Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I rented this film from Blockbuster when I was about fifteen years old. During the three days that I had it (maybe more), I watched it probably four times. I'm not sure what impressed me the most-the art, the acting, or the romance. I haven't seen it since so when it premiered on OVTV this weekend, I gave it another view.

The biopic follows the life of famed sculptor, Camille Claudel-a young girl who trained under the tuttelage of Rodin himself and eventually became his lover. After a somewhat tumultuous relationship, Camille leaves Rodin behind, only to realize how strongly her work was defined by their love. Without his guiding hand, her creative strength wanes, as do her mental faculties. She becomes obsessed with his memory, convincing herself in the meantime that he is somehow stealing her ideas and stalking her person. Ultimately, she becomes an alcoholic and an agoraphobe-inprisoning herself in her studio and shunning all outside society. Without family to intervene, she would almost certainly have self destructed. Still, though her family had her committed to medical care in 1913, she never recovered from her mental illness or truly reached her artistic potential. Depressing? You bet.

Isabelle Adjani is a revelation as Camille. Her beautiful face, tiny frame, and porcelain skin are in complete contradiction to her character's boundless strength, harsh language, and latent self loathing. In short, she was perfectly cast and runs away with the movie. She makes the slow descent into madness even more painful to watch since we also much be confronted by her angellic looks and perseverance. Knowing her eventuality as we do from history, the journey is an arduous one. Depardieu is probably more physically attractive in this movie, as Rodin, than any other I've seen and he does an able job as well. Both of their faces are memorable and the physical demands of this part are handled with ease. Costumes and sets are consistent with the period, as are the subtle gray landscapes throughout. It's a very good looking movie.

I credit the director for the look of the film, but also with it's major flaw-that of being overly melodramatic. Though this story does have little to work with in terms of what is uplifting or positive, I feel like more effort should have been made in the last hour to focus on the beauty that came of the protagonists' relationship,some exquisite pieces of art. Instead, I felt that too much attention was paid to Claudel's decline to put sufficient emphasis on the sculptures and their meaning. The music was also extraordinarily tedious, assaulting us through most of the film and competing with the story itself in a distracting and overbearing way. Still, there are some worthy supporting performances in the film that deserve mention, principally that of Phillipe Clevenot as Eugene Blot.

Though I feel that this film lacks continuity in its construction and suffers from excessive melodrama, the good outweighs the bad and it remains a 'must see' movie. Adjani's portrayal is still one of my favorite performances ever put to film and it's pleasant to see Depardieu underplay a role for once. In addition, the chance to see the physical energy and strength needed to pursue this artistic medium , the closeup views of bloody knuckles being peppered with grains of marble as the chisel does its work, the sinewy paleness of bodies straining to accomplish artist- conceived poses, the stark constrast of unsculpted rock with the smoothe and flowing beauty it bcomes-all of these things will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Which leads me to give the film a well deserved 8/10.


Post a Comment

<< Home