Today: February 22, 2024
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Mozart's Sister

Tammy Wynette was right: Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.

Tammy Wynette was right: Sometimes it’s hard
to be a woman.

Just
ask Ashley Judd. A beautiful,
smart, successful Hollywood actress, over the last two decades she has made a
career of playing strong, independent women. Seriously, has she ever just played a dolly bird or a piece
of eye candy? Even in A Dolphin Tale, it was a surprise when
she wasn’t playing the dolphin!
Right now however it’s not her acting that’s making headlines, but her
puffy face. She’s all over the
Internet, media whores and ‘experts’ speculating as to whether or not she’s had
work done, how much work she’s had done, which procedures, which surgeon. Given some of the more hysterical
reports, you’d be forgiven for thinking she looked like Simon Weston with
sunburn. The truth is rather more
prosaic; she’d been ill, she’d been taking steroids as part of her treatment,
steroids make you puffy. Ashley’s
big crime was to go on TV and do an interview looking, well, normal. OK, not normal exactly. She still looked stunning. Her big crime was to give an interview
looking like a beautiful woman with water retention. But Ashley’s not just taking this media crap lying down. She’s fighting back with a fantastic
article over at The Daily Beast decrying the “toxic misogyny’ of the
media. Shame there was no Internet
back in the 18th century to give Mozart’s Sister her chance to smash the patriarchy.

You see
according to French writer/director René Féret, Mozart’s Sister, Maria Anna, known as Nannerl, would have been just
as great a musical genius if it hadn’t been for those pesky sexual and social
conventions making her conform to 18th century gender roles. A talented musician in her own right,
there’s no real evidence that Nannerl was touched by the same genius as her
brother but why let that get in the way of a good story? Focusing on Nannerl’s teenage years, Mozart’s Sister gives us the Mozart
family touring the great courts of Europe as itinerant musicians performing for
noble families. Always in the
shadow of her younger, boy genius brother Wolfgang (David Moreau), Nannerl (Marie Féret) yearns to compose but finds her creativity stifled
by her overbearing father Leopold (Marc Barbé) who doesn’t think it’s a girl’s place to
compose. She forms an intense
friendship (bordering on the Sapphic, but not really as they’re played by
sisters) with the 13-year-old Princess Marie Louise (Lisa Féret).
Nannerl almost has a romance with Marie Louise’s brother the Dauphin (Clovis Fouin) who’s a big fan of her
music, Marie Louise enters a nunnery and these two proto-feminists reflect on
how different their lives would have been had they been boys.

A
handsome, melancholy period piece, the biggest problem with Mozart’s Sister is it doesn’t bring
anything new to the table. Yes, we
know women had a tough time being accepted as creative individuals in their own
right in the 1760s. Hell, women
have a tough time being accepted now, but in presenting Nannerl as a feminist
poster girl for unfulfilled female talent, it’s a shame Féret cast his own
daughter in the lead role. She’s
good but hardly compelling. Which
rather undermines the central notion of the film, making you wonder if Nannerl
really was the musical genius the film suggests or merely just a good
accompanist living in the shadow of her more gifted brother?

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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