; Marianne asked why he had abandoned his original painting of his wife Liz, and when he didn't answer, she point-blank asked: "Tell me why I'm naked in front of you...Why are you using me?" but he wouldn't answer except to say, "If the painting's true, it will be you"; Marianne claimed she was confused and needed to understand; when she asked if he wanted to stop, he told her: "I think it'd be better...What's the use, I'd rather die"
  • but by now, she was deeply engaged and determined to prevent him from despairing and quitting, and reflected back his words about being strong and the need to fight: ("We can go on further"). At the end of the exhausting day, he was ready to give up: "We'd better forget it," but she resolutely told him: "You can't leave me like that, all alone in this void. You're scared. I'm not scared anymore," and she was determined to proceed
  • in the meantime, Nicolas had become increasingly jealous and upset over Marianne's posing, fearful of losing her; he insisted that they leave before finishing the painting, but Marianne refused ("You're free to go, I'm staying"); after two days of painting, Liz confronted her husband and accused him of wrong-doing: "I think you're playing with this girl. You don't care about the danger"
  • on the morning of the 3rd day of painting, Elizabeth warned Marianne: "Be careful....He values his work more than anything else. It can cause a lot of damage to people...If he wants to paint your face, refuse"
  • during their 3rd day encounter in the studio, Marianne defiantly announced that she would choose her own positions: "Let me be myself... Let me find my own place, my way of moving, my timing. If you don't like it, we'll stop"
  • Marianne also divulged that it was over between her and her boyfriend Nicolas, calling him a bastard and a fool: ("He hates me. He thinks I'm crazy about you. He's a bloody fool. A fool and a bastard"); she blamed the modeling assignment on him, and believed it was a pretext to break up with her: "I'm telling you my life's coming to a stop. Everything's over between Nicolas and me and I don't even know how it happened. He's the only man I could live with. Others, I spit in their faces. Including you"
  • at the end of the 3rd day, Frenhofer again took charge of his model and took out a long-abandoned and unfinished painting of Liz and began to reimagine it by painting over it with the new images of Marianne. After others went to sleep, Frenhofer returned to the studio to continue working, and ended up sleeping there for the night
  • when Liz entered the studio in the early morning and found out about her covered painting, she considered it a betrayal by her husband, and asked him: "Since when for one work in progress, you have to destroy another one?" Feeling unloved, Elizabeth (who was becoming more and more disconsolate, tormented and jealous because of her husband's rapt attention to his model), compared her painting of 10 years earlier with the current one. She told him: "You had to wipe me out... You replaced me, yes. You put some buttocks in place of my face...It's about you and me. What you've done is diminishing us. You've made us sick of each other"; with some coldness and cruelty, she considered his recent painting project a sign that he lacked life's energy, was old and sad and at the end of his life: "But now it's not a new beginning. It's the end"
Nicolas' Concerned Sister Julienne (Marianne Denicourt)
  • while the 4th and final day of painting commenced, Nicolas' pretty, worried sister Julienne (Marianne Denicourt) arrived with concerns about Nicolas' deteriorating relationship with Marianne; Elizabeth reassured Julienne: "He thinks they're going to have, how do you call it, an affair or something. I think he's wrong, but he's right to worry....It's not the flesh that's shameless, it's not the nudity, it's something else." She described her own earlier experiences as a model with her husband: "First he wanted to paint me because he loved me, and then...Then because he loved me, he didn't want to paint me. It was me or painting, that's what he said." She felt that her husband shouldn't show the finished painting to Marianne, because it would capture her whole unvarnished life on the canvas
  • at the film's conclusion, after the painting was finished following a marathon battle of wills over a 4-day period, Marianne was allowed to view the finished work; and shortly later, Liz also took a long studied look at the portrait
  • as she was leaving the chateau, Marianne ran into Julienne and told her she was leaving Nicolas for good, but couldn't face him to tell him: "I can't stay with him. I don't love him enough"; she also described the painting's stunning image to Julienne: "A thing which was cold and dry -- it was me" - she realized that Frenhofer had actually captured a true representation of her personality
  • then Frenhofer surprisingly and secretly sealed the tarp-covered painting - unseen - behind a newly-laid brick wall. He urged his housekeeper's daughter Magali (Marie Belluc) who assisted him: ("You mustn't ever look at it. Never. Our secret means you've never seen this painting. It doesn't exist"); he then went ahead and painted a replacement portrait
  • later that evening, he also explained to Liz, after his exhausting work, that "everything" (including himself, his paintings and his marriage) remained dead and could not be restored
  • the next morning to an assembled group, including Liz, Marianne, Nicolas and Julienne, Frenhofer presented and unveiled another faceless painting as his finished product (it would be his last work of art), claiming: "It's my first posthumous work"; there was no visible reaction from any of the principals, although Marianne and Liz seemed relieved that the real painting was not displayed; privately, Liz thankfully confided in her husband: "What you've done is beautiful"
  • in voice-over, the changed Marianne narrated: "Marianne put on her old mask again or maybe she took a new one"; Liz assured the shaken Nicolas that things would work out with Marianne: ("What's lasted for three years can't just break in three days"); Frenhofer also encouraged Nicolas: "Stay the way you are. I like you"; Marianne's voice-over continued: "So the story is coming to its end soon...What has become of Marianne you won't know tonight. Marianne? It's me. It used to be me"; as she walked up to Elizabeth, she confided that she now understood Elizabeth's earlier warning: "I'm not unaware any more" - her entire life's perspective had been irreparably changed; Nicolas was justified in being skeptical about his future with Marianne: "I am afraid"

Edouard Frenhofer - Entranced by the Idea of Having Marianne As His New "Belle Noiseuse"

Marianne With Her Boyfriend Nicolas Wartel (David Bursztein)

Liz's Husband Would Be Resuming His Painting

Marianne's (Emmanuelle Beart) Initial Clothed Before Four Days On His Long Abandoned Painting Titled "La Belle Noiseuse"

Initial Pen and Ink Sketches of Marianne

Marianne Removing Her Dressing Gown

Frenhofer Admitting How Liz Was One of His Models: "For the First Time, I Was Scared"

Frenhofer to Marianne: "I'm going to crumble you..."

A Pause in the 2nd Day's Painting

3rd Day of Painting

Looking at the Paintings of Herself

Frenhofer's Decision to Paint Over Liz's Abandoned Portrait

Marianne's Viewing of the Finished Portrait

Frenhofer With His Portrait

Liz Staring at the Portrait

Sealing Up a Brick Wall to Hide the Portrait

Faceless Painting Displayed - Not the One Frenhofer Had Painted of Marianne

Impending Break-up Between Marianne and Nicolas


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