To do full justice to Alain Corneau’s beautiful masterpiece “Tous les matins du monde” [Eng. Title: All the Mornings of the World] would require a deeper understanding of classical music than I possess, but that still couldn’t stop me from writing about it. Because this film will get to even the most untrained of ears through its sheer visual brilliance, and captivating performances from some of French cinema’s finest.
Set in the seventeenth century, the film gives a fictional account of two of the famous musicians of their age – the renowned viola player Monsieur de Sainte Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and his erstwhile student and court musician Marin Marais (Guillaume, and later, Gérard Depardieu). It begins with a middle-aged Marais, suddenly overcome by remorse, pauses his lesson to recount his youth, and explains to his aristocratic students the essence of music, and with it the story of the person who taught him all he knew – Sainte Colombe.
We follow Sainte Colombe’s story from the night his beloved wife dies while he’s away performing at someone else’s deathbed. Inconsolable, he retreats into his secluded cottage, almost ignoring his two young daughters. Madeleine (Anne Brochet), the eldest of the two, grows up to become an accomplished musician in her own right, and it is then that a young Marais, son of a shoemaker, approaches Sainte Colombe pleading to be taken as his pupil. He agrees after recognising Marais‘ natural ability, but they fall apart over Marais’ desire for fame and fortune. Madeleine offers to teach Marais all that she knows without her father’s knowledge, and soon they become lovers.
Having gained his knowledge, Marais joins the king’s court as a royal musician, and stops visiting her. Unable to come to terms with their separation, Madeleine’s health deteriorates, and as years pass by, descends into a long period of illness. Middle-aged, she requests the presence of the now famous Marais at her bedside to play for one last time the music he composed for her when they were still in love. He agrees, hoping to use the occasion to also obtain the manuscripts of Sainte Colombe during the visit, but instead, has to retreat in shame after playing for Madeleine. She dies shortly after, heartbroken. Marais and Sainte Colombe eventually make peace in one of the memorable passages of play, when Marais approaches Sainte Colombe with the humility of a student that he once was…
This sweetly painful melodrama is ‘decorated’, as if to compete with the flamboyance of the baroque period it represents, with spectacular performances by the three main cast – Jean-Pierre Marielle, Anne Brochet, and Gérard Depardieu. Together with the excellent production design and the cinematography, they lift this film to stratospheric heights rarely seen in biographical dramas. It rightfully won a clutch of César awards the following year, and without a doubt, is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Box-set [PAL]
This is an excellent value-for-money 4-DVD box set of an eclectic array of films featuring Gérard Depardieu – the collection from which this film was reviewed.
The Nudity: Anne Brochet and Guillaume Depardieu
There are four scenes of nudity in the film – when a young Marais walks past a bathing Madeleine, when they connect and fall in love, when Marais decides to leave, and finally when an older Marais visits Madeleine for one last time.