Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 1 – “The Artist and the Model” or “El artista y la modelo” or “L’artiste et son modèle”

Artist_and_the_model_02Due to scheduling conflicts, and more importantly, the recent unexpected and most unwelcome arrival of a recent stone in a certain part of my body (TMI?) I was only able to attend one screening. And as much as I would love to report to you that this one screening went off without incident, I’d be lying if I did. Let me clarify, this incident I speak of had nothing to do with my recent discovery of a diamond in my stuff, thank God for that. I’m talking about a small technical issue with the digital file of the movie. In short, the subtitles weren’t working. Although this formatting snafu was cause for many viewers to get their tickets refunded, there was still a great deal of people who choose to stay. I want to assume that those who stayed are the ones who understand French, but we all know what happens when you assume. Besides, I stayed for the entire movie and autre que dire le bonjour, oui, et je t’aime, je ne pourrais pas parler un autre mot du Français pour sauver ma vie, which translates to, “other than saying hello, yes, and I love you, I couldn’t speak another word of French to save my life.” Thank you, Google translator.

I once heard Jim Jarmusch say in an interview that he would often watch foreign films without subtitles and still be able to, for the most part, follow the story. Well, if my favorite American director can do it then I feel I should at least give it a try?

Artist_and_the_model_01four-stars4Here’s what I gathered happened in the film. I may not be 100% on point, but I’d venture to guess that I’m pretty close. Those who have seen this movie, feel free to right the many wrongs that I am about to write.

I would have begun this paragraph with a spoiler alert, but being that a lot of what transpired was lost in translation (great film, by the way) I figured what the heck. Here goes nothing. Right around the time the Nazis were invading France a poor woman is found in town and taken in by a caring woman. The caring woman offers the poor woman, who is caring as well, food and shelter in exchange for modeling nude for her husband, an old grumpy artist. We see the artist’s studio with its many paintings, sculptures and such, and I spy with my little non-speaking french eye a gun in one of the room’s corners. Guess who spotted the foreshadowing? Anyway, the artist speaks to the poor-girl-turned-model of the wisdom he’s acquired from a lifetime of admiring nature, as well as the female form, and he really admires the female form, as do I, Sir, as do I. During one exchange in particular the model speaks to him of youth and offers up some alternative perspectives to one of the artist’s favorite pictures. Soon a bond forms between the artist and the model. At some point, if for no other reason than to remind us that there is a war going on, a member of the French Resistance arrives, but he soon leaves, and then the artist and model bond some more, they start to touch each other, and the question of did they or didn’t they arrises. Then as the model cries at some words spoken from the artist so to does the woman behind me. Then the artist sits down with his gun, does some finishing touches on his sculpture and… I refuse to spoil the ending for you.

Even though I don’t speak French I was still able to enjoy this film. In fact, one of the positives of not understanding the spoken language is not having to suffer through cringeworthy lame dialogue. Not sure if this film had any, but if it did I wasn’t bothered by it. And whether I did or didn’t get the gist of the actual story (for the record, I’m pretty sure I at least got the jist), there’s a whole other beautiful aspect to admire here. I’m talking about the actual visual design of the presentation. Just the framing of the black & white photography alone was impossible to not appreciate. There were also numerous scenes in where I felt as if I were witnessing a Vitali Tikhov painting come to life.

I know watching this film in this unconventional way wasn’t ideal, but I’m glad I did, and would probably do it again. In fact I think after tomorrow’s screening of the 5 hour plus Penance I’ll pop The Gods Must be Crazy II (still haven’t seen that yet) into my DVD player – subtitles off.

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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival

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  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | Filmbalaya.com - April 30, 2013

    […] Artist And The Model – “Even though I don’t speak French I was still able to enjoy this film.” – […]

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