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Mozart's Sister - Cinémathèque / MYXX

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Mozart's Sister (2011)
(Nannerl, La Soeur de Mozart)
Sunday, November 20th at 3:45 p.m. at Cinémathèque (, Cleveland Institute of Art (
Genre: Drama
In French with English Subtitles
Rated: No
Running time: 120 minutes
Director: René Féret
Starring: Marie Féret, Marce Barbe, Delphine Chuillot, David Moreau, Clovis Fouin

Five years older than Wolfgang, Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart was the famous musical family’s first child prodigy. An accomplished singer, harpsichordist, and violinist, she sought to become a composer. But her gender thwarted opportunities for tutelage and advancement. Soon she was overshadowed by her bratty younger brother. Nannerl’s story is re-imagined in this gorgeous period piece. “Vividly precise in its depiction of 18th-century pre-revolutionary France (the filmmakers were allowed to shoot inside Versailles), alive with exuberantly thesped personages, and awash in the joy and power of music…A stunner.” – Variety. Cleveland premiere in 35mm.

Official website: Mozart's Sister

Beginning in 1763, the film follows the Mozart family's exhausting life on the road, traveling by coach from one royal court to the next, where the nobility marvel at young Wolfgang's prodigious talent. But accomplished singer, harpsichordist, violinist Nannerl, Wolfgang's elder by five years, first held forth as the family's infant prodigy. At the film begins, she is still performing, though overshadowed and sidelined as accompanist by Wolfgang's growing fame. Her father bows to social strictures "for her own good," refusing to let her continue with the violin or compose, while privately conceding Nannerl's talent to his wife. No longer a precocious tot, Nannerl chafes at the limitations imposed by her gender and frets about her prospects. (Written by Palm Springs International Film Festival)

Trailer: Mozart’s Sister (

THE FILM - 3:45 p.m. Mozart's Sister – Cinémathèque (, Cleveland Institute of Art - 11141 East Boulevard – just east of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Meet in the entrance hall near the theater door 10 minutes ahead of time or look for the group inside the theater. We’ll try to save seats in the lower section, center. The flick is 2 hours, so expect to be out around 6 p.m. Seats at this venue are somewhat hard so you may want to bring a stadium cushion.

5:30 p.m. After Film Discussion/Dinner – MYXX ( - in the former Jullian's spot at Cedar and Fairmont, Since film ends early for dinner, we’ll meet after at MYXX (, 12459 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights,[masked] (MYXX).

We will have a reserved table so you must indicate "dinner on your RSVP to have a seat! Please let us know your dinner plans on your RSVP so that we can reserve a seat for you at the "Movie Group" table. We have requested separate checks but due to the size of our group, you can expect a standard gratuity to be added. If circumstances force you to cancel, please try to notify the organizer as early as possible. It’s best to pay your check in cash to streamline the process. If you don't see us when you walk in, ask to be seated with Bill Johnson or the Indie Movie Group.

It’s very important to RSVP early and cancel your dinner reservations if you can’t attend. Please be respectful of the Organizers and the Restaurants we patronize.

