“For me, clay comes first.”
While yes perhaps this is a little slow and ponderous at times it is full of fascinating detail, beautifully photographed and examines how artists can be visionary and struggling (sound familiar?) and, focusing on Camille Claudel , Rodin’s mistress and muse, also the problems of being a female artist , especially at that time but also still very relevant today , as embodied by Claudel .
There are lots of fascinating shots of Rodin’s studio , packed with plaster casts , we see his assistants etc scurrying to fill his commands and his use of various media (clay, plaster and drawings), a fascinating insight into the feverish creative process .It is mostly shot in short scenes with lots of fades inbetween . It is beautifully lit and elegantly ,lovingly photographed. Strong white light makes everyone look splendid and is contrasted at times with fragile ,luminous candlelight . The film includes quotes from various letters both by Rodin and Claudel.
RODIN marks a century since the renowned artist’s death and is directed by Jacques Doillon.The film opens in Paris in 1880 where forty-year-old Auguste Rodin has finally received his first state commission: The Gates of Hell, a writhing sculptural group work consisting of numerous figures, some of which would be the basis of future separate free-standing sculptures that would later bring him fame, such as The Kiss and The Thinker.
We see The Burghers of Calais and his Victor Hugo as well for example. At this time, he is sharing his life with Rose Beuret his common-law wife. Eventually Rodin discovers Camille Claudel, his most talented student, who quickly becomes his assistant, muse and mistress. We follow the next ten years of their stormy, passionate relationship.
After their tense and furious split, Rodin throw himself back into his work, somehow coping with the rejection by staid committees and yet buoyed by the enthusiasm provoked by the sensuality of his sculptures (both from the public and his artist friends – some of the great names such as Cezanne), and with his reworking of the two versions of his Balzac , which were rejected during his lifetime.
There is scene roughly at the midpoint of the movie where Rodin meets with his contemporary, the famous Claude Monet , and other friends including Paul Cézanne, who admits he’s depressed by all the rejection he’s getting. Rodin thinks for a moment and encourages Cézanne saying : “Don’t listen to anyone. Get back to work. There’s beauty in the work.”
There is indeed, as we see how Rodin was inspired by trees and a wriggly worm for instance , or a glistening snail trail . There are also various scenes in the studio with Rodin working from live models posing for him (some nude,some clothed ) so the beauty ,strength muscularity and wonderful shape and form of the human body is explored.
We also see how he treated both Rose and Claudel at times appallingly . Examining the relationship between eroticism and art , and art , the body and sculpture ,we see Rodin’s philandering with his models.Rodin is at times intensely, tempestuously caught between these women and his wife Rose Beuret while attempting to stay true to his muse. Rodin’s protracted affair with Claudel was the only one that really threatened the stability of his relationship with Rose ( Séverine Caneele ).
Vincent Lindon as Rodin is craggily handsome and charismatic, his long ,oval ,bearded ursine, satyr-like face with melancholy eyes a towering presence. Izïa Higelin as Claudel is fiery , luscious, feline and magnetic, struggling to make her own life and find her own voice. Rose as portrayed by Séverine Caneele is a rather phlegmatic country woman whose involvement with Rodin’s career was already fading.
The movie ends on an inspirational note with his clothed Balzac being exhibited in Japan in 2017 .
Running time –two hours no interval .in French with English subtitles
Rodin screens as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival [Facebook] various dates and cinemas 28 February – 27 March, 2018,