Me Chama de Bruna

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Maria Bopp

Li Borges


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An unidentified ‘Orgy Woman’ is topless (Mr Skin says it is Lindsey Coley) in The Watch (2012).

 Looking good are Denise Richards (from Wild Things (1998)),

Erin Moriarty,

Rosemarie DeWitt.

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This French-language film is also called All the Mornings of the World in English-language distribution channels.

Sometimes when we call something an "art film," our meaning is imprecise. We're just referring to films made for the tiny so-called arthouse audience which prefers films made for their sensibilities to the films made by mainstream commercial filmmakers. When I refer to this one as an "art film," however, I am being quite literal. It is about the nature of art itself, and that same struggle between art and commerce.

The story is centered around two men who played a fairly important role in the development of French music in the 17th century. Marin Marais was considered the master of composing for and playing the viola de gamba, a seven-string predecessor to today's cello. Monsieur Sainte Colombe was Marin's teacher, and is credited with having added the seventh string to begin with. We know a bit about Marin, who was a courtier, but very little about Sainte Colombe. The latter was an austere man, possibly a practicing member of the Jansenists, who were kind of a 17th century French equivalent of the Amish, in that they preached simplicity and preferred the simple country life to the pomp of the Sun King's court. Sainte Colombe lived in a country estate and gave modest at-home concerts for his neighbors. He had two daughters who sometimes accompanied him in chamber performances when they came of age. That's about all we have, other than the music for some of his compositions. We don't even know his first name.

All the details of the film are supplied by the imagination of the author of the novel upon which the screenplay is based. In his version of the story, Sainte Colombe is a widower who is tormented by guilt for not having been present when his wife died. Since he had only two ways to communicate to the world, his music and talks with his wife, her death left him with nothing but his music. He was offered a position as the court violist, but passed on the opportunity because he played music for the love of it, not for the glory or financial rewards. As imagined here, Marain Marais (Guillaume Depardieu) comes to him as a young man from the working classes who has learned everything that his other music teachers could offer, and now seeks out Sainte Colombe to top off his education. Sainte Colombe is persuaded to take on the lad, not because of his admittedly outstanding musical skills, but because of the grief in his voice.

Their relationship doesn't work out at all. To the young Marin, music is his path from the lower classes all the way up to the king's side. To Sainte Colombe, this is the wrong reason to be playing music. He tells the lad, "You may make music, but you are not a musician." By the time the two men sever their ties, Marin has impregnated one of his mentor's daughters, but he turns his back on both the old man and the daughter, and marches off to the glory and glitter awaiting him in Versailles. The central question which the film asks is, "Did the young Marin Marais make the right decision?" The story is told in flashback by old Marin (Gerard Depardieu, Guillaume's father), as he looks back on his own life and uses his experiences to form a cautionary tale which he uses to instruct the youngsters of the court.

All the Mornings of the World is a slow-moving, humorless French film filled with grief, tragedy and sadness. The old Sainte Colombe is lost in his music and his daydreams about his late wife. The old Marin narrates the tale in a regretful tone, haunted by decisions he can never reverse because, "All the mornings of the world are without recall." The oldest daughter (Anne Brochet) is shattered when young Marin abandons her for the splendor of Versailles, so she despairs, takes to bed, and eventually takes her own life. The somber tone of the film is accentuated by the heartbreakingly sad and low tones of the bass viola music, much of it actually written by the two real composers who were the models for this fictional story.

Are you still interested in this subtitled film after reading all that? Assuming that the whole concept is appealing to you, there is certainly no quality barrier. It won a bunch of Cesars (seven wins, including Best Picture, in eleven nominations), the French equivalent of Oscars. It is a very good film with excellent period details, impressive costumes, aesthetic visuals, generally good acting, and baroque music which suits the subject matter. I had to struggle through the first ten minutes, which basically consist of a single camera on Gerard Depardieu's bloated face, but after that I did get involved in the film.

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