Elderly artist Marc Cros (Jean Rochefort), no longer what he once was, finds himself reinvigorated with inspiration after meeting the young, vivacious Mercè (Aida Folch), the woman taking up residence in his isolated studio for reasons that aren’t initially recognizable.
Fernando Trueba’s latest effort The Artist and the Model isn’t going to please everyone. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind Belle Epoque, co-writing with the great Jean-Claude Carrière (The Horseman on the Roof, Cyrano de Bergerac), has delivered a haunting drama revolving around inspiration and creativity amidst the most hellacious of universal discord the likes of which I’ve rarely seen before.
At the same time, the movie decisively refuses to take sides or have an opinion about some of the more disturbing moments and events of the 20th century, doing so in a methodically paced drama that is resolutely unafraid of keeping things so close to the vest the viewer won’t always know what is going on and why characters make the decisions that they ultimately do.
WWII. The Spanish Civil War. Political upheaval. Unspeakable atrocities. These things and more are circulating around Marc Cros as he tries to wander through the remainder of his days. He’s lost focus, finding inspiration amidst all this insanity almost impossible. So it is with great surprise that he finds himself reinvigorated when the mysterious Mercè walks into his life, discovering artistic impulses and a second shot at greatness he never beforehand might have thought possible.
Some will complain that the film doesn’t address some of the darker chapters and episodes of the historical events unfolding around the two central characters. I can understand where these assertions are coming from, Trueba and Carrière never allowing their central narrative to sway too far one way or the other into this political discussion. But that in many ways is the point, the characters living through this history responding to what is happening to them but not in any way actually influencing things. It’s an observational exercise, and it is left up to the viewer to decide for themselves what to make of all that is going on.
The beauty of the film is in its refined artistry. It dives into Cros’ internal needs, desires and longings with maturity and grace, allowing his story to resonate on deep, all-encompassing levels that boggle the mind. Icon Rochefort (the man has more than 150 credits to his name, appearing in films as diverse as Cartouche, The Phantom of Liberty, Ridicule and Man on the Train) is in nearly tip-top shape, his performance a stirring treatise on aging, longing, regret and inspiration that held me spellbound right from the start.
Everyone else in the film is good as well, including the beautiful Folch as well as luminous legend Claudia Cardinale, but they aren’t the focus of all of this, Rochefort obviously is, and that in the end is the magnificent simplicity that makes The Artist and the Model the somewhat transcendent stunner which it is. Not for every taste, sure, but for those that it is Trueba’s motion picture is a wonderful achievement worthy of revisiting again and again.
The Artist and the Model is presented on a dual-layer 25GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and comes with optional English subtitles.
Interview with Director Fernando Trueba (4:30)
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:02)
Not a lot to say as there’s not much to talk about. The four minutes with Trueba are nice (if not particularly insightful), but otherwise that’s just about it.
Understated, profound, moving and beautiful, Trueba’s latest is a divine examination of the creation process set amidst unimaginable strife and turmoil. In all the ways that matter most, The Artist and the Model is the director’s best film yet. Here’s hoping the Oscar-winner had a few more like it left in him.