Wednesday, March 21, 2007
French "Orchestra Seats" take up the slack from Everwood
Avenue Montaigne ("Fauteuils d'orchestre" (aka "Orchestra Seats", 2006, dir. Daniele Thompson, wr. with Christopher Thompson, ThinkFilm/Studio Canal, 107 min, PG-13, France). Many foreign films adopt USA titles that do not translate to the originals. I think the French title is better.
To discuss this movie, I digress back to the Everwood series that ran for four seasons, from fall of 2002 and ending in the spring of 2006. Review on blogger is here. In that series, there is a teenage boy Ephram (young “dual citizen US Canada” actor Gregory Smith) who is a piano prodigy and aspires to go to Julliard. In the forlorn attempt to prove, quite prematurely, his “manhood” he gets a college girl pregnant (that fact is kept a secret from him by his overbearing father) and winds up losing his chance to go to Julliard. He does become an informal music teacher back home in Everwood after finishing high school. At one point, Ephram “reads” the last movement of Beethoven’s f-minor Appassionata sonata, with all of its power and virtuosity. I had suggested on TheWB message boards that they have him play the Tempest, and sure enough, six months later, they had him start a scene with the liquid 3/8 theme of the d-minor Allegretto finale. He would also play Bach, Prokofiev, Schubert, Paganini-Liszt, and a flashy Chopin etude.
Now in this movie you have the converse. An established concert pianist Jean-Francois Lefort (Albert Dupontel) is tired of his concert life, with its formal dress, pressure, and artificial protocol, and his wife feels that it is wrecking their still childless marriage. He longs for a simpler, less pretentious career -- like teaching piano. The man looks quite virile and robust and out of stereotype; in a climactic scene, he is playing the last movement of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, when he slams the keyboard, and gets up and strips to his undershirt. He does enjoy playing for cancer patients (the Liszt Consolation #3). In a rehearsal scene, he plays an extended, very pianistic passage from that same wintry Allegretto finale of the Tempest. Someone – the movie’s writer Christopher Thompson (he plays the son of an art collector who is selling a life’s collection at auction)– must have gotten the inspiration from Everwood. His mother, Daniele, directs.
Now this whole movie is seen from the point of view of an ambitious girl who forces her way into the world of the rich and famous as a “waiter” in a “Pop Stop” café on Montaigne. She meets a film director played by Sydney Pollack, who wants to approach a visible soap opera actress for a movie about Sartre, Simone de Bouvier, and existentialism, a topic that covers the whole moral question of duplicitous motives.
Now you can certainly make interesting movies about the lives of prima donnas in several leading areas of the arts (say the movies, theater, art collection, and concert classical music, as in this film – enough to fill the Kennedy Center any night).
But, still, the idea of what it takes a young performer to “make it” is even more interesting to me. That’s why I’ve experimented with this concept with my own screenplay script “Make the A-List”.
Since Everwood is off the air (the whole series was rerun this past fall on ABC Family), I think it would be time for Greg Berlanti and perhaps Warner Independent Pictures to come up with a 100-minute or so film sequel, for actual theatrical release (probably PG-13, even with the idea of Kyle being gay). The story could play with the idea of one of Ephram’s friends, Kyle (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the famous actor), actually getting in to Julliard, while Ephram tries to get back to his art in the Colorado mountain resort scene as a jazz musician. Maybe I would take a stab at this, but of course TheWB owns the show mark and the characters. By the way, Chris Pratt (Bright in Everwood) went on to become a New Age Mentor in The O.C. (also now gone) and even took Seth (Adam Brody) on an initiatory night hike, another idea in another of my scripts.
I took nine years of piano myself, from ages 8 to 17, and got good enough to play some of the Rachmaninoff Op 32 preludes (I loved the final D-flat major prelude, that preps for the climax of the Third Piano Concerto). I had read the Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto pretty well, but not the Emperor. Why did I not pursue a career? I may have been chicken and failed to pay my dues. I was a creature of the Cold War and fear of the draft, where you majored in math and science and were more "worthy" of being protected from being used as cannon fodder. That's a big deal with me today.
For my own scripts, I would want to use certain orchestral music, including Schumann's Second Symphony (the symphony that talks to itself) and the bacchanale finale of Rachmaninoff's Second. If Everwood ever became a movie, a blowout choice for concert music (for Kyle to play at Julliard) would be the youthful b-minor first piano concerto by Eugen d'Albert, rather like Liszt, with a colossal fugue as a cadenza and majestic coda built on a theme that sounds like the Everwood theme music.
Also, check my blog link "Composing at 17".