La Rivière Gentille


The most recent of three documentaries screening in anticipation of the career retrospective of French artist Louise Bourgeois, which comes to the Guggenheim this fall, La Rivière Gentille finds the 96-year-old sculptor and painter more devoted to her work than many of her much younger, much hungrier counterparts. Equally devoted to Bourgeois is director Brigitte Cornand, whose latest installment in her extended portrait (which includes Chère Louise: A Portrait of Bourgeois and The Whisper of the Whistling Water, both playing at Anthology as part of its “Louise Bourgeois on Film” series) offers something of a video scrapbook: The camera settles on decades’ worth of datebooks, some pages filled with the worried ledger of an artist’s budget; shabbily impressionistic shots linger lovingly over Bourgeois at her worktable; and the artist occasionally lapses into family reminiscences, touching on the origins of her lifelong habits and passions. In one scene, Cornand plays for Bourgeois a tape of the artist’s own singsongy ramblings, recorded as she was painting at an earlier time, and we simply watch Bourgeois listening for several minutes, her face rippling with pleasure and then some other, more complicated memory. Whether you find these sequences revelatory in their Zen persistence or frustratingly remote is likely a matter of interest; the film’s meandering quality is clearly (often too clearly) dependent on the former response, suggesting it as required viewing for superfans only. And if Cornand’s rapt efforts are any indication of the fealty that her subject inspires, such followers will hang on every frame.