A feast for the senses--and the spirit!
Snowbrocade | Santa Barbara, CA | 06/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a feast for the senses--and the spirit. The story is a fictionalized version of the apprenticeship of a famous viol player, Marais, in the 1600's. His teacher, the legendary Sainte Colombe is a man who makes a spiritual discipline of playing music to the exclusion of nearly all else. Sainte Colombe's talent is supposed to be so great that he can imitate any human sound. Yet he does not care about fame and fortune. He shuns the frivolity of the French court of Louis XIV and even refuses to go to court when commanded by the King who wishes to hear him play.
Sainte Colombe fires his young disciple Marais despite his considerable talent. Colombe states in essence that Marais' astounding techinical expertise aside that there is no music in what he plays. Marais goes on to become court musician but still yearns to learn from the master.
This incredible story was filmed with precision and artistry. Each scene looks looks like a renaissance painting. The story is sad and haunting--clearly many of the characters are clinically depressed. Yet somehow this film conveys an unearthly beauty and dedication to art that is inspiring.
In addition the music is a wonderful discovery. Having never heard these composers it is a joy to be exposed to these plaintive complex melodies."
French Baroque Masterpiece
Margaret M. Duffy | 07/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This haunting story is based on the historical relationship between Marain Marais and this teacher St Columbo, two of the most renown gambists of all time (the gamba is a stringed, fretted instrument, popular in the 1700's, which looks something like a cello). St. Columbo (his first name is unknown) is an extremely dark and complex person, "all passion and rage yet mute as a fish". When his beautiful young wife dies unexpectedly he retreats from the world, devoting his life to his instrument and his art. Although recognized as the finest gambist in France, he becomes a recluse, defying even the king's order to play at the royal court.What is the meaning of music? Is it to impress one's rivals? To entertain? For gold? No, says the master, none of these. And one who makes music is not necessarily a musician. The young Marais, who has become his student, struggles to fathom its meaning. . Great attention is paid to details and authenticity. The viewer is given glimpses of the lavish court of France in the 1700's, the decadence of the privileged, and immersed in a sound track of Marais' exquisite French baroque music performed by virtuoso players. There is a love interest between Marais and Columbo's eldest daughter (also an accomplished gambist), which, although almost incidental to the plot, allows the film to be billed as a passionate love story. Other than a few graphic moments, however, All the Mornings of the World is a story of the love of music, rather than carnal loveAll the Mornings is a must-see for people with artistic inclinations. Those who love baroque music (1600-1750) will definitely want to order this film. And if you should happen to play the viola da gamba you have no choice but to purchase it (sheet music for much of the sound track is available in a collection from the Boulder Early Music Shop, if you feel adventuresome).For the esoteric viewer, All the Mornings rates five stars."
All the mornings of the world dawn but once
Tintin | Winchester, MA USA | 08/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alain Corneau's 1991 All the Mornings of the World (Fr. Tous les matins du monde) is undoubtedly the most beautiful and meaningful film ever made about music and what it means to be a musician. Working in close collaboration on the scenario with the author of a novel by the same name, Pascal Quignard, Alain Corneau chose among the Baroque repertoire the essential pieces of music for the film, exhuming in the process rare pieces by Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, which he esthetically and philosophically opposed to Marin Marais' own music. These pieces are masterfully interpreted by the world-renowned bass viol player, Jordi Savall, who provided what I would call "the icing on the cake." The film won no less than seven Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscars.
The film relates the real story of Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, with a few fictitious anecdotes added to make it more interesting. As in the novel, the dialogue is simple, using our contemporary vocabulary, but the turn of the phrases are typical of 17th Century parlance, whose style recalls the writings of the French dramatists of that epoch, like Pierre Corneille or Jean Racine. The whole story is told from Marin Marais' point of view. The voice-over by Gerard Depardieu imparts a rhythm to different scenes of the film, and when he recalls the life of the Sainte Colombe family before his arrival in the picture, the words precede the images, which then follow as illustrations.
