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Koch Lorber presents
"I had a teacher, and the shadows took him."
DVD ReviewTous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) has been marketed as something of a hot romantic film, but to call it that would be misleading. Indeed, the couple shown on the cover of the DVD and other video releases appear to be two people not even in the film, from a scene not in the film. But anyway, the story's main interest is music, or more to the point, why do we make music? Who do we make it for? And what does it cost the musician? It's a melancholic, studied work, with some rich performances at its center.
Tous les matins is based on the lives of two musicians of the French Baroque era, Marin Marais and Sainte Colombe (first name unknown). Not much is known about either man, though Marais was a viol player in royal service for a good portion of his career and composed many pieces for the instrument, a cousin of sorts to the cello. The film opens with a marvelous close-up of Gérard Depardieu as the older Marais, listening to the royal musicians practice. The older Marais has become fat and sluggish over the years of his service, and the inanities and clichés of the players cause a range of emotions to wash over him. He has finally heard enough. Calling for silence, he decides to provide one lesson to his players, and asks for the lights to be dimmed. Depardieu's acting is quite wonderful throughout, but this opening shot, lasting about six minutes, shows off some of his best work in the film. Marais has become decrepit and exhausted, so the tale he begins to tell obviously has some importance for him.
His story concerns his relationship with Sainte Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a renowned if eccentric viol master. Sainte Colombe, as Marais tells us, retreated into a reclusive lifestyle after the death of his beloved wife (Caroline Sihol). He devotes his life to his music, playing for hours on end in a small cabin on his land, perfecting his skills and even improving the instrument. When his two daughters are old enough, he teaches them to play. After several years, into their lives comes the young Marais (Guillaume Depardieu), a skilled viol player looking for a new teacher. Sainte Colombe listens to him and tells him that while his playing is faultless, he is not a musician. The delineation that Sainte Colombe makes must be understood, otherwise the viewer simply won't appreciate the rest of the film. While Marais plays with evident skill and charm, he lacks the true passion of the committed musician; he will only be fit for playing at parties for amusement, not for real music that comes from the soul. Or so Sainte Colombe says. But he takes Marais on as a student anyway, deciding that the agony he hears in the young man's voice is better than nothing.
Depardieu fils will never match his father's amazing career, but he is an excellent choice for the younger Marais beyond the mere familial resemblence; the young Marais is a man without much depth. He yearns more for the riches and status that a court musician appointment will get him rather than the more personal satisfactions Sainte Colombe finds. As such, the younger Depardieu is a success, conveying perfectly the vacuousness of Marais, at a loss as to the points made by Sainte Colombe. It's easy to understand his eventual tossing aside of Madaleine (Anne Brochet), since his makeup lacks the necessary elements to truly love her the way she loves him. By contrast, the elder Depardieu is perfect for the world-weary, self-loathing Marais of the opening; his narration carries the often silent images.
In praising the Depardieu combo, mention must also be made of Jean-Pierre Marielle, whose Sainte Colombe is equally marvellous. As the film progresses, we slowly, subtly see the layers of his character emerge. Sainte Colombe by the end is much greater than the ogre he seems early on, a man desperate to use his music to retain the memory of his dead wife (Caroline Sihol), whose ghost begins to visit her husband as he whiles away the hours in his cabin. Anne Brochet and Carole Richert fill their roles well, though each has less to work with than the two leads.
One last thing: the title of the movie comes from a line within it, as spoken by Marais: "Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour," which, if you want to translate it more poetically, can be read as "all the mornings of the world leave without return," which is really quite lovely. Alternatively (and less imaginatively to me), it can be read as "each day dawns but once." The subtitles on this DVD use that latter interpretation, which I found rather a letdown. The booklet essay from film critic Robert Horton uses the more poetic translation in discussing the film. Not a huge point, but one that stuck out when I heard Depardieu speak the line.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Remastered for this release, Tous les matins features an anamorphically enhanced transfer at 1.66:1 ratio. Overall, it looks best during daylight and outdoor daytime scenes. Many of the scenes in Sainte Colombe's cabin have a very high grain level to them, owing in part to the low light levels of these scenes. Compared to the fairly nice-looking daytime scenes, the difference is very noticeable and can be distracting. Blacks are sometimes not deep enough, and some scenes look too soft. Inconsistent, but tolerable.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Two options for your listening pleasure; the first is a Dolby 5.1 mix, which sounded fine to my ears, but the surrounds don't get much work beyond general ambience. A Dolby 2.0 track is also on hand, and a sampling of it indicated that it sounded pretty solid as well.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: The second disc of this release is dedicated to supplements, and foremost among them is an in-depth profile of Jordi Savall, In Search of Perfect Sound (49m:25s), the viol de gamba player who performed much of the solo viol music within the film. It looks at Savall's performance philosophy and his work with other musicians, including various performance clips. It's well worth a look for those interested in further exploring the music and the viol. Savall Close Up (02m:09s) looks like a contemporary television clip, in which Savall speaks to an interviewer about the film and the reaction to it. Another television-sourced clip comprises Every Morning of the World with Jean-Pierre Marielle (05m:27s), in which Marielle, as part of a panel discussion, talks about his work in the film and acting in general.
A making-of featurette (10m:23s) features behind-the-scenes footage of the cast crew working, and features some brief clips that include footage not seen in the finished cut. A very brief television interview with Alain Corneau (01m:23s) only serves to make one want to hear more from him about the film. Lastly, the French trailer is presented in letterboxed 4:3. The DVD set also includes a booklet with two essays, one by critic Robert Horton focusing on the film and the other on the viol, by music scholar Stuart Cheney. The film essay is basically a positive review of the film, while the music piece amounts to a mini-history of the instrument. Both are worth a look.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsAn absorbing, deeply felt film about the nature of music and why it is made, Tous les matins du monde is supported by wonderful performances from Jean-Pierre Marielle and Gérard Depardieu. Koch Lorber's two-disc set comes up short of greatness, but provides several worthwhile extras.
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