Please read between the lines of what I’m telling you: film director Christine Baudillon is one of the foremost composers I have had the good luck to run into. Her movies are superbly orchestrated, paying the utmost attention to essential elements like sequencing, mixing, dynamic mutability and silence. And when the actual sound is the subject of the matter, the astounding detail of the environments defining the scenes of her arresting monographies is a spectacle in itself.
In the case of guitarist and harmonicist Raymond Boni’s Les Mains Bleues, this writer found once more several traits of the protagonist’s continuum akin to fundamental facets of his own maturation, something already occurred with Baudillon’s previous Horizon Vertical (on saxophonist Daunik Lazro). Firstly, mental cleanness achieved via the mere act of staring at and listening to the sea for long time stretches, or swimming into it. Or discipline – and related alleviation of stress – enhanced by picking the guitar with implied intensity, getting to experience the intimate corners of ourselves through the smell of wood and the resonance of the strings. A pleasing episode in that sense is a visit to the workshop of luthier Roger Buro, where the history of one of Boni’s darling axes is revisited amidst cordial smiles and nice memories. You can get a picture of the process underlying the conception of an acoustic instrument, and the development of a solid friendship in the meantime.
The way the French artist talks – lengthy pauses, whispered words of wisdom and a few funny hints – derives, in all probability, from his mother’s penchant to intone old tunes leaving the necessary spaces for the instrumental sections to unfold in the mind before the singing is resumed. Sure enough, this was a great influence on her son’s mode of conceiving music on the spot: by breathing, running, stopping, caressing the neck and applying a dose of effects when required, Boni generates a riveting palette comprising echoes of Django Reinhardt, blues and non-figurative aural painting. A versatility reflected in notable collaborations with poets – Violeta Ferrer is moved to tears as she recites Federico Garcia Lorca’s dramatic verses upon a delicate improvisation by Boni – and fellow instrumentalists such as Christine Wodrascka, Joe McPhee, the above mentioned Lazro, Claude Tchamitchian, Jean-Marc Foussat and especially, in an extremely touching transmittal of musical DNA, double bassist Bastien Boni – Raymond’s son, half of a magnificent duet with dad in the final scene, set within the remnants of a destroyed house in the dead of summer. An interesting note: at one point, Boni calls “idiots” the musicians who speak about “taking risks” with their work. He considers the ability of expressing himself with sounds a gift and a wealth that nobody can take away, whereas people living in dire conditions and in constant danger are those who really “risk”.
In the end titles – besides participants and contributors – Baudillon thanks the birds, the cicadas and the winds who made their presence felt throughout the shooting phases. This tells all you need to know of the woman behind the camera: her aim might be describing the life of a musician she respects but the ultimate upshot is an affecting account of beingness at large. Meanwhile we get better acquainted with the performers, admiring them a little more; and – as it happened to your chronicler in this circumstance – an unexpected moment of intense internal turmoil is lightened up by a lesson in the discernment of the often shamefully overlooked beautiful things that surround us and represent the real reason to enjoy the passing of days.