The music, intimately linked to the story, also provides a rhythm. Almost every scene has to do with music, unless it provides an explanation. During Madeleine's ultimate meeting with Marais, it simply substitutes itself for the words. But at no time in the film are we subjected to any dry, academic discussion of music theory. We are treated instead to some great musical works: the rather little known music of Sainte Colombe, that of Marin Marais, exquisitely played by Jordi Savall, but also the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully (his rousing "March for the Turks' Ceremony"), of Francois Couperin, and of Jordi Savall himself.
The two characters, Monsieur de Sainte Colombe and Marin Marais, differ wildly from one another in their physical appearances, personalities, and manners. de Sainte Colombe first appears dressed in black, to play his viol at the bed side of a newly deceased friend. de Sainte Colombe is a Jansenist, stern, taciturn, and somewhat old fashioned, and he chooses a life of a recluse upon his wife's death. As a Jansenist, he abhors the Jesuits, especially those who live in ostentatious luxury at Versailles. He has problems communicating with other people, including his daughters, his only effective means of expression being his music. He stays silent most of the time, and when he speaks, he is curt, as if incapable of conversation. At the time of the story, he is at an age when a man's character, his personality, does not change. He is also sentimental, staying faithful to the memory of his deceased wife, who appears to him when he plays well.
When Marais first appears, he is dressed in a red jacket. Marin Marais is young, and although a little timid at first, he soon becomes sure of himself. He is "on the go," ambitious, and sees a career in music as a way to change his social class. He is definitely a "social climber." Marais is ruthless in his pursuit of his aims: having drawn the maximum out of Madeleine, her knowledge of the viol and her love, both of which she gave freely, Marais drops her like an old shoe and escapes to the Court. The audition scene unambiguously determines the characters of the two protagonists: the young virtuoso plays facing the audience, in full light, while the Master is shown in profile, partly in the shadow.
This scene also reveals two opposite reasons for playing the viol. Marais, having lost his singing voice after entering puberty, is looking to the instrument for a substitute, just as Sainte Colombe, who lost his wife, is looking to his art as a means to reconnect with her. But the young man, who has been evicted from the Court, also looks at the viol as a form of revenge, which will allow him to satisfy his ambitions. Far from wanting a revenge on his fate, Sainte Colombe is looking for solace, for the appeasement of the internal wound he carries.
The actual playing of the viol by the two protagonists could not be more different: Marin Marais' playing is dexterous, and a display of its virtuosity, in search for an audience's approval, while Sainte Colombe's is inspired, passionate and full of sorrows. Their environments are also at opposite ends. Sainte Colombe's house is calm, rustic: it's the country, but Marais' residence is in Versailles, at the Court of Louis XIV, with all its brilliance, luxuries and happenings.
Gerard Depardieu's son, Guillaume, just starting in his acting career, interprets Marin Marais as a young man. He succeeds well at projecting the character of a somewhat shallow but determined young man. Gerard Depardieu appears in the first six minutes of the film, and later toward the end of the film as the mature Marin Marais. His acting is conveying the depressed state of mind of Marais in a convincing manner. But, through his voice-over, he has an imposing presence all along the film's duration, which gives a sense of nostalgia and regret to the story. But it is Jean-Pierre Marielle's performance which steals the show. He is just outstanding as the austere, taciturn Jansenist. Marielle has acted in more than one hundred films, and his Monsieur de Sainte Colombe is certainly one of his best performances. Anne Brochet's acting is delicate, as a simple and sincere young woman, and Carole Richert, as her "sister," is a convincing as an easygoing Toinette. Violaine Lacroix and Nadège Teron, in their roles as the two daughters in their earlier years, were an inspired choice. Their personalities and acting well defines the differences in the characters of the two sisters, which are later developed by Brochet and Richert.
