The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Artist & the Model | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Artist & the Model

An elderly French sculptor is reinvigorated by a young Spanish model.

Directed by: Fernando Trueba
Starring: Jean Rochefort, Aida Folch, Claudia Cardinale

1943. In a small Southern village in occupied France, Lea (Cardinale) spots a stunningly beautiful young Spanish girl living rough on the streets. She takes the girl, Merce (Olga Kurylenko lookalike Folch), home, where she is given room and board in exchange for modelling nude for Lea's sculptor husband Marc. The elderly artist finds himself falling for his young muse, who is secretly helping the French resistance smuggle Jews across the border into Spain.
Is there any European cinema cliche more well worn than that of the uninspired artist who finds himself reinvigorated by a hot, and usually very naked, young model? Shot in black and white, 'The Artist & the Model' could almost be the undeveloped negative of another release from this summer, Gilles Bourdos' 'Renoir'. Both movies are set in southern France during wartime (WWI in 'Renoir', WWII here) and both feature a grumpy old artist and an unsophisticated young model who teach each other a thing or two about life and art.
Writer-Director Trueba brings nothing new to the table here. A subplot involving Merce's involvement with the French resistance promises a respite from the art studio cliches but this storyline ultimately goes nowhere. There are two scenes where Folch and Rochefort get to genuinely interact with one another and briefly capture our interest but most of the film is the usual assortment of wayward glances and quivering lips.
There's an element of misogyny on display here, and I'm not referring to Folch's constant nudity, (I'm pretty sure she's nude more often than clothed here, but I'm not going to lie and say this wasn't pleasant), rather the treatment of Cardinale. Not only is the legendary Italian actress wasted here, but the movie implies that her character was only of worth to her husband when she possessed a young, lithe body. The ending fully enforces this.
Former camera operator Daniel Vilar makes his debut as cinematographer here and has a real Spaniard's eye for a great image. His monochrome photography adds a touch of magic-realism and is reminiscent of the work of his compatriot, Kiko de la Rica, on the excellent 'Blancanieves'. As was the case with 'Renoir', the cinematography is by far the best aspect of an otherwise tiresome film.

Eric Hillis