DIR: Fernando Trueba • WRI: Jean-Claude Carrière, Fernando Trueba • PROD: Fernando Trueba • DOP: Daniel Vilar • ED: Marta Velasco • DES: Pilar Revuelta • CAST: Jean Rochefort, Aida Folch, Claudia Cardinale
The Artist and the Model is a 2012 Spanish film directed by the Spanish Fernando Truebo. In French, with subtitles, it stars the French Jean Rochefort, Italian Claudia Cardinale and Spanish Aida Folch. Nominated for best film and best director at last year’s Spanish Goya Awards, Truebo also picked up the Silver Shell for best director at the San Sebastian Film Festival, adding to his collection, which includes an Oscar in 1994 for Belle Époque in the best foreign language film category.
In Lost in Translation the young Sofia Coppola uses the relationship between Bob, an actor coming to the end of his career, and Charlotte, a college graduate looking to find her way in life, to quietly contemplate the meaning of life and living. Against the background of the vibrant, enormous, present day Tokyo, their friendship develops allowing them to reflect off each other to find their way forward. Approaching sixty, Fernando Truebo uses the relationship between the ageing artist Marc and the coming-of-age Merce to explore the same questions from the perspective of a life longer lived. Combining the collective talents of Jean Rochefort, whose eyes as the artist express more than words could, with the lasting beauty of Claudia Cardinale and contrasting it with the youthful exuberance of Aida Folch in the quiet countryside at foothills of the Pyrenees.
Filmed in black and white the film begins in a small French town close to the French border during World War II. Food shopping in the market Lea Cros sees a beautiful young stranger bathe her feet in the town fountain. She takes her home giving her shoes and dinner. Observing Merce as she eats, Marc, Lea’s husband eventually offers her a place to stay, not in their home but in his studio higher up the mountain and asks her to model for him. Reassured by Emilie the housemaid that he is a good man Merce agrees. From a tentative beginning she grows in confidence posing nude for the sculptor, their relationship develops with Marc trying to impart the knowledge of a long-lived life teaching Merce to see the beauty in the detail of the world around her- as the camera imparts the same lesson to the audience.
Marc struggles to capture the quintessential essence of Gods grace in Merces beauty until the arrival of Pierre, an injured member of the resistance, brings the reality of the war into the old man’s sanctuary. Marc forced to accept the ugliness of the world around him, is released into finding this essence in the frailty of the human condition.
This is a beautifully, slowly filmed piece of work. Its quietness allowing us escape from the craziness of our world for an hour and a half letting Marc show us as he does Merce how he survived the cruelty of humankind. The soft light of the black and white photography lends a timeless quality to the film capturing the cause for Marc’s quest. As he contemplates how World War II was allowed to happen after World War I we can only wonder with the same inquisitiveness how the world unfolds with us today.
I don’t know for how long the slow cinema movement will keep pace with the cinema industry machine of today so I’d recommend taking the opportunity while you still have time to let this beauty caress you too.
The Artist and the Model is released on 13th September 2013