Monday, August 5, 2013

The Artist and the Model

Another empty female character sinks the sere and somnolent Pyrenees import "The Artist and the Model," a film as unremarkable as its Brand X title connotes.
French stalwart Jean Rochefort plays Marc Cros, a sculptor highly regarded by academics and considered a peer by Henri Matisse but little known to the public. He and his wife Léa (veteran Claudia Cardinale) live quietly atop a hill in a small village. Shopping in the square one afternoon, Léa and their maid María (Almodovar regular Chus Lampreave) find Mercѐ, a pretty Spanish refugee (Aida Folch), sleeping on the sidewalk. 

They bring her home, clean her up, and offer to let her stay in a spare room. Léa suggests that Mercѐ earn her room and board by posing for Marc in his atelier. These sessions, which comprise the bulk of the overlong runtime, eventually move to the out of doors, with Mercѐ splashing around in a lake in the altogether. These two have little to say to each other - she's dumb as a stump - and what conversation there is doesn't set the world on fire. I really only liked one scene, in which Marc takes Mercѐ through each character in a Rembrandt line drawing, explaining the rich subtleties in a seemingly simple sketch.

The WWII overlay and the brief introduction of a paratrooper into the household add nothing to the picture, nor does director Fernando Trueba's pointless choice to film in black and white (earlier this year, "Renoir" had as little going on, but was at least pretty to look at). And the ending is a bad joke, a totally unearned act wholly out of keeping with the character who commits it. In very little screen time, Cardinale makes Léa the most interesting. She almost pushes Mercѐ on Marc. We're left to wonder what she's up to, what she's after.

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