Manos Hadjidakis has said that artists are a suspicious kind. I couldn’t agree more with him when I see how Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) tries to draw inspiration from his beautiful muse (Emmanuelle Béart).
He violently positions her arms and legs in painful, almost dislocating postures, rearranges her, looks at her, then changes her again. He will not stop unless his vision is attained, like a psychopathic killer struggling to achieve a particular state of mind. She is asked to remain in this position for some time. We see it. Emerging from her, the look he yearns for. This will inspire him.
The scenes in Frenhofer’s studio are painful for both artist and model. The painter, led by an irresistible impulse, admits that it’s the brushstroke he’s trying to please, not himself. And the brushstroke is solely responsible for his behavior. He’s right. The model indulges herself in his eyes. Her need to inspire leads her to the limits of pain.
What better motive is there in life for a woman than inspiration? At some point, when he’s disappointed, she tries to bring him back to the creative process. Then she resists his need to define and dominate her. A successful painter will absorb this tension and convey it to his work.
Jacques Rivette’s film describes accurately the exhausting creative process.