The artiest of art house and a sad tale of the times

By Brigit Grant, September 16, 2013
Jean Rochefort gives a nicely sculpted performance

Jean Rochefort gives a nicely sculpted performance

The Artist and The Model (18)

Kelly + Victor (18)

One of the greatest French films I ever saw was Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992), an extraordinary love story made unforgettable by the performance of its star, Jean Rochefort. Now 83, Rochefort has been a fixture in French cinema since the mid-1950s and though he is still making a movie a year, it would be foolhardy to miss his performance in The Artist and The Model, which is directed by Fernando Trueba.

Rochefort plays Marc Cros, a sculptor living in a small town under German occupation in 1943, who appears to be suffering from sculptor’s block (or whatever the equivalent might be). This changes when his wife suggests employing a young Spanish refugee, Mercè (Aida Folch) as a model. Folch is quite magnificent to look at, but what will intrigue you more is that the wife is played by Claudia Cardinale, who was touted as Italy’s answer to Brigitte Bardot — and at the age of 75, remains a handsome woman suited to the role of the sculptor’s former muse.

Shot digitally in wide-screen black and white, the film is intentionally stark, much like the performances by the two leads, who we see benefiting from each other’s company, though this has nothing to do with the fact that Folch is often in the nude. In as arty as an art house film can be, Cros rediscovers his passion for his work through his model. The rest of us enjoy the visuals and wonder how it’s possible for the history of the period not to intrude and make the film a lot more interesting than even Rochefort manages.

Kelly + Victor is a desperately sad tale of our times, demonstrating how a romance initiated by drugs has a bleak future. It’s not my job to give away endings. But the mood of Kieran Evans’s film — an adaptation of Niall Griffiths’s novel — is so bleak that it’s not hard to guess what lies ahead for romantic dreamer Victor (handsome Julian Morris) and the clearly damaged and morose Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), who meet when they are off their faces at a Liverpool club. The couple do not spend enough time together in the film for us to get any sense of the depth of feeling they have for one another and the best thing I can say about Kelly + Victor is that the photography makes Liverpool look great. For Liverpudlians, that may just be enough. Not sure about the rest.

Last updated: 11:45am, September 16 2013