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Nadia Boulanger - Mademoiselle
Nadia Boulanger - Mademoiselle
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2007     1hr 19min


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Movie Details

Creator: Nadia Boulanger
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical, Documentary
Studio: Juxtapositions
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/20/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1977
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 19min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Fascinating Look at the Most Famous Composition Teacher of
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 12/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Nadia Boulanger (1887-1997), universally called 'Mademoiselle' by her students, was easily the best-known teacher of composition in the last century. The list of her students from America includes, among many others, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Roy Harris and Leonard Bernstein. This documentary is the first film ever made by Bruno Monsaingeon, a former musician who has gone on to become a leading classical music documentarian. It was shot in the 1960s and early 1970s in grainy black & white and only average sound, when Boulanger was in her late 80s and still fearsomely in command of her abilities. This film remains one of the most important documents concerning this fabled teacher. She is seen at one of her fabled 'Wednesdays', a composition lesson held weekly in her apartment for almost six decades and attended by anyone who would come. In this particular session she talks illuminatingly with students about a small portion of Schumann's 'Davidsbündertanze.' The incredibly talented prodigy, the Bulgarian pianist-composer Emile Naumoff, demonstrates at the piano; he looks to be no older than perhaps ten or twelve. Boulanger's comments are terse, penetrating and forceful.

Interweaved with the 'Wednesday' material are interview clips with Monsaingeon -- expanded in his later book 'Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger' -- and, added in the late 1970s, Monsaingeon interview footage with Leonard Bernstein (in French) and the noted conductor/composer Igor Markevitch. An extra is a complete performance by the ORTF Philharmonic, with Markevitch on the podium, of Mozart's Symphony No. 38, 'Prague'.

There is an extensive booklet note by Monsaingeon in which he details how the documentary came about and how he revised it some years later. (For reasons of rights, he had to drop its opening segment in which he showed a scene from the Ali McGraw/Ryan O'Neal film, 'Love Story', where McGraw's character says that she is 'going to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger' without offering an explanation as to who Boulanger was, evidence that Boulanger's name was well enough known that a mass audience didn't more than mention of her name.) There is also a reprint of a touching letter from Bernstein to Monsaingeon recounting his last visit with Mademoiselle just before her death.

The focus of this documentary is musical entirely. There is no attempt to convey biographical details about Boulanger, in keeping with Mademoiselle's wishes. This makes this relatively short documentary all the more densely packed with relevant examples of her style and philosophy of teaching.

For those interested in the work of Boulanger and needing some insight into her methods, this film is self-recommending.

Duration: Documentary - 54 mins; Performance - 25 mins; Region code: 0 (worldwide); Sound - DD stereo (documentary), LPCM 2.0 (performance); Picture format: NTSC - 4:3, black & white; Menus: French, English; Subtitles: English.

Scott Morrison"
(-) "You are letting yourself be ruled by technique"
fCh | GMT-5, USA | 05/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I came to Nadia Boulanger by means of Dinu Lipatti, (Piano Concertos) her pupil and one of the most gifted, if short lived, piano players of the 20th century. Then, this being a film made by Bruno Monsaingeon, whom I met through Richter: The Enigma [Region 2], the decision to watch it came naturally.

The film is the first one made by Monsaingeon, in 1977, upon Ms. Boulanger's 90th year of life. It is rather short and, as the author concedes, owes a lot in format and content to the limitations of shooting film in the early '70s--one could shoot continuously only for 11 minutes on 16mm film. One becomes so much more aware of the shortcomings by checking out Mademoiselle: Conversations With Nadia Boulanger.

Nadia Boulanger, comes by virtue of biography, with-in the generation(al) transition between two ages in the world of classical music; simpler put, between the 19th and the 20th centuries, and their types of music, respectively. And, while strongly anchored in the classical canon, she'd keep an open eye and mind towards the new musical expressions of creators such as Schoenberg. In other words, Stravinsky might have chronologically been among the last composers whose creation she resonated with. At the same time, she had undertaken the study of Schoenberg, with the idea that new musical grammars could, and ought to, have evolved.

All prior limitations of the production aside, the DVD is a real treasure for the student/practitioner of most any craft. Indeed, coming from such a culture and time, Ms. Boulanger speaks a lot to what goes wrong today and how things can be fixed. On this latter point, for example, she was of the opinion that in addition to talent, culture and all the likes, it was necessary to have character in order to succeed and excel. She's also quoted as 'scornfully dismissing' somebody in such terms: "You are letting yourself be ruled by technique." So, those who love craft will likely be most pleased by this DVD. As Paul Valery put it, "She ordains enthusiasm with discipline."

At the highest level of analysis, it is interesting how Ms. Boulanger would justify something simply by stating its quality of being so. Does this mean that she lived in a world of "everything goes?" Far from it, her canon was too rigorous for that. In her own words, "As I accept God, I accept beauty, I accept emotion. I also accept masterpieces."

Igor Markevitch and Leonard Bernstein are also featured in this film, and there is a moving last conversation between Bernstein and the dying Ms. Boulanger in the booklet that comes along. In fact, the booklet makes its own contribution to the package, not the last being Monsaingeon's candor in looking back at his first creation of this genre.

And now, if you'd allow me, my own question for Ms. Boulanger would have been about her opinion(s) on Jazz...

All in all, it's not a 5-star package, but it comes close. Probably, the people behind this production felt the same way when deciding to include herein Mozart's "Prague" symphony, no 38, conducted by Igor Markevitch .

P.S. Especially for the American viewer, for a student perspective into Ms. Boulanger's teaching, have a look at the first part of the 2nd dvd Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. Philip Glass makes it clear why he chose to go and study with Nadia Boulanger, how she worked with her students, and how she helped him become a composer."