The Artist and the Model fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor. The good news is that this tender, elegant, provocative film that is set in France during the Occupation, should play in the Sag Harbor Cinema before the summer is over. It has already opened in New York City. Its famed Spanish director/writer/producer Fernando Trueba, whose Belle Epoque won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, contends that an artist must love his model in order to create a great work. He freely states that he loves Aida Folch, the female lead of The Artist and the Model, as if she were family, and he filmed her in such a way that we viewers fully understand why the elderly sculptor, Marc Cros, played by Jean Rochefort, would be captivated by Merce, the young Spanish refugee he hires to model for his final masterpiece. Yes, her nude body keeps our eyes wide open, but it is how she connects to him without uttering a word that makes us better understand the unique relationship between the artist and the model that results in her beauty being transferred to his art. The following is an excerpt from an interview I did with both the actress and the director, consisting only of my questions to Folch. Before the film plays in Sag Harbor, the paper will feature the full interview with them both.
Danny Peary: Aida, did you audition for Fernando for The Artist and the Model?
Aida Folch: No. My first film was with Fernando when I was fourteen-years-old. The Shanghai Spell. So he’d known me for six years and he calls me and asks, “Aida, do you speak French?” I said, “No, why?” He said, “I think about you for making a film.” I then went to France and learned French. Six months later I called him and spoke to him in French. Aida Folch and Fernando Trueba
DP: That was risky.
FT: That was risky and generous.
AF: For me, it was very important, too, because Fernando gave me my first opportunity to work in this world of the cinema about which I’m very passionate. He discovered me. For me, it was very important to demonstrate that I could learn French for his movie. And he said to me, “Aida, you are crazy, because I don’t have a screenplay or anything.”
DP: Did he even mention to you that you would play a model in 1943?
AF: I didn’t know anything about the film. Then after four years Fernando gave me the screenplay. I’d changed all of my life to learn the language, and I was very afraid that I wouldn’t like it. He called me every day to ask, “Aida, did you like it, the screenplay?” I was very nervous. And finally I read the screenplay and I saw it was a very special movie with a very beautiful character for me to play. This is the film of my life and I am very happy.
DP: I won’t give away the ending, but were you surprised by what happens with the artist?
AF: Yes, of course. I had a lot of doubts about the screenplay. I’d tell Fernando, “Why does that happen at the end? Why?” And, “Why is it in black-and-white and without music? And more things. It was a very different movie than anything I’d done before. I make other types of movies, I’m very young and it’s not normal to make a movie like this.. And now I understand a lot of things about the movie that I didn’t while asking Fernando. For example, I understand the character of Jean Rochefort and what he does at the end. It’s very beautiful.
DP: Your character asks the artist’s wife, “What is a model?” And she’s told, a model is someone who is naked and poses. But that’s not all she is. Is she a work for hire, a collaborator, a seducer, a muse, or an artist herself?
AF: In the beginning of the film, she understands nothing, and life is very hard. But after that sequence when they discuss Rembrandt’s drawing, she understands a lot of things about life and art. And finally, she says, “I can work with the other artists.” I don’t think she loves the work, but she has learned a profession and has the opportunity to continue with it.
DP: Because you did a lot of nudity, did Fernando have to keep reassuring you that everything was going to be okay?
AF: No, I was very comfortable, because Fernando and all the people in the film were very respectful. But sometimes it was very strange to feel the camera on a part of my body that I don’t know, my back. Otherwise, I was very comfortable.
DP: Trust is a theme of the movie, the model and the artist, and I imagine also Fernando and you.
AF: Yes. I had trust because I knew this was very elegant, gorgeous film.
DP: Aida, from this movie do you, like audience members, better understand a lot more than you did about the relationship between a model and the artist?
AF: Yes, and from working as a model for the artists who were creating the art for the movie. There is much more intimacy and than in the relationships of people in the world and in the cinema. It’s different. It’s more present and deeper. It’s not normal!