by Hector Poirier
Darius Milhaud is one of the greatest composers of our time. His music is known the world over. He is one of the “Les Six”, the famous group of French composers who gained recognition during the years after the first world war, and which includes such well known composers as Arthur Honneger, Francis Poulenc, George Auric (known for his movie music, especially that of ‘Moulin Rouge’), and other French artists who came to associate with the group, such as Satie, the composer Henri Sauguet, and Jean Cocteau. Milhaud has long been associated with Paul Claudel, one of the greatest of French writers who was at one time the ambassador to the United States.
The”Les Six” flourished in the creative atmosphere of Paris, and it is here that Darius Milhaud has worked for most of his life. At the beginning of the second world war he came with his family to the United States where he took a teaching position at Mills College in Oakland, California. He also headed this year the Music Academy of the West Summer Seminar for Composers, in Santa Barbara, California. Milhaud’s time is now divided between the United States and Paris.
The filming of a 45 minute color movie entitled A Visit With Darius Milhaud has been completed with the shooting of the French sequences in Paris and Aix-en-Provence. During the summer other sequences were filmed in the United States. This film presents the life of the composer Darius Milhaud. He is seen during his stay at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, teaching at Mills College, conducting at the Aspen, Colorado Music Festival, and in his native France.
Throughout the film, the creative process of this composer is traced. He is shown in several different locales as he works on the composition of a sonatina for violin and cello which was especially composed for this film and which is performed by Eudice Shapiro and Victor Gottlieb, members of the American Art Quartet.
A Visit With Darius Milhaud is a production by Ralph Swickard, who recently completed a 30 minute film featuring the Hollywood String Quartet. The Milhaud movie is directed by Rudolph Joseph, who has produced several of Pabst’s films, and in Hollywood directed such well known movies as Summer Storm. The photography is by Rex Fleming, a man with many years in the movie world. Both Joseph and Fleming are now with the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. The European sequences were produced by Leon Vickman, producer of the Franco-American feature film by Marc 0, Closed Vision.
The Parisian sequence is highlighted by a reunion of the “Les Six” to welcome Milhaud on this, one of his periodic returns to Paris, and by a meeting of Milhaud and Paul Claude to mark the anniversary of many years of their friendship and artistic collaboration, and to speak of the recent success in Paris of Claudel’s play, Christopher Columbus, which features music by Milhaud and interpretation and direction by Jean Louis Barrault. The camera was rolling in Milhaud’s apartment while lively conversation took place between Milhaud and his friends. Poulenc, Auric, Sauguet. Claudel, the American pianists concert-touring in Europe, Gold and Fisdale, and the Parisian concert singer, Jane Bathari, who has performed for many years the songs of Ravel, Debussy, and the “Les Six.”
Also appearing in the film are Mrs. Milhaud and their son, Daniel. Scenes of Aix-en-Provence were also shot, since this charming town in the South of France is the birthplace of the composer. It was here that Milhaud spent his early years, and where he often visited his family after he moved to Paris. In this country of the painter Cezanne, beautiful scenes were added to the documentation of Milhaud’s life.
Technically speaking, the film was shot on 16 mm commercial kodachrome and sound was taken synchronously on 17.5mm magnetic tape. Cameras used were the Mitchell and the Cine Special shooting simultaneously in sequences in the United States, and the Cine Special in France. All recording on location was done with the Kinevox 17.5mm magnetic recorder. Lighting in the Milhaud apartment in Paris where the reunion was shot was furnished by a motor generator group rented in Paris which supplied 150 amperes and lights at 3200 degrees for color work. Since no laboratory for commercial kodachrome exists as yet in Europe all developing has been done in Hollywood.
No definite plans for distribution have been confirmed at this early date, but a 35mm technicolor release is being considered. English and French speaking versions are being made.