English Title: The Music Teacher
Original Title: Le maître de musique
Language: French, English, German, Italian
Country: Belgium, France
Genre: Drama, Music
Director: Gérard Corbiau
Cinematography: Walther van den Ende
José van Dam
As a dark horse, this Belgian film surprisingly got an Oscar nomination for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM in 1989, directed by Gerard Corbiau, whom maybe we feel more familiar with for his later work FARINELLI (1994), another music-related opus, with a more dramatic pathos within.
Ominously the music itself steals the thunder of the film per se, which leaves it in an awkward position, where only genuine opera lovers could rigorously indulge themselves with it while for laypeople like me, the waning correlation is unavoidable and discouraging.
The film stars a real maestro José van Dam (the celebrated Belgian bass-baritone) as a singer, who is compelled to retire in his middle-age by his arch enemy, the Duke, with the help of his loyal wife, he trains two disciples and finally get his vengeance over the Duke. However Mr. van Dam’s stiff performance could not be excused as a stark novice stage-fright; two young leads Anne Roussel and Philippe Volter also fail to be impressive apart from their singing parts. By contrast, only Sylvie Fennec and Patrick Bauchau deliver some sincere acting skills without too much superficial showing-off.
The setting, costume and all its delicate props are in their right places to exude a bourgeois sentiment which casually goes well with the film’s uneventful narrative. The final showdown is a fleeting opera duel between two respective disciples from the maestro and the Duke. The mask tableau is a major attraction, too bad it just ends like that, without too much aftertaste.
After all, one cannot complain more about this film as long as music save us all from this molecularly mundane world.