Set in the south of France at the tail end of World War II, we meet elderly artist Marc Cros (Jean Rochefort) who hasn't begun a new project since the start of the war. When his wife Lea (Claudia Cardinale) brings home the young and beautiful Spanish refugee Merce (Aida Folch), it reawakens something in the old man, and he agrees to give her lodging, food and payment in exchange for her posing nude for his new sculpture.
n exploration of the love of creation, the love of art and the love of life against the backdrop of war, The Artist & The Model is at times stunningly beautiful. The lush, vibrant black and white cinematography can sometimes make the movie feel like the world's longest Stella Artois advert, but the gorgeous visuals that director Fernando Trueba finds in the natural world are nothing short of sex for the eyes.
he plot of the film pales slightly in comparison, though. While Rochefort and Folch are both very good in their roles, unfortunately their story is very episodic, and for the most part not all that interesting. While it would be far too harsh to call the movie boring, it's never in a hurry to tell it's very slight story, with the arrival of Nazi officers and resistance soldiers both jarring by their intrusion and necessary to keep any kind of momentum going. Then there's the issue of the sudden, out-of-nowhere climax which feels totally false and unnecessary.
owever, it does feel that this is a movie not trying to impress you with plot or character development. It wants to start a dialogue about creation, it wants to remind us of the potential for art that is all around us, it wants to impress us with the beauty of simplicity. Once the movie is over, you will feel the sudden urge to visit your local gallery to reintegrate yourself with artistic culture.
rt inspiring art? Cinematic failings aside, that's still something rather special.