Best known for fluffy Oscar-winner Belle Epoque (and more recently, Chico and Rita’s vibrant jazz animation), The Artist and the Model presents a more sombre side to director Fernando Trueba. The diptych of the title are an elderly French sculptor left creatively bereft by the cumulative horrors of two world wars; and the young Spanish refugee who’s natural beauty re-inspires his artistic instincts. As the former, Jean Rochefort fully convinces as a man with sadness in his bones but a resilient passion for art’s transcendent qualities; as the latter, Aida Folch is exceptional, imbuing a somewhat underwritten character with layered nuances.
Unafraid to grapple with big themes, the script gamely grasps for a profundity that ultimately proves slightly beyond its reach. But while these ruminations on life, death, art and suchlike don’t necessarily say anything original, they’re nonetheless uttered eloquently; factor in sumptuous monochrome cinematography and an all-too-brief role for Claudia Cardinale as Rochefort’s wife, and you’ve got yourself a stately triumph.