Portrait de Joseph de Bologne, compositeur talentueux, redoutable escrimeur, né d'une esclave sénégalaise, Nanon et d'un béké. Chevalier de Saint-George, est lui-même né esclave en Guadeloupe le 25 décembre 1745 et mort libre à Paris le 10 juin 1799.
un film de Claude Ribbe
Le livre qui a inspiré le film : Mémoires du chevalier de Saint-George
Le CD de la bande originale (Ortheal, ortheal 011).
FESTIVALS / AWARDS / TELEVISIONS
Première diffusion : France 3
le 10 mai 2011
Diffusion télé : France O
le 12 juin 2011 à 23 h 05
France Télévisions is broadcasting a 52-minute docu-fiction devoted to the chevalier de Saint-George on June 12, 2011, filmed in the Chateau de Vincennes and on the island Marie-Galante in Guadeloupe. The film was directed by Claude Ribbe, writer and cinematographer, who last year made the much remarked Le diable noir, for France 2 channel, a documentary devoted to General Dumas, the father of author Alexandre Dumas père.
For the first time, a French national television channel (France 3) pays homage in the form of a significant fiction to the famous musician-swordsman, son of a "Béké" (a white Creole) and a slave woman. He himself was born into slavery in Guadeloupe on December 25th, 1745, and died as a free man in Paris on June 10th, 1799.
Claude Ribbe, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and philosophy lecturer and a former member of the national consultative commission on Civil Rights, is particularly committed to paying homage to the memory of slaves and the fight against racism. Organizer of the annual ceremony held on May 10th, at the Place du Général-Catroux in Paris, he came to public attention in 2005 with the publication of a lampoon revealing the racist character of Napoleon.
A friend of the poet Aimé Césaire (to whom he pays homage in Le nègre vous emmerde, Buchet-Chastel) he pioneered his symbolic entry to the Panthéon and
the rehabilitation of General Dumas (to whom an important monument has since been erected in Paris and on whose behalf Claude Ribbe, supported by a 7000-signature petition, has demanded that Nicolas Sarkozy authorize his symbolic and posthumous reintegration into the Ordre de la Légion d'Honneur).
He is also the author of two works devoted to Saint-George: a biography, Le chevalier de Saint-George (Perrin, 2004) and a work of fiction, Mémoires du chevalier de Saint-George, Orthéal, 2011, re-edited. The film is based on this latter work. Claude Ribbe also worked with Bartabas on an equestrian and pyrotechnical spectacle that was performed before 50,000 spectators in the Chateau de Versailles in 2004: Le chevalier de Saint-George, un Africain à la Cour.
A period film
In this new film, Le chevalier de Saint-George, in which the actor-director took a very spectacular interest, Claude Ribbe, originally from Guadeloupe, a violinist, a swordsman and a horseman, stresses the musical career of Saint-George and the difficulties that this exceptionally gifted composer (sometimes compared to Mozart) encountered because of his colour and background in metropolitan French society in the Age of Enlightenment, a period that took a favourable view of the abolition (albeit progressive) of slavery, but in which racial prejudice began to raise its head.
Far from being over-simplified, the fi lm makes no attempt to ignore the royalism (albeit moderate) of Saint-George - a well-known Freemason who created a cavalry "legion" consisting of ex-slaves - or his links with General Dumouriez (played by Antoine Blanquefort), who defected to the enemy in April 1793.
Le chevalier de Saint-George will be remembered for many classic scenes involving young actors, often from the world of theatre: the first encounter between Saint-George's parents, Nanon (Myriam Massengo-Lacavé) and Georges de Bologne (Jérémy Banster), Saint-George boarding a sumptuous three-master in the Antilles, the arrival of the golden horse-drawn coach in the courtyard of the Chateau de Versailles, the side-splitting (and historically attested) encounter of Saint-George, adored by the public, and the future author of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Choderlos de Laclos (a very mediocre poet who was unknown at the time), played by David Palatino, the delicious dialogues between the Marquise de Créquy (Élise Noiraud) - representing prejudices that are, alas, still in vogue - and a witty and gossip mongering blind Lefebvre de Beauvray (Franck Boss), the marivaudage with the Marquise de Montalembert (Aurélie Matéo), the long (undubbed) take of Saint-George accompanying on the pianoforte the actress and soprano Leïlani Lemmet, in the role of Louise Fusil, the lively dialogue between the Duc d'Orléans (Fabien Carrara) with a "girl" (Sophie Anselme) on his knees, the sequence shot at Versailles in the dazzlingly beautiful guard room of the Queen, the fencing scene with a famous transvestite, the Chevalier d'Éon (fencer Stéphanie Muel), the exchanges between Saint-George, a racist commissaire (the truculent Jöchen Haegele) and the President of the Assembly (Victorien Robert in the role of Hérault de Séchelles) an equestrian dialogue with General Dumas (Stany Coppet) and above all the particularly intense musical duo between the violinist Saint-George (here depicted as a seducer) and the Queen-musician Marie-Antoinette (strikingly interpreted by the young harpsichordist, Marie Van Rhijn) shot in the Pavillon français of the Petit Trianon and reminiscent of the ambience of Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata. Also worthy of mention is the unassuming but effective performance of a young actor from Marie-Galante, Christophe Prauca, in the role of Hippolyte, Saint-George's valet and protector, and that of stage actor Bruno Henry in the role of Narcisse, a companion of Saint-George who fi nally betrayed him. Not forgetting Jean-Claude Tisserand as a sadistic jail-keeper (sequence shot in the Mirabeau dungeon of the Chateau de Vincennes).
A swashbuckling film
But Saint-George the composer was also the finest swordsman of all time. For the stunts, duels and fencing scenes on a par with those of the greatest cloak and dagger films, Claude Ribbe called on his friend and fencing master (who also taught Jean Marais and Jean-Paul Belmondo) the legendary Claude Carliez, the undisputed specialist in the genre (in addition to working on two James Bond films, he also contributed to Le Bossu, Les Mariés de l'An deux, La fille de d'Artagnan, Valmont by Milos Forman, and many more.). Like Claude Mercier-Ythier - the harpsichord maker who provided the instruments from the period - Claude Carliez also makes a brief appearance in the film.
A musical film
Particular attention has been paid to the soundtrack of Le Chevalier de Saint-George, consisting exclusively of often-forgotten works that were discovered in the libraries of Europe, several of which are played live in the film. They were selected from the beautiful pieces composed by the Chevalier de Saint-George and re-recorded on baroque instruments by an ensemble created for the occasion, the Orchestre du Chevalier de Saint-George. The soundtrack is recorded on a wonderful CD released concomitantly with the film: Le chevalier de Saint-George, choix de musique pour la reine Marie-Antoinette (Ortheal, ortheal 011, soon available). ■