Foreign movies are often viewed by mainstream moviegoers as "arty" or "snobbish," films that have a deliberate air of superiority about them.
Well, here's one that not only deserves that label - it seems to yearn for it.
"Tous les Matins du Monde," which translated is "All the Mornings of the World," aims to be a sort of more cerebral "Amadeus," focusing on two 17th-century musicians, Sainte Colombe and Marin Marais, both of whom cared deeply about - and in varying degrees were obsessed with - their music.
But, according to this film, while one chose to keep his music personal and therefore pure, the other essentially "sold out" by seeking fame and fortune as a court musician for Louis XIV.
Not satisfied with those themes, however, this film also attempts to explore the artist's muse, showing both men as having tremendous talent, displayed in their mastery of the viol (an early precursor to the cello).
The film opens with an extreme closeup of the aging and bloated, powdered and bewigged Marais (Gerard Depardieu), who tells the sad story of his long, rocky relationship with Sainte Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle).
Sainte Colombe has been in mourning since his wife's death, little by little shutting himself off from the outside world and psychologically alienating his own young daughters. But he does teach them to play, and their performances as a trio attract the attention of the court. Sainte Colombe, of course, rudely declines to even entertain the idea of playing for prestige or money, which does not endear him to the king.
As time passes, Saint Colombe eventually builds himself a small cabin on his grounds, where he plays alone hour after hour, occasionally fantasizing that his deceased wife is with him. And he occasionally composes in a red notebook.
Soon, young Marais (Guillaume Depardieu, Gerard's son) calls on Sainte Colombe, asking for lessons. A very talented musician but also a cad, he enters into a tentative relationship with Sainte Colombe's daughter (the mesmerizing and tragic Anne Brochet, last seen with Gerard Depardieu in "Cyrano de Bergerac"), though their love is decidedly one-sided.
And when Sainte Colombe kicks him out, Marais secretly listens to the master play by hiding out beneath the cabin for long stretches of time.
Most of the film gloomily and deliberately chronicles the ways in which these two men approach, manipulate or squander their talent. Director Alain Corneau seems to want his movie to resemble the somber tones of the viol, and the result is a movie that is at times too slow and sluggish.
There is that music, however, a steady stream of baroque dirges that are as fascinating as they are haunting. And some gorgeous cinematography. Not to mention the performances of a uniformly perfect cast.
While this is a movie that is certainly not for everyone, those willing to wade through its artifice will be richly rewarded.
"Tous les Matins du Monde" is not rated, but would doubtless get an R for sex and nudity. There are also a few profanities and some violence.