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Movie Reviews

Vivid  

Recently, I watched La Belle Noiseuse, a French film starring Michel Piccolli and Emmanuelle Beart, involving the battle of wills between an old, troubled artist attempting to finish a 10 year old masterpiece, and the stubborn model who poses for him. The film Vivid also contains an amazingly similar plot of a frustrated artist and a woman (in this case, his girlfriend as well) who inspires him. To compare these two films is to witness what occurs when an idea goes right, and when one goes horribly, hysterically wrong.

I must first place a stipulation upon this film. La Belle Noiseuse contained a fair amount of nudity, due to the requirements of Beart to play the model as was written in the script. The story itself is a very intense, talky affair. Vivid, on the other hand, contains much nudity because it is a sex film, the kind sitting next to such examples of high art on the video shelf as Delta of Venus, Friend of the Family, and anything starring Shannon Tweed. And like most of these films, the only thing going for it is the nudity and the completely unintentional comedy.

The story (if you can call it that) tells about a frustrated artist, who constantly bothers his live-in girlfriend with his temper tantrums due to his artist's block. Literally every time he picks up a brush, he proceeds to smash everything in sight, ruining a perfectly good canvas every time. He is so distraught he can't even have sex with his girlfriend anymore. This of course makes her equally frustrated as well. It all comes to a head when she reluctantly poses for him. He, again, gets angered at his lack of inspiration (dare I say talent!!!) and flings his tools around. Her yelling at him to wizen up doesn't help, and so he throws his paint at her nude body. In a flash, he suddenly is inspired by this incredible beauty and before you know it, they are rubbing paint all over each other and make wild passionate love on numerous canvases all over the floor. He has his art again, and she has her sexual needs satisfied. The artist's agent sees these paintings and has fame and dollars flashing in her eyes, and suddenly his groundbreaking experiment becomes a hit with the elite. But, problems still ensue in his private life, as his girlfriend gets tired of this weirdness, and he develops an obsession with it.

Now where do I begin. Missed opportunities: they are plenty! I, for one, was hoping there would be an attempt to satirize the stuffy art world. Couldn't you imagine people at an art gallery looking at this stuff. (The perspective!! What does it all mean!! ) But, alas, such a scene did not occur, because the filmmakers knew it wouldn't inspire anything worth talking about. This artist's paintings make those million dollar abstract works hanging at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa seem comprehensible. Perhaps we should not have been shown the paintings, then we could use our imagination. We could have our own personal vision of what such an unusual method of creativity would result in. La Belle Noisuse denied a view of Picolli`s masterpiece, and yet it wasn't a bother. It made the artist seem more mysterious, complex. Vivid could have done the same.

And what exactly is wrong with the main character. The painter isn't just frustrated, he's borderline psychotic. He acts like a little kid having brutal temper tantrums. His girlfriend shouldn't get angry, she should be prescribing the Ritilan for him. Either that or fearing for her own life. Yet, the movie doesn't develop on such a premise. It doesn't realize the artist has problems that go far beyond artist's block.

The girlfriend is no better. The actress's delivery is dripping with sarcasm, yet she never does the right thing and leave this twit when she should have, which was before the movie started. Then at least she wouldn't be with a frustrated, manic-depressive non artist with a potentially fatal paint fetish.

The final problem is that the action is confined to their apartment. There are only two exterior shots in the whole movie (and my friend joked it was stock footage.) And the only other actor is the artist's agent, who for about 45 seconds represents a threat to the already unstable relationship between the artist and the girlfriend. I wouldn't dare tell you the scene the girlfriend walks in on which cements her worries; you have to see it for yourself.

I told another friend that this is the sort of movie to watch for bad acting, dialogue, etc. This film has it in spades. It is also the kind of film to make you appreciate the hard work which goes into a film with any true substance. Vivid is a film which employed a number of people for their services, but ended up getting paid for sitting around on the job.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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