The film also pays tribute to 17th Century painting. Lubin Baugin, a Jansenist friend of Sainte Colombe, famous for his still lifes, paints the pictures "Still Life with Wafers," and "Still Life on the Chessboard." Also, one cannot watch this film without comparing Yves Angelo's gorgeous cinematography to the paintings of Georges de la Tour. Clearly influenced by Caravaggio, de la Tour's themes were few, as he tried to refine his chiaroscuro technique. He was a specialist of night paintings, depicting interior scenes lit only by the glare of candles. Angelo's images are stunning in rendering this effect in the interior scenes. The light is somber and dark in Sainte Colombe's premises, translating the state of mind of the artist and his humble life, while it is bright and warm at the Court, reflecting the ostentatious life surrounding the King.
Corneau's many close-up shots and extreme close-up shots bring intimacy between the characters and the viewer, producing an intimate contact with the actors' deepest feelings, which could not possibly be rendered by dialogue. This requires the outstanding acting of the two actor-musicians, especially during their music-playing scenes. Which brings up another type of "acting," that of faking the playing of the instruments, as none of the actors is a musician, or even a viol player. Thus, the two Depardieux and especially Marielle underwent several months of serious training on the instrument. The results are that the fingerings on the frets of the viols follows precisely the music being played, and the facial expressions of the actors also mirror what one would expect from real performers. This is not a trivial achievement, which contributes greatly to make the transformation of the actors into musicians convincing.
The film is an ode to the inner beauty and the meaning of music, and its main theme is the love of music. All the characters in the film are connected to it; the teacher and composer Sainte Colombe who improved the viol; Marais also teacher and composer; the two daughters who give recitals with their father, and the Kings' representatives. At first, there is a divergence of views between the two protagonists as to the purpose of music and of being a musician. Marais is after a brilliant career, with all the socio-economical advantages it brings, as opposed to a solitary, ascetic, and uncompromising Sainte Colombe who is searching only to perfect his art to an absolute. He plays for himself only, and not on a stage, in front of a public, and certainly not at Louis XIV's Court. His love of music is unselfish and total, while Marais sees in the viol a means to an end. Savall was careful in his choices of the pieces to be played by the two characters in order to illustrate their different approaches to music. However, Savall chose Le tombeau des regrets, the piece Sainte Colombe composed for his dead wife, for Marais' "last/first" lesson from his Master, which they play together in a mutual understanding. Their antagonism resolves itself in a final confrontation, which turns out to be reconciliation, as Marais finally understand the true meaning of music and that of being a musician.
Another theme is Death. The first images of Sainte Colombe, showing him playing his viol at the bedside of his dead friend, identify him with funeral music. In the recalling of Sainte Colombe's life, Marais presents his teacher as a man familiar with death: "He viewed the world in the bright flame of the torch lit by the bedside of the dying." This baroque theme of the juxtaposition of life and death permeates the whole film. The type of painting by Lubin Baugin ("Still Life on the Chessboard") was called a "vanity," a popular genre in the Baroque era, especially in Holland, and had a symbolic value connected to the Ecclesiastic quotation "vanitas vanitatis," -- vanity of vanity, all is vanity, which is in keeping with this particular theme. The message is to meditate on the world's pleasure as death threatens. The opposition between life and death appears in the duality between the two sisters; one chooses life and the other chooses death. The wife's death leads Sainte Colombe to close himself from the world and compose "Le tombeau des regrets." And it is Madeleine's death which leads Marais to reaching his full potential as a composer. Views of the blue pond, scene of death, alternate with views of the shack, scene of free improvisations. As such, death proves to be a source of life, and art makes it possible to revive the beloved. As Orpheus with his lyre, Sainte Colombe with his viol is able to recall his dead wife from Hades. But in order to dispel any notion of the fantastic, before showing the apparitions of the beautiful deceased, the camera always shows Sainte Colombe's ecstatic look. Finally, Marais, now an accomplished artist, can honor Madeleine's memory by playing "La reveuse," transcending his pain in music and in dreams.
