From the archives: Bloody Mother



A review on Stéphanie Argerich’s 2010 feature length documentary film

"Bloody Daughter and a Child Mother"

It was several years ago that I had the chance to listen to Martha Argerich and her daughter Lydia on stage in Istanbul at Boğaziçi University Albert Long Hall. This was a special night organized with the kind help of an old neighbour of Lydia from Geneva, the world-known Turkish violinist Ayla Erduran. That night –totally unfamiliar to the Argerich family bonds– I remember myself looking at this dark-haired lady with her slanting eyes in amazement, and asking myslef what an Eastern carbon-copy she was of the piano goddess. Her posture on stage was as if she were a dedicated student of Lady Argerich. Soon I would learn that she is her very first child from the Chinese conductor Robert Chen. And long after I would come to realize her second husband was another conductor, Charles Dutoit. And it was with the beautiful documentary film Bloody Daughter shot in 2010 by her latest daughter Stéphanie Argerich that I would see she had a third man in her life, the American pianist and conductor Stephen Kovacevich. So my revelation would be complete. Or maybe not...
Yes, it was with this documentary film, Bloody Daughter, that the clouds of my ignorance were dispersed. I came to know Martha Argerich as a daughter, as a mother of three and as a childish grandmother, yet all these tags (daughter, mother, grandmother) didn’t serve to change my perspective towards her, while they just deepened it in their own esoteric fashion.
When a woman becomes a mother, the nature programmes her with a mission of bringing up her offspring, which is followed by permanent psychological transformations in her spirit, which is greater than simple alturism. This is something more than “changing your sitting posture when recording Ravel on the piano with a belly carrying your yet to be born baby”. A posture deep inside. But in Argerich’s case, her off-boundaries, free spirit which is incessantly nourished by music had obviously resisted this natural transformation and made her stay a child forever, a child of her children! This phrase doesn’t actually imply to any irresponsibility or carefreeness. The esoteric and hard to digest message is hidded just at this point.
But thanks God, her youngest child, Stéphanie, who maybe had the closest non-verbal attachment to her, had started to film her with whatever camera she grabbed since early ages. She filmed her mother, this elusive goddess when sleepy, sick, confused, amorous, nervous before a performance and when contemplative in her unique language, making it possible to trace the hints of the inexplicable.
Thus this pastel colored and sincere documenting project, Bloody Daughter indeed managed to go much beyond a paparazzi glimpse into Argerich’s private life. It’s a discussion on the identity of an artist with an omnipresent soul. Told from the a little shy but honest third-person perspective of Stéphanie, the film not only does explain the meaning and maybe pains of being the daughter of a divine music figure, but also opens up a new and direct dialogue channel that no professional journalist or even no personal assisstant can manage to dig into. It’s a naïve and unstained connnection whose aim is not to show but to watch and to make us watch.
Realized through a Franco-Swiss co-production straddling Geneva and Paris, Lucerne and Brussels, Beppu in Japan and Buenos Aires this first feature length documentary film of Stéphanie Argerich and its bonus DVD (including Martha Argerich’s performance of Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Mazurka Op. 24 No. 2 and Robert Schumann’s Traumeswirren with Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra under the conductorship of Jacek Kaspszyk at the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw) should find their much-deserved compartment in your audiovisual library to be distilled in years.
As for why the title is “Bloody Daughter”, let’s not give any spoiler here. Let’s watch and learn...
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