Synopsis: Meet Seymour Bernstein: a beloved pianist, teacher and true inspiration who shares eye-opening insights from an amazing life. Ethan Hawke helms this poignant guide to life.
Stars: Seymour Bernstein, Ethan Hawke
Director: Ethan Hawke
Running Length: 84 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: This sensitive doc from Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) is a good example of how to treat your elders…listen, learn, let them talk.
Famed pianist Seymour Bernstein may not be a household name to most because he hasn’t performed in public for decades, but after a chance encounter with Bernstein at a dinner party the actor became interested in learning more about the life-long New Yorker that imparts his wisdom to his students, his friends, and his contemporaries.
At a trim 84 minutes it’s less a biopic and more of a discussion with biographical context. We hear about Bernstein’s first encounter with music when a piano is brought into his house, which up until that point didn’t even have a radio to listen to. Over the years his talent became evident, with only his mother fully supporting the musical prodigy her son was becoming. Growing stage fright kept Bernstein out of the public eye for years, only occasionally playing for anyone outside his small one room apartment just big enough for a piano and pull out bed.
Hawke clearly found a kinship is Bernstein as the actor relays his own burgeoning stage fright these past years. Perhaps making a film on Bernstein’s life and capturing on film his sage words was a way to exorcise some of those demons that plague many a creative individual. No matter what the reason, Hawke’s portrait of Bernstein is as delicate as Bernstein’s technique, a technique Hawke shows in several working sessions Bernstein has with his students. Quick to correct his pupils but just as quick to praise them, his attention to the smallest detail provides great insight into what it takes to achieve his level of musical sophistication.
A treat of a film, if there’s one drawback it’s that there’s no true momentum to be had. Yes, Bernstein’s an interesting character and I think I could have sat through his entire master class, but the final result is an abridged autobiography conveyed on film. Still, it’s so short that you can’t help but pay rapt attention and think about the Seymour Bernsteins in your own life.