Monday, January 12, 2015

Mozart's Sister


Starring: Marie Feret, Marc Barbe, Delphine Chuillot, David Moreau, Clovis Fouin, Lisa Feret

Not Rated (Probably PG-13 for Some Sexuality)

"Mozart's Sister," a fictionalized story about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sister (hence the title), Maria Anna, or "Nannerl," as she is called, has it's good aspects and not-so-good aspects.  Where the film shines is in the acting department; all of the cast members are quite good.  Where it doesn't shine is the film's tone, which is so serious and threadbare that instead of being realistic, it's lifeless.  The actors do all they can, but ultimately it's not enough.

The Mozart family, father Leopold (Barbe), wife Anna Maria (Chuillot), and the two surviving children Wolfgang (Moreau) and Nannerl (Marie Feret), are touring through Europe.  Their next stop is Paris, where they will play for the Dauphin (Fouin), who is in grieving for his wife, who died in childbirth.  On the way there, the carriage suffers a broken axle, and they must seek refuge at a convent for a few days.  Nannerl makes fast friends with Princess Louise (Lisa Feret), one of the Dauphin's sisters (she and the other two youngest sisters were sent there to grow up under the advice of the cardinal), who asks her to deliver a letter to a boy she has a crush on.  Nannerl agrees, which is how she meets the Dauphin.  There is an almost instant attraction between them, but their lives will make it hard to act on it.

The film also explores how Nannerl's talent and passion for music is squashed by her father.  She is a talented violinist and composer, but Leopold believes that the violin is a man's instrument and that, as a woman, she would be unable to handle the complexities of composing.

Many of the film's flaws would have been rectified had writer/director Rene Feret not taken such a self-important tone for the film.  He directs this film without any sort of manipulation, as if it's (speaking in a deep monotone) "the most important film ever made."  Clearly, he's trying to be anti-Hollywood (as if that were a bad thing by definition), but it results in a sterile, emotionless experience.  Only the film's second half has any real power, but it's severely limited by the film's tone.  It's not as bad as "Free Fall" because the subject matter is more compelling and the acting & writing are better, but it's similar.

While none of the French greats (Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Sophie Marceau, Fanny Ardant, etc,) appear since the budget probably couldn't support them, that doesn't mean that the acting is less than great.  In fact, the acting is strong from top to bottom, with Marie Feret and Clovis Fouin leading the way.  Marie Feret is the director's daughter (her sister Lisa plays Princess Louise), and while I have no idea if nepotism had anything to do with her being cast, her performance is her best advocate.  She's terrific; showing strength and inner turmoil about her love for the Dauphin and her desire to learn how to compose.  As the Dauphin, Fouin (who looks startlingly similar to a very young Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) jump-starts the film almost single-handedly.  The first hour of the film is only a notch above painful, but Fouin's energy and charisma give the film some badly needed life.  Also worth mentioning is Marc Barbe, who plays Leopold.  Despite his chauvanism, he is a loving and caring father, and Barbe ably conveys that.

Story-wise, the film is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, the romance between Nannerl and the Dauphin works.  Marie Feret and Clovis Fouin have a great deal of chemistry, making it easy to become invested in their relationship.  On the other, it comes at the expense of the arguably more fascinating material, which is the realities of a woman in that time period, especially if she shows talent in a male-dominated field.  Feret explores this, but not enough to satisfy.

I might be more kind to this film had Feret not taken such a serious tone with the material.  I can't stand self-important movies like this any more than the average person, and the film's successes are unable to make the film worth sitting through it.  Better watch "Amadeus" instead.

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