Camille Claudel - Classic Film Pick
Co-writer/director Bruno Nuytten's filmic adaptation of 19th century female sculptor Camille Claudel's difficult life is an epic biopic. Aided by Isabelle Adjani's unforgettably fearless portrayal of the gifted sculptor, who was already a fully formed artist when she studied under Auguste Rodin, the film captures the milieu of French sculpture at its height. There's a passionately tactile connection to the medium of clay, stone, and marble that we witness being worked into stunning works of art. The sounds of hammers hitting chisels and cloth sanding plaster lends a rhythmic undercurrent. Camille's personal relationship with the peasant whom she uses as her regular model provides a bearing for who she is. Her brother Paul (Laurent Grévill) grounds her as a person understood most by the men in her family, but rejected by her mother and sister.
Nuytten (the director of the classic "Jean de Florette") brings scope to the story in the way he utilizes French settings in the contexts of seasonal changes, all the while examining the human forms that excite the artists. When Rodin and Claudel position a nude model together for the first time it comes as a pure moment of artistic creation. The model poses on a turntable that exposes every crease and crevice of her carefully poised body. The effect is urgently erotic, yet passively resigned to an area of passive exhibitionism.
Gérard Depardieu's flawless performances as the egotistical Auguste Rodin is crucial to providing the romantic fire that burns between Rodin and Claudel. He is a cunning manipulator of passion. The couple's unwieldy romance burns out under pressures contributed to as much by Camille's drowning desire to possess him as by Rodin's jealous wife. Also, Rodin is too established in his duties to the art world to allow any woman to fetter his ideals of liberty and entitlement.
Threads of familial, political, social, artistic, economic, and psychological issues weave through the film. To comprehend the impact of Camille Claudel's artistic achievements is to share in a spiraling struggle with insanity that consumes her before our eyes. Isabelle Adjani co-produced the film. Adjani's intimate affinity for Camille Claudel encompasses a depth of empathy that goes deeper even than what we see on the screen. Her simultaneous sense of forcefulness and delicacy represent a rare quality of truthfulness.