A mystical musical rapture onscreen
R. Galeano Valencia | Caracas, Venezuela | 11/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 90's undoubtedly represented a sort of Golden period in the French cinema. And Alain Coirneau's "Tous les matins du monde" is certainly no exception, for this movie rises well beyond the standards and blissfully embraces the elusive terrains of glorious and mystical rapture. Seven Cesar Awards confirming it. France. XVII century. The Golden Siécle of French music. Monsieur de Saint Colombe is a viola virtuoso, renowned in for his unique style, and also for his reluctancy to sacrifice the uniqueness of his art by becoming a King's entertainer. Falling into a deep depression after the passing of his beloved wife, who leaves him with two young daughters, Saint Colombe progressively secludes himself in his country house, barely seen even by his own daughters, almost solely allowing the company of his cherished viol. He then composes many of his most celebrated pieces. A desperate way of soothing his ailing spirit after the loss of his love: by creating magic on strings. A certain day, a young and promising musician by the name of Marin Marais will present himself to the Saint Colombe estate begging to the Master to take him as an apprentice. After an endless series of rejections, a reluctant Saint Colombe finally agrees and Marais will enter the Masters' cryptic and marvelous world of almost unbearable torment turned into glorious music. Day by day, Marais will learn techniques and achieve perfection in the art of the viol. In the process he will fall in love with Madeline, the eldest of Saint Colombe's children, as he slowly absorbs (take?) from the Master everything he can. Years will pass and Marais will not elude the enchanting call of the Courts, abandoning Saint Colombe, leaving a broken-hearted Madeline behind -she will eventually become fatally ill- and becoming himself a prominent musical figure in the King's chamber, a position carved for almost every musician in XVII century France. Marais ultimately became what we know of him today, a skillfull musician and fertile composer widely acclaimed in all Europe for his unduoubted virtuosity. But he also became a personal King's entertainer, a musician whose art had to be supervised and approved by the power in exercise, the very one thing the Master warned him of becoming, with all the gold and oropel attached. After many years of glory, a tired and somewhat empty Marais will still return to the Master's estate, long after his passing as well as Madeline's death, and with sad eyes will look time and time again, to the life and love he left behind. A life full of the simplicity and happiness purely given by the pleasure of making glorious music for the sole joy of the spirit.
As I write this I can almost hear in my mind all the sublime pieces that can be enjoyed in memorable scenes of the movie, such as "Le Pleurs" by Saint Colombe, or "Improvisation sur las Folies d'Espagne" by Marais himself. I would dare to say that music in this picture, performed by a superb ensamble under the musical direction of baroque music scholar, performer and composer Jordi Savall (Concert des Nations) is, simply put, "the" main character in this movie. The movie soundtrack includes spectacular XVII century pieces, some of them unknown, but also authored pieces by J.B. Lully ("Marche pour la ceremonie des Turcs", Couperin ("Troisiéme Lecon de Tenebres"), Saint Colombe ("Gavotte du tendre", "Concert a deux violes") and Marais ("Improvisations sur las Folies d'Espagne", "La Reveuse", "L'Arabesque", "Le Badinage", "Toumbeau pour Mr de Saint Colombe", "Muzettes" and the stunning and one of my favorites "Sonnerie de Ste Genevieve du Mont-de-Paris").
As for the cast, Jean Pierre Marielle plays the tormented Monsieur de Saint Colombe. Young Marin Marais is played by Guillaume Depardieu, a surprisingly gifted and young actor, with a last name far from unknown. His father, the genious Gérard Depardieu impersonates old Marin Marais, while Anne Brochet (Cyrano de Bergerac's "Roxanne") beautifully plays Madeline de Saint Colombe. This particular 2-DVD edition not only renders an extraordinary sound and picture quality but is also filled with documentaries and featurettes about the making of the movie, and also specifically about Jordi Savall's contribution to the knowledge and appreciation of the endless richness of the baroque music, and particularly for the viola da gamba and its unparalelled sound.
"Tous les matins du monde" (and its soundtrack as well) will deeply move anyone who has the ability to listen, far beyond words."