On Feb. 22, TVA Films will release a feature film paying tribute to classical music: Au bout des doigts (At finger tips). Directed by Ludovic Bernard, this drama comes almost on the heels of his two 2017 productions, Mission Pays Basque and L’Ascension, both putting to good use the cinematographic talents of stand-up comedian Ahmed Sylla. This latest work, co-written by the filmmaker and Johanne Bernard, stars Jules Benchetrit, Lambert Wilson and Kristin Scott Thomas. Premiered in North America last November during the 24th edition of the Cinemania festival, this feature celebrates classical music in all its emotional power – and against all odds.
The plot, as outlined in the program notes, revolves around a young man named Mathieu Maliniski (played by Jules Benchetrit). He has a passion for classical music, but keeps it under wraps from the friends of the underprivileged neighbourhood he lives in. While the prospect of landing in prison is there owing to the bad influences around him, the director of the local national conservatory, Pierre Geitner (Lambert Wilson), has other plans for him. Indeed, he is so convinced that the young man has the right stuff to become a virtuoso pianist that he signs him up for a national competition. To this end, Mathieu is put under the tutelage of a demanding teacher, a countess (Kristin Scott Thomas). Yet he cannot make head or tail of the world he enters. The film deals with how each of three main protagonists have to set aside their own prejudices to attain their goal.
Music as Salvation
This drama is about the perseverance, courage and sheer tenacity of a potential delinquent to free himself from the underprivileged surroundings threatening his very being. Classical music becomes a boon to him, his way out. The turning point occurs in the hallway of a Paris train station where the head of the conservatory chances upon him, sitting at a piano left for public use and playing a Chopin waltz. Geitner is taken by his playing, yet loses sight of him, and sets out to find him at all costs. Warnings from colleagues notwithstanding, he takes the young man under his wing.
The film ushers us through an emotional roller coaster ride of sorts. It is chock-full of plot twists that bring to the fore the collisions and oppositions of mentalities and dissonances, cultural and social. The main asset of this movie is its subtle treatment of the subject matter, and it is done so convincingly as to enable the viewer to comprehend Matthieu’s hardships in dealing with cultural codes foreign to his own. It is the difficult and stormy confrontation between this young firebrand and the countess in all her gruffness that spice up the story and bring about this interesting contrast to the usually staid norm of classical music. In closing it is worth noting that all three characters share one thing, regardless of their differences: they each found their salvation in classical music.
Translation by Marc Chénard
Au bout des doigts opens in theatres on Feb. 22.
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