The Artist and The Model
Photograph courtesy of the Glasgow Film Theatre
ARTIST AND THE MODEL
Run time: 104mins
Director: Fernando Trueba Cast: Jean Rochefort, Aida Folch, Claudia Cardinale, Chus Lampreave
Distributor: Axiom Films
Synopsis: In 1943 an old sculptor and his wife live in a small town on the border between occupied France and Franco’s Spain. 80 year-old Marc Cros has not sculpted for years. But when his wife Lea finds a Spanish woman, Mercè, on the run from Franco’s army and offers her the chance to live in the artist’s studio, Marc inadvertently finds himself with an attractive young model for what will be his last sculpture. Slowly a beautiful relationship develops between the young girl, just starting out in life, and the old man who senses his end is approaching.
From the Academy Award winning director of ¨Belle Epoque¨ and the nominated animated film, ¨Chico and Rita¨- The Artist and the Model is a stunning black and white film about the artist’s vision and the different ways of seeing.
At the beginning of the film, sculptor Marc (Jean Rochefort) pauses on his walk to pick up and examines minutely the skeletal head of a bird. Later we discover that homing pigeons are often killed and eaten as a subversive act. Meanwhile in the village, his wife, Lea (Claudia Cardinale) finds a beautiful young Spanish woman, Mercè (Aida Folch) and persuades her to come and live in the studio and be a model for her husband . Mercè’s young life has been shaped as a refugee from Franco’s Spain and helping wartime resistance fighters.
When she is puzzled by the fact that Marc’s sculpture doesn’t look like her – he gently chides her with the words of Cezanne that the purpose of the life model is for the artist to consult – not copy – nature. Earlier he has shown her Rembrandt’s drawing, A Child Learning to Walk to explain that she must ‘learn to look at things with attention’.
When Mercè finds Marc’s detachment puzzling while World War Two rages around them, he states that he has a sculpture to finish with or without the war. The touching and tender relationship that builds up between the artist and his model and the themes within the film argue a convincing case for art as a means of understanding and surviving the world.
Marc also has an exceptional sensitive understanding with his wife, played by the great 1960s Italian film star and beauty, Claudia Cardinale. When she asks him if she chose well with a model to unblock him – he reminds her: ‘They don’t make bodies like yours anymore.’
Just as in nature – as is said in the film – beauty reveals itself in ways that seem impossible – the simple elegance of this film stimulates thought and contemplation long after viewing.