A careless viewer of this touching film would not manage to assess the extent of Daunik Lazro’s mental picture by the sparse sentences that he releases. The reedist – a credit to improvisation, alone or as the teammate of a multitude of diverse artists over the years – speaks deliberately, sometimes struggling to find the right terms to express what’s better accomplished instrumentally, the delivery constantly punctuated by a breathing twitch that the impressively detailed audio captures very closely. He’s probably the first to realize that the fight against the obviousness of words is as hard as the one needed to create something previously unheard when improvising. The experiences with acid and other mind-altering drugs, or the conviction that astronomic influences have defined certain vocations, are but two of the many facts we’re told to dress a music that sounds severe, sweetly distressing, entirely lived by its engenderer.
A miscellany of solo improvisations and collaborative projects is shown during the pair of abundant hours of Horizon Vertical. Delighted recalls: a duet with Jean-Luc Guionnet, an impressive mixed-art performance with dancers Aurore Gruel and Abdeslam Michel Raji and bassist Louis-Michel Marion, and the great Qwat Neum Sixx quartet with Sophie Agnel, Michaël Nick and Jérôme Noetinger. Still, nothing defeats the weight of what the man says in the final minutes. With a mixture of resignation and sadness, in the shadow of a hay bale flanked by his partner, Lazro laments gradual physical difficulties in handling the main instrument – the baritone saxophone – with the increasing of age. The scene, culminating in the couple slowly walking away towards the horizon before the end titles, is indeed an emotional zenith amidst the implicit symbolism – that of the ineluctability of a life cycle – which Baudillon attempts to bring forth throughout, ultimately achieving the aim.
Morvan’s secluded countryside is an authentic co-protagonist. Magnificent close-ups on the local flora, the looks of snoopy horses into the camera, the mantra of the summer cicadas, the wavering branches of partially defoliated trees. You can almost smell the dampness when Lazro is caught soloing inside a tunnel under the railway. Seasons change, and we see him removing the snow from the walkway to his home’s door, or wearing a heavy wool cap while reminiscing about free jazz’s golden era in the 60s with friend and photographer Horace, amiably caressing the latter’s attention-pleading dog in the meantime. I was deeply moved by the affinity of sounds and images with what has informed the most significant flashes of my own continuation to this day. Baudillon proficiently rotates this kind of memory from within and the concert footage; when the saxophonist returns to the precious familiarity of a rural context after we’ve watched him in a state of trance through a live set, the contrast is arresting.
The DVD is complemented by a little book – written in French – in which Lazro hints at some crucial companions of a lengthy creative path. But even without that, this feature confirms its director’s sensitive aptitude, already manifest in her previous documentary Basse Continue, dedicated to Joëlle Léandre. Independently from the lead role’s matchless individuality, the movie itself is the real winner, and Christine Baudillon is the sort of ever-curious inspired being the world needs more of to battle the ongoing death of sentiments.