By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Seymour Bernstein may be a brilliant classical pianist and excellent teacher who has lived an extraordinary life; however, Ethan Hawke ‘s documentary tribute to his close friend and mentor will probably leave a bit more to be desired. While the film does feature some touching and very personal interviews with Bernstein, as well as some truly wonderful piano performances, Hawke takes an occasionally dull and uninspired approach to present the story of a truly inspiring individual.
Seymour Bernstein fell in love with playing the piano at a very young age. He would dilligently work on his art and craft despite the lack of enthusiasm by his father and would continue to do so even in the most difficult settings–the theater of war. Regardless of the state of the world around him, Bernstein’s passion for music never waned. He would eventually become an accomplished concert pianist, an kind and patient teacher and a true friend to several people
Bernstein’s remarkable stories and his personal revelations do make for a very interesting documentary. However, Hawke relies mostly on Bernstein alone to carry the film. Hawke’s intention may have been to keep his film from overshadowing the humble and unassuming nature of his beloved subject. This approach does allow Bernstein to shine naturally, but an amazing artist such as Bernstein deserves a more insightful portrait. I personally would have enjoyed hearing more testimonials from more people he has touched with his music and his work as a teacher.
The documentary does have its beautiful emotional highs and lows and the elder musician does make for a fascinating subject; however, Ethan Hawke’s minimalism in putting together the film comes across as a slightly overextended segment on 60 Minutes. I’m not saying this is an absolute negative aspect of the film, but this documentary needs more variety when it comes to presenting its subject. This documentary film is definitely worth a watch, but is better suited for home viewing and doesn’t beg to be seen theatrically.