Ebert on Mozart's Sister
“All I hear is Wolfang, Wolfgang, Wolfgang!”
Ebert Rating: ***½
By Roger Ebert - Sepember 7, 2011
The image that springs to mind is of the young Mozart touring the royal courts of Europe and being feted by crowned heads. He was a prodigy, a celebrity, a star. The reality was not so splendid, and even less so for his sister, Nannerl, who was older by 4½ years and also highly gifted.
The family Mozart, headed by the ambitious impresario Leopold and cared for by his wife, traveled the frozen roads of the continent in carriages that jounced and rattled through long nights of broken sleep. Some royalty were happy to keep the Mozarts waiting impatiently for small payments. There was competition from other traveling prodigies — none remotely as gifted as Mozart, but how much did some audiences know about music? Toilet facilities were found in the shrubbery along the roads.
Still, theirs was largely a happy life, as shown in Rene Féret s Mozart's Sister, a lavishly photographed period biopic that contrasts the family's struggle with the luxuries of its patrons. Papa Mozart (Marc Barbe) was a taskmaster but a doting father. Frau Mozart (Delphine Chuillot) was warm and stable. And this is crucial: Nannerl (Marie Féret) and Wolfgang (David Moreau) loved music. They lived and breathed it. They performed with delight. The great mystery of Mozart's life (and now we must add his sister) is how such great music apparently came so easily. For them, music was not labor but play.
One understandably hesitates to say Nannerl was as gifted as her brother. We will never know. She played the violin beautifully, but was discouraged by her father because it was not "a woman's instrument." She composed, but was discouraged because that was not "woman's work." She found her family role at the harpsichord, as Wolfgang's accompanist. The feminist point is clear to see, but Leopold was not punishing his daughter so much as adapting his family business to the solidly entrenched gender ideas of the time.
There's a trenchant conversation late in the film between Nannerl and Princess Louise de France (Lisa Féret), the youngest child of Louis XV. From such different walks of life, they formed almost at first meeting a close, lifelong friendship, and shared a keen awareness of the way their choices were limited by being female.
A royal princess who was not close in line to the throne (she was the 10th child), Louise had two career choices: She could marry into royalty or give herself to the church. She entered a cloistered order, and it was her good fortune to accept its restrictions joyfully. "But think if we had been males!" she says to Nannerl. Each could have ruled in their different spheres of life.
Nannerl also has a close relationship with Louise's brother, the Dauphin prince (Clovis Fouin), a young widower. It seems to have been chaste but caring. Nannerl was always required in the wings of her brother's career, and after his death at only 35, she became the guardian of the music and the keeper of the flame. She found contentment in this role, but never self-realization.
The movie is an uncommonly knowledgeable portrait of the way musical gifts could lift people of ordinary backgrounds into high circles. We hear Papa in a letter complaining about the humiliations his family experienced by tight-fisted royals (they were kept waiting two weeks as one prince went out hunting). Leopold was a publicist, a promoter, a coach, a producer. It is possible that without him, Mozart's genius might never have become known.
The film focuses most closely on Nannerl, a grave-eyed beauty, whose face speaks volumes. She aspires, she dreams, she hopes, but for the most part, she is obedient to the role society has assigned her. Marie Féret, the director's daughter, is luminous in the role. Another daughter, Lisa, plays the princess, and Rene Féret himself turns up as a music master; does his family have a Mozartian dynamic?
David Moreau supplies a different Wolfgang than the one we remember so clearly by Tom Hulce in Amadeus (1984). He is younger, rounder-faced, more angelic, more childish. As he and his sister have a pillow fight, all of the mystique evaporates from the notion of being a "great composer." Through some happy chance, the child and man who created such bountiful music in so many styles and fashions was motivated by sheer enjoyment of the gift he had been given. It is one of those lives that makes you wonder at the glory of men. Not so much at the opportunities of women.
The New York Times
The Other Child in Papa Mozart’s Musical Troupe (
Mozart’s Sister has just started when the French director René Féret makes the point that his fictional look at the early life and times of Wolfgang Amadeus isn’t interested in the pretty manners and nostalgia of many period movies. In truth, the film has little to do even with Wolfgang, a side note in a story focused on his only sister who’s first seen squatting on the side of a road taking care of business at a short distance from her similarly engaged father, mother and brother. This is the Family Mozart, Mr. Féret seems to declare with this scene, stripped down and at their most human.
That sister, Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, born in 1751 and known as Nannerl, was said to posses a rare talent that, by some accounts, this film included, nearly rivaled that of her brother. Played by Marie Féret (the filmmaker’s daughter), Nannerl is an attractive, obedient and rather opaque 14-year-old going on 15, given to watchful silences and long looks at Wolfgang (David Moreau), who was younger by four and a half years. They were the only children out of the seven born to Leopold (Marc Barbé) and Anna-Maria (Delphine Chuillot) to survive childhood. If the calamity of those deaths weighed on the family it doesn’t register in Mozart’s Sister, which unfolds at the end of a long tour that began in 1763 when Wolfgang was seven.
Drawing on Leopold’s letters, among other sources, Mr. Féret paints a speculative, intimate portrait of a family bound by love, genius and ambition and almost undone by the same. When the film opens, Leopold, a musician in his mid-40s when the tour started, is a pushy if loving stage father so dazzled by his son that he hardly has eyes or ears for Nannerl. His favoritism is clouded by the parochialism of the day, as when he scolds her for playing the violin, which he deems an unsuitable instrument for a girl. Her role in life has been decided. An accomplished harpsichordist (and pianist) and singer, she serves as her brother’s accompanist: when he saws on his violin, sometimes while blindfolded, she sits, smiles and plays.
She remains the dutiful daughter, despite moments of self-consciousness about her subordinate station. In one scene she shows Wolfgang her music book, in which Leopold has written praise for his son. (This much-studied trove also contains a number of Mozart’s childhood compositions.) Even in her own music book, Nannerl sighs, she plays second fiddle. It’s a role that she fleetingly abandons during her friendships with Louise de France (Lisa Féret, another of Mr. Féret’s children), a young daughter of Louis XV, and then with the king’s newly widowed son, the Dauphin (Clovis Fouin). (The Dauphin will later die, leaving his son Louis XVI to his fate.)
Mr. Féret, an actor turned filmmaker (he shows up here as a music professor), keeps the scale of his film intimate, its mood quiet, the performances restrained. The costumes and sets are attractive without being fussily art-directed, and the dialogue flows out of the everyday business of life on the road, with the itinerant brood forced to bed down wherever they can. The contrast between the family’s personal and public lives can make for lightly charming scenes, as when Nannerl and Wolfgang whoop it up during a pillow fight and are ordered to bed by their mother. Their rowdy cries, the joyous yelling of two briefly liberated children, are a tiny shock in a story lifted by ethereal music and often brought down to earth by monotone filmmaking.
Nannerl, the subject of at least three novels also titled Mozart’s Sister, is in this film meant to be something more than a chapter in her brother’s biography though it’s not exactly clear what. Somewhat frustratingly if reasonably, Mr. Féret never settles on whether she was a genius, a martyr, a feminist cause, a disappointed daughter, a resigned woman or all of the above. In a famous portrait of the family painted around 1780, the adult Wolfgang and Nannerl sit side by side at a piano while Leopold stands to the right holding a violin. Wolfgang and Nannerl’s hands are crossed over the keyboard, an apt image for a duet that, by that point, was over. After the family’s grand tour, Leopold forced Nannerl to stay home, where in time she took up her new roles as wife, mother and footnote to a genius.
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Cinémathèque, Cleveland Institute of Art, ( 11141 East Boulevard – just east of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
PARKING: They have a free parking lot. Use the East Boulevard entrance.

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