by Brad Nelson 5/15/16
I was watching yet another awful French movie the other day. (There is something decidedly wrong with the French.) But it is often in foreign films that you can find something worth watching outside of the Hollywood cesspool of unoriginality and juvenile tastes. One takes one’s chances in doing so though.
The Artist and the Model (a thoroughly French film) is about an artist and a model. He’s an aging artist suffering from writer’s block (carver’s block?). He can drop names like Matisse and others. He’s connected and obviously an important, but second-tier, sculptor. And he even knows a few good Nazis.
The movie is set in occupied France. His wife (a former model) finds an attractive girl sleeping in the street. She knows she’s the type her husband likes to sketch. Penniless, Mercè (played by Aida Foich) agrees to be his model if she can just sit still long enough. Ninety percent of the movie is her showing what Jerry Seinfeld might call good naked and the old artist dispensing art philosophy (some of it indeed interesting) to his model while trying to unblock his creative block.
And it’s a movie that comes this close to having a point. But it’s French. So, of course, when this model leaves near the end of the war to return to her home, the old guy — having completed his first rough sculpture of a mini-masterpiece — kills himself. Roll credits. The filmmakers were not going for a comedic ending, but I laughed myself silly. How predictably stupid and French. So don’t watch this one. The good naked just isn’t worth it.
Another French movie you can avoid is called Ridicule. It’s bad for different reasons. It sounds like a great premise. A good-hearted young man goes to court in the time of King Louis XVI looking for a grant to drain the swamps that are killing the local peasants.
But much like today’s vapid politics, logic, brains, or even charm is not the currency. In the court of Louis it is wit that decides whether you gain a reputation and thus are invited to all the right parties (including gaining an audience with the king).
Okay, so you suppose that this is a chance for the do-gooder country engineer, Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy, who has shown he has a natural biting tongue, to really let loose on the French court, having at it with the pumped-up, pampered, and powdered French aristocracy, especially in a good cause.
Alas, his wit is fairly flacid. There is little bite in anyone’s tongue. Why they would make a movie like this and not write some good dialogue is beyond me, although maybe the French, being French, are easily amused. But at least he doesn’t kill himself in the end, which is how many French filmmakers get out of the conundrum of having nothing to say. But this is certainly better than The Artist and the Model.
On another note, season three of Call the Midwife was exceptional, the series having hit its stride. Yes, in this series there are an awful lot of women giving painful birth. But the characters are good, and (finally) in season three, the stories are much more fully developed and interesting. You should watch this. And the good news is that it’s English, not French.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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