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Camille Claudel Movie Review

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The life of Camille Claudel offers several good answers to the age-old question (probably asked by a man!): “Why are there no great woman artists?” For one thing, many make the mistake of sleeping with great male artists! For another, artistic cliques, standards, and histories are dominated by men. When I first tried to look up Camille Claudel, only recognized as a major sculptor since 1984, her name, predictably, was missing from the encyclopedia, although her brother Paul and her lover Auguste Rodin both received extensive entries. Luckily, her biography by Reine-Marie Paris is available in paperback, extensively illustrated with photographs of Camille's finest sculptures. Camille Claudel is also the focus of the fine French film starring Isabelle Adjani in the title role and Gerard Depardieu as Auguste Rodin. Marilyn Goldin's eloquent screenplay shows how difficult it was for Camille to establish herself as an artist in the late 19th and early 20th century. Like a benevolent despot, Rodin offered Camille a position in his studio, but he sealed himself off to her once their affair was over and he could no longer accept her unique, deeply threatening visions as an artist. According to her biographer, there is some evidence in the Rodin Museum to support Camille's belief that her consignment to artistic obscurity was the work of Rodin. In any event, Camille never recovered from Rodin's rejection; by 1913, her family committed her to an asylum, where she spent the last 30 years of her life before her death at the age of 78. She never sculpted again, although she wrote many lucid letters to her much-loved brother Paul, who was responsible for her confinement. Isabelle Adjani plays Camille to the hilt, perfectly capturing her clashing needs for love and work. Depardieu's Rodin is more of an enigma, but then so are most men who profess to love two women in different ways. Laurent Grevill plays Paul Claudel as a self-righteous drip, but Alain Cuny steals every scene he's in as Camille's father, the only man who seems to love and understand her exactly as she is. Note: A photograph of the real Camille Claudel at age 20 reveals intelligence, pride, strength, and beauty. All are assets for a woman and an artist but, as Bruno Nuytten's disturbing film shows, they are sometimes fatal for a student and a mistress. (In French with English subtitles.)

1989 (R) 149m/C FR Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu, Laurent Grevill, Alain Cuny, Madeleine Robinson, Katrine Boorman; D: Bruno Nuytten; W: Bruno Nuytten, Marilyn Goldin; C: Pierre Lhomme; M: Gabriel Yared. Cesar Awards ‘89: Best Actress (Adjani), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘89: Best Actress (Adjani), Best Foreign Film. VHS, LV

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