“MOZART’S SISTER” – Third string cinema

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

It seems very tempting, Mozart’s Sister – the opportunity of another 18th century costume picture, this one from France – produced, written and directed by René Féret. For those who enjoy historical fiction, the film poses as yet one more chance to unlock the doors and peer into the closets of the family of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After all, it’s been twenty-seven years since the spectacular emergence of director Milos Forman’s Amadeus, which gathered eight Oscars, including Best Picture – as well as for the author of its screenplay, Peter Shaffer, adapting and shaping his multi-Tony Award-winning theatrical masterpiece into iconic cinematic genius. Since the film’s 1984 premiere, business keeps booming in the Mozart industry; a chance at playing either of the Leading Roles of the so-called “rivals” – Mozart and (the nearly forgotten and second-rate) composer Antonio Salieri – continue to inflame the ambitions of many a stage actor; and a recent release of the film into Blu-Ray format proves that Amadeus is here to stay and with guaranteed re-incarnation into whatever format is on the horizon. Mozart’s Sister is destined for landfill.

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David Moreau (Wolfgang) and Marie Féret (Nannerl)

Amadeus and Mozart’s Sister are both of the “re-imagined” variety. In other words, for its authors, Truth is but an adjunct to Creative License. Re-imagining the adventures of the Mozart family begins somewhere in a flurry of sheet music, ribbon-bound letters, yellowing diaries, and stories heard around any Music Conservatory. Somewhere in this reverie, René Féret and Peter Shaffer both employ the same controlling gimmick — “I coulda been somebody!” For Shaffer, Salieri knows his musical gifts are lacking, but the Viennese Court doesn’t know it until Mozart suddenly shows up. According to Féret, Mozart’s sister Nannerl believes that – had she been born as Wolfgang’s brother – they might have become the first European Dynamic Duo. No need for Certitude here. “Re-imagined” needs just a few facts and figures, but the finished product requires the entertainment value of Barnum & Bailey. Mozart’s Sister barely limps into town.

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“Nannerl Mozart” (Marie Féret)

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Le Dauphin (Clovis Fouin) and Nannerl Mozart (Marie Féret)

René Féret’s shooting script of Mozart’s Sister cannot avoid comparison to Amadeus. Peter Shaffer nurtured his idea through the disciplines of live Theatre. The structure and rhythm of his re-imagined Amadeus is developed through much rehearsal and three continuous years on Broadway before he re-vamps the script for Hollywood. By contrast, Féret’s end product is a plodding, witless and gloomy bore. His treatment of the premise that Nannerl Mozart is a suppressed and thwarted genius composer with Box Office appeal similar to that of her brother’s – is flaccid and void of artistic climax. Likewise, there’s no satisfaction to be had in the tedious and bloodless performances rendered by director René Féret’s daughters – Marie as “Nannerl” and Lisa as “Louise of France”. Someone find René Féret a Casting Director!

On the other hand, Salieri would applaud Mozart’s Sister and its inherent mediocrity.

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Louise de France (Lisa Féret) and Nannerl Mozart (Marie Féret)

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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