Tous les matins du monde  (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This French-language film is also called All the Mornings of the World in English-language distribution channels.

Sometimes when we call something an "art film," our meaning is imprecise. We're just referring to films made for the tiny so-called arthouse audience which prefers films made for their sensibilities to the films made by mainstream commercial filmmakers. When I refer to this one as an "art film," however, I am being quite literal. It is about the nature of art itself, and that same struggle between art and commerce.

The story is centered around two men who played a fairly important role in the development of French music in the 17th century. Marin Marais was considered the master of composing for and playing the viola de gamba, a seven-string predecessor to today's cello. Monsieur Sainte Colombe was Marin's teacher, and is credited with having added the seventh string to begin with. We know a bit about Marin, who was a courtier, but very little about Sainte Colombe. The latter was an austere man, possibly a practicing member of the Jansenists, who were kind of a 17th century French equivalent of the Amish, in that they preached simplicity and preferred the simple country life to the pomp of the Sun King's court. Sainte Colombe lived in a country estate and gave modest at-home concerts for his neighbors. He had two daughters who sometimes accompanied him in chamber performances when they came of age. That's about all we have, other than the music for some of his compositions. We don't even know his first name.

All the details of the film are supplied by the imagination of the author of the novel upon which the screenplay is based. In his version of the story, Sainte Colombe is a widower who is tormented by guilt for not having been present when his wife died. Since he had only two ways to communicate to the world, his music and talks with his wife, her death left him with nothing but his music. He was offered a position as the court violist, but passed on the opportunity because he played music for the love of it, not for the glory or financial rewards. As imagined here, Marain Marais (Guillaume Depardieu) comes to him as a young man from the working classes who has learned everything that his other music teachers could offer, and now seeks out Sainte Colombe to top off his education. Sainte Colombe is persuaded to take on the lad, not because of his admittedly outstanding musical skills, but because of the grief in his voice.

Their relationship doesn't work out at all. To the young Marin, music is his path from the lower classes all the way up to the king's side. To Sainte Colombe, this is the wrong reason to be playing music. He tells the lad, "You may make music, but you are not a musician." By the time the two men sever their ties, Marin has impregnated one of his mentor's daughters, but he turns his back on both the old man and the daughter, and marches off to the glory and glitter awaiting him in Versailles. The central question which the film asks is, "Did the young Marin Marais make the right decision?" The story is told in flashback by old Marin (Gerard Depardieu, Guillaume's father), as he looks back on his own life and uses his experiences to form a cautionary tale which he uses to instruct the youngsters of the court.

All the Mornings of the World is a slow-moving, humorless French film filled with grief, tragedy and sadness. The old Sainte Colombe is lost in his music and his daydreams about his late wife. The old Marin narrates the tale in a regretful tone, haunted by decisions he can never reverse because, "All the mornings of the world are without recall." The oldest daughter (Anne Brochet) is shattered when young Marin abandons her for the splendor of Versailles, so she despairs, takes to bed, and eventually takes her own life. The somber tone of the film is accentuated by the heartbreakingly sad and low tones of the bass viola music, much of it actually written by the two real composers who were the models for this fictional story.

Are you still interested in this subtitled film after reading all that? Assuming that the whole concept is appealing to you, there is certainly no quality barrier. It won a bunch of Cesars (seven wins, including Best Picture, in eleven nominations), the French equivalent of Oscars. It is a very good film with excellent period details, impressive costumes, aesthetic visuals, generally good acting, and baroque music which suits the subject matter. I had to struggle through the first ten minutes, which basically consist of a single camera on Gerard Depardieu's bloated face, but after that I did get involved in the film.



  • Two disks
  • the widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced
  • 65 minute documentary on the music
  • three interviews
  • "making of" featurette
  • eight page booklet of essays


Anne Brochet (1) does a full frontal far from the camera while bathing (2) shows her breasts in many scenes (3) does another full-frontal, including gyno-cam, when she climbs out of bed in her sickly period.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: just less than three stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • It was nominated for 11 Cesars, winning 7, including Best Picture.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed a respectable three million dollars in the USA, which is impressive for an incredibly slow movie about the nature of art.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+, an excellent movie, but one for the aesthetes only.

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