Cinema International Presents Story of Blind Mozart Contemporary in "Mademoiselle Paradis"

Aug 28, 2019

Kicking off the German language series of Murray State's Cinema International program is 2017 Austrian film Mademoiselle Paradis. Director of Cinema International, Thérèse Saint Paul, and MSU history professor, Brian Clardy, visit Sounds Good to discuss the film and its upcoming screenings.

From the MSU Cinema International website:

"18th century Vienna is overshadowed by the genius of Mozart. However, a woman, Maria Theresia von Paradis, was also a gifted piano player and a close friend of Mozart's. She lost her eye-sight as a child, and with the help of Dr. Mesmer, a forward-thinking physician with innovative techniques of magnetism, Maria slowly recovers her sight. But this miracle comes at a price as the woman progressively starts to lose her gift for music."

"It is a very powerful piece...about this person who nobody heard about, probably because she was a woman. However, she was a famous, at the time, Austrian composer, musician, singer, and pianist. Even Mozart said to have composed his Concerto No. 18 in Bb major for her," Saint Paul explains. "The movie really focuses on [her] disability, misogyny, and alternative medicine that was practiced at the time by a famous doctor. She was treated for about a year by this doctor as a young adult, but after that year, her family withdrew her from his care under dubious circumstances. We seem to understand that it has something to do with the fact that she seemed to lose her gift for music as she improved...she recovered her sight for that year thanks to the alternative medicine of the doctor. It seemed to have something to do with healing touch, [which] seems to show that her disability might have been emotional."

"There's a lot of discussion there that could deal with that issue of 'what is the cause of her disability,' and then, of course, once she was withdrawn, the blindness came back -- and [this time] forever. But then, it made her famous. So, you know, there's some issues there - is disability a cause for fame sometimes? Should we treat it or not? There are a lot of issues now, and in the Middle Ages, people were purposefully maimed so they could go beg. There are all sorts of issues about disability and what it does or doesn't do and [how it] may be taken advantage of," Saint Paul continues. 

Although Paradis did not enjoy the same amount of long-lasting success as her contemporary, Mozart, her story of creating beautiful art in the face of a severe physical disability is one that can still be appreciated today. "A lot of her works, just based upon my research, are lost. I find that ironic and sad that the world was cheated out of such a great composer," Clardy says. "With her vision problems, people that come to see this film will think of contemporary artists like Ronnie Milsap and Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli that excelled in music, despite their physical disability, and I think they'll be inspired by that."

Cinema International's schedule (see showtime and location update here) and future are currently being jeopardized by financial instability, and Saint Paul and Clardy encourage community members interested in maintaining this service to volunteer their time, funds, or both to increase the longevity of this Murray staple. "Cinema International is a uniquely Murray institution, and it has been for over three decades. Both the community [and] our students, they come to expect this," Clardy says. "It's free. It's affordable. Affordable to the nth power. And I think that's its particular draw, especially to students who don't have a whole heck of a lot of money. This is one of the reasons why we need to keep this going, because this is not just an affordable service, but a valuable educational tool." 

When asked about the long-loved program's future, Saint Paul says, "to tell you the truth, I'm not sure. I hope that the university will continue to value its presence despite, as Brian said, its odd status. It's not a student-ran organization, it's not depending on any particular department...and yet the community really wants it, loves it, because it's culture. In many ways, the Curris Center is the place for that. The cinema was actually built so many years ago to show Cinema International, so it belongs there."

The public can help maintain the Cinema International program by "turning up," Saint Paul says. "I know our public has been giving us money through the Office of Development for years, and that's so appreciated. Because let's face it, it's free to the public -- it's not free to me as a director. I have to pay licensing fees, and it's quite hefty, like 300 dollars per movie. That comes from the university, the dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts has been incredibly supportive, the community has been supportive, even students sometimes are supportive, although they are not expected to. So you can do that, come, and maybe also voice your opinion if you appreciate what it is and you think it should continue, maybe make your voice known."

"Certainly write people, e-mail people, make phone calls to the administration and let them know what this series means to you. That's very vital. Especially in this intellectual climate where we believe in dialogue, where we believe in debating ideas, that type of dialogue is needed to keep this program alive," Clardy adds. 

For more information on Cinema International's upcoming shows, visit the Murray State website. You can also contact Dr. Thérèse Saint Paul at tsaintpaul@murraystate.edu. Donations to Cinema International can be made by contacting Lucy Love at llove@murraystate.edu in the Office of Development. You may also make a secure online gift to Cinema International by selecting "other" as the gift designation and indicating "Cinema International" in the comment section, here: murraystate.edu/givenow

Mademoiselle Paradis (97 minutes and N.R.) will be presented in the Barkley Room on the third floor of the Curris Center on Thursday, August 29th. The film's second screening will take place on Friday, August 30th, in the Curris Center Theatre. Both showtimes are 7:30. Screenings are free and open to the public.