A rough wooden table. Red wine in exquisite stemmed crystal. Curled wafers on a plain white platter. Elements of an ingenuously elegant, arrestingly beautiful and, to my mind, peculiarly French composition. Suffused with such images, Corneau's Tous Les Matins du Monde
is a seamless study in contrasts -- lushly austere, expansively intimate and resoundingly still. Artfully photographed and brilliantly acted, Corneau's exploration of the relationship between the reclusive seventeenth century master violist,
Monsieur de Sainte Colombe (Marielle), his two daughters, Madeleine and Toinette (Brochet and Richert) and his ambitious young apprentice, Marin Marais (both Depardieus) is a masterpiece of detail. Though the movie has its share of baroque melodrama, its strengths lie more in its minutiae -- in the fleeting moments where flesh brushes flesh, a wafer is crumbled, a maid embraces a neglected child. Loosely based on historical fact, novelist Pascal Quignard's script is full of small quirks and unexpected turns but it never intends to surprise. Instead, the turns take advantage of our expectations as filmgoers rather than our experiences with real life. Underscoring all of this is a mesmerizing musical soundtrack. By turns ardent and mournful, the period French works include compositions for the viol
(a French precursor to the cello) by both Sainte Colombe and Marais, and are recorded with a clarity that allows you to not only hear but feel their passion for the instrument. Taking a bit from Barry Lyndon,
a bit from Amadeus,
Corneau has created his own marvelous hybrid. And, like an exotic orchid, it is beautiful, but not everyone's favorite.