La Belle Noiseuse

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La Belle Noiseuse
Belle noiseuse.jpg
French theatrical release poster
Directed byJacques Rivette
Written byPascal Bonitzer
Christine Laurent
Jacques Rivette
Based onLe Chef-d'œuvre inconnu
by Honoré de Balzac
StarringMichel Piccoli
Jane Birkin
Emmanuelle Béart
Marianne Denicourt
CinematographyWilliam Lubtchansky
Edited byNicole Lubtchansky
Music byIgor Stravinsky
Pierre Grise Productions
Release date
  • 14 May 1991 (1991-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 4 September 1991 (1991-09-04) (France)
Running time
237 minutes
LanguageFrench / English

La Belle Noiseuse is a 1991 French drama film directed by Jacques Rivette and starring Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, and Emmanuelle Béart. Its title (pronounced [la bɛl nwa.zøz]) means "The Beautiful Troublemaker". Loosely adapted from the short story "Le Chef-d'œuvre inconnu" (The Unknown Masterpiece) by Honoré de Balzac,[1] and set in present-day France, it tells how a famous old artist is stimulated to come out of retirement and do one last painting of a beautiful young woman. The film won the Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.


A young would-be artist Nicolas, with his partner Marianne, are introduced by the art dealer Porbus to the aged painter Frenhofer, inactive for many years, who lives in a grand château in the south of France with his young wife Liz. Conversations are desultory, until Porbus suggests that Frenhofer might like to paint the attractive Marianne, he thinks she may be what he needs to complete his last piece, abandoned ten years ago when Liz was his model. Nicolas okays the idea, later Marianne is angry with Nicolas for not having asked her first before promising the master that she will model, but goes to the chateaux the next day.

Work starts early next morning in Frenhofer's isolated studio, consisting of continual pen and wash studies on paper of Marianne in different positions, as he tries to capture the uniqueness of her body and the character of the woman within it. Over long days together their relationship varies, sometimes staying distant and sometimes getting relaxed. He progresses to working in oils on canvas, one day overpainting an unfinished study of Liz. When she sneaks into the studio one night and sees it, she is furious and hurt at the symbolism. As the object of Frenhofer's concentrated attention all day, mostly in silence, Marianne has time to rethink her relationship with Nicolas and decides she no longer needs him.

Eventually Frenhofer finishes his picture, which the film audience never sees. Once complete, the image is too powerful for Liz and for Marianne. Frenhofer hides it in a recess, which he seals with bricks and mortar, and quickly paints an innocuous version in which the face of the model is unseen. Porbus is invited to a celebratory party, after which Nicolas and the changed Marianne go their separate ways.



The film won the Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

The film received critical acclaim, and occasioned much comment on Béart's extensive onscreen nudity and director Rivette's characteristic use of a long running time (in this case, roughly four hours).

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert added the film to his Great Movies collection in April 2009.[3]

The film holds an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.08/10. The site's consensus reads: "A sensual and hypnotic masterpiece, La Belle Noiseuse luxuriates in its four-hour run time while holding audience attention".[4]

Alternative version[edit]

Rivette used alternative takes from the film and made changes in the scene order to produce a shorter, 125-minute version, La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento, for television. It was also released theatrically in some countries.


  1. ^ Apparently, it also includes elements from the short stories "The Liar" and "The Figure in the Carpet", and the novella The Aspern Papers by Henry James."Entretien Jacques Rivette - L'art secret". Les Inrocks (in French). 19 March 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: La Belle Noiseuse". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  3. ^ "La Belle Noiseuse (1991)". Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  4. ^ "La Belle Noiseuse (1991)". Retrieved 21 April 2020 – via

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