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Sunday, September 11, 2011

ART FILM FEATURE: CAMILLE CLAUDEL





Review/Film; 'Camille Claudel,' a Soul's Disintegration
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: December 22, 1989

LEAD: Gerard Depardieu is not only the greatest, most enthusiastic film actor in France, he is also the most generous. Since 1971, he has made 64 movies, good, bad, great and indifferent.

Gerard Depardieu is not only the greatest, most enthusiastic film actor in France, he is also the most generous. Since 1971, he has made 64 movies, good, bad, great and indifferent.

Some people give time, bone marrow or blood to help their friends. Mr. Depardieu appears in their movies. Without him, there might be no French film industry.

There would certainly be no ''Camille Claudel,'' at least no ''Camille Claudel'' that one could survive without the frequent administration of the Heimlich maneuver.

Mr. Depardieu makes it safe to watch this gaudy, overstuffed movie biography without either choking to death or splitting one's sides. Indeed, when he is on the screen (and sometimes even when he is off), the movie is one of the most thoroughly entertaining bad movies ever made.

''Camille Claudel'' arrives here having been an enormous box-office hit in France, where it also won five Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscar), including those for best picture and best actress. Given a little bit of help, it should find an audience in this country. Schmaltz of this ripe order is irresistible.

The true auteur of the film is Isabelle Adjani, who was instrumental in its production and who plays the title role.

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was the talented, beautiful, deeply troubled French sculptor who, for a comparatively brief period in her youth, was the collaborator and mistress of the greatest sculptor of the 19th century, Auguste Rodin, twice her age at the time they met.

In the years after she was dropped by Rodin, Claudel became convinced that members of ''Rodin's gang'' were out to steal her ideas and to ruin her reputation and her life. At first she was merely eccentric. Once, to make a point, she sent a package of cat excrement to the minister of culture. There seems to be no doubt that she was later deranged.

In 1913, she was committed to an insane asylum by her mother and her younger brother, Paul, the ardently Roman Catholic poet and playwright. She remained institutionalized for 30 years, until her death at the age of 78.

It's clear why Miss Adjani was attracted to the biography of this sad, benighted woman, whose artistic reputation is currently being revised upward by some critics.

Read full article here.

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