Let's give it this much: Jacques Doillon's tough-sit sex-life-of-the-artist boob-a-palooza looks great, especially in its opening moments. Rodin's first scene, an arresting long take, finds the great sculptor Auguste Rodin thinking away in his wide cinder block of a studio, scheming out a great work that would take him decades to complete: The Gates of Hell, inspired by Dante's Inferno. The hands and heads of the damned -- sculpted by students and assistants -- surround him.
The story kicks in before that shot cuts off. Rodin marches to side room, where a young woman, his student, is toiling. It's clear, immediately, that the woman -- Camille Claudel (Izia Higelin) -- is also his lover, and that their relationship is as prickly as it is passionate. What's less clear, at first, is that she is gripped by her own genius, a fact the film's only tangentially interested in. It really doesn't care, much, about what women do with their clothes on.
Unlike Bruno Nuytten's Camille Claudel, Doillon's film only shows us Claudel as Rodin knew her: as the one lump of clay or flesh he can't shape himself. Other than the sets and facsimiles of sculptures, Higelin is the most engaging thing in Rodin, its heat and its heart. Her Claudel at first is all eagerness and promise, dancing high-spirited rings around her older, often inexpressive lover. He spends the next years of his life moping over her once the affair goes sour. You might mope, too, when she's suddenly gone from the movie -- when we're left to regard the miserable moments of a miserable man, wandering his studio, cheering himself up by intensely regarding the naked flesh of his models.