Reviews

Monsieur de Sainte Colombe wrote down his new compositions in a leather-bound notebook. He did not want to publish them to the judgement of the public. He said that they were improvisations noted at the moment and for which the moment alone provided an excuse, and not completed works. On days when the spirit took him and when he could make time for leisure, he would go off to his brook and dream. In summer, when it was very hot, he took off his shoes and his shirt and gently went into the cool water, wading up to his neck, stopping up his fingers and burying his face in the water.

One day when he was gazing at the ripples on the water, sighing, he dreamt that he was going into dark water and staying there. He had given up everything that he loved on earth, instruments, flowers, pastries, rolled scores, kites, faces, pewter plates, wines. Emerging from his dream, he remembered the Tombeau de Regrets that he had composed when his wife had left him one night to join the death, and he suddenly felt very thirsty. He got up, climbed up the bank grabbing hold of some branches and went off to his garden shed where he practiced his viol, hoping that he was out of earshot, so that he could try all possible hand positions and bowing movements without attracting anyone's judgment for this was just what he wanted to do. He put his bottle of wine wrapped in raffia on the light blue cloth covering the table where he unfolded his music stand, with the glass of wine that he had filled at his feet and a pewter plate containing some rolled honeycomb cakes, and he played the Tombeau des Regrets.

He did not need to refer to his book. His hand found its own way over his instrument's fingerboard and he began to cry. As the melody rose, near the door a very pale woman appeared, smiling at him and indicating by her finger that she would not speak, so that he would not be disturbed in what he was doing. She walked silently around the music stand of Monsieur de Sainte Colombe. She sat down on the trunk of music which was in the corner near the table and the bottle of wine and she listened.
It was his wife and his tears flowed (...)

Pascal QUIGNARD
Extract from "Tous les matins du monde"
(Editions Gallimard, 1991)
With the kind permission of Editions Gallimard.


 

French music of the XVIIth century was marked with the royal seal, in much the same way as was the Chateau de Versailles or the classical drama of the period that we learned of at school. With its typical forms like the grand motet or the air de cour or others, French music of the Grand Siecle is the heritage of a long-established practice but also the fruit of a desire for monopolisation. Royal power exercized total control through its Dance or Music Academies, through a monopoly of music publishing and the imposition of a requirement for all musicians to pass through a professional guild, a choir school or other specialized institution. The right of supervision was vested in the hands of Lully, the official court composer. As a result of an aesthetic disputes, in particular those involving the oppositions of French and Italian music. Lully's triumph was to be confirmed, since his authorization became necessary for practically all productions and publications.

Music in this fruitful century was no exception to the other arts, showing great richness in the music for entertainment, for harpsichord, for lute or theorbo, for viola da gamba, etc, great originality in the music drama that was so in fashion, great reverence and sensuality in the sacred music of the repertoire for the "chapelle", expressed in the characteristic forms of Motets, Litanies, Antiennes, Messes and Leçons des Tenebres.

A constellation of musicians, including Dumont, Louis and François Couperin, Charpentier, Delalande, Campra, Marais, each illustrated one or other or even several of these forms, leaving works whose beauty reaches us not only intact but magnified by the prism of time.

from Auvidis Records


 

Tous Les Matins du Monde presents a fictionalized account of the lives of the 17th century French musician-composer Sainte Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and his brilliant, flamboyant student, Marin Marais (played as a young man by Guillaume Depardieu and as an older man by Gerard Depardieu). The story begins with the death of Sainte Colombe's beloved wife and progresses onward as he tries to be the best father he can to his two daughters. After the passage of about twelve years, the seventeen year old Marin Marais arrives, seeking to become Sainte Colombe's pupil. Both daughters are attracted to Marais, but it is the eldest girl, Madeleine (Anne Brochet), with whom he has an affair -- an affair that is destined to shape all that comes after.

If Tous Les Matins du Monde was a British production, it might appear on Masterpiece Theater as a two-part drama. The film moves at a leisurely pace, refusing to let modern conventions drive it faster than it's prepared to go. It demands patience. It's also a movie of few words. Take away the framing narrative of Marin Marais as he looks back on his life, and there's little dialogue. As a result, Tous Les Matins du Monde requires distinctive non-vocal performances. Eyes, lips, hands, and body language are vitally important. Fortunately, the cast members, with the possible exception of the younger Depardieu, are up to the challenge.

Where dialogue is lacking, however, a resonant musical score takes over. Arranged by Jordi Savall, the soundtrack is evocative and moody and, as might be expected, includes several compositions by Sainte Colombe and Marin Marais. Costume and set design are both impressive, well deserving of the French Cesars awarded to them. We don't for one moment doubt that this story is taking place in the latter part of the 1600s.

As for Guillaume, he's not the actor that his father is. At best, his performance is wooden, and it stands out uncomfortably in comparison to Anne Brochet's stunning portrayal of Madeleine. Guillaume lacks range, and, as result, the film takes a dramatic turn for the better when father replaces son in the role of an aging Marin Marais.

Tous Les Matins du Monde is a tale of ego, passion, and the clash between the desire for fame and the pursuit of true art. Young and ambitious, Marin Marais wants to play at court for the king. Sainte Colombe, who has already rejected that honor, claims that the call of the musician supersedes all. The two clash over this issue, as well as over the affair between Madeleine and Marais. Despite its meandering pace, Tous Les Matins du Monde has a strong enough narrative to make it worth a look. This is the kind of pure drama, energized by character interplay, that Hollywood almost never produces.

1993 James Berardinelli


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