Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A few words on Seymour: An Introduction (2014) New York Film Festival 2014

Director and subject at the NYFF press conference
Ethan Hawke's documentary on Seymour Bernstein, an 87 year old pianist, composer, teacher and Yoda like character is pretty good. I can't say it's better than that.

Sue me, I can't rave about the film, though I know many people in the press screening were enraptured and orgasmic to the point they wouldn't let the poor man leave the press screening, they just had to talk to him.

Me, I liked it but I didn't find it quite special.

The focus of the film is how Bernstein has managed to maintain the passion of his life, music, and have it transfer to other parts of his existence. He suggests that if we can all do this, regardless of what our passion is we'll all be happier. Its a nice philosophy, but I'm not ready to annoit him a Buddha.

The trouble for me was that watching the film I had the sense that as much a character Seymour is, once you get him away from the piano and his students, things are a more than a bit manufactured, particularly his philosophy. While I find what he says extremely valid, and I have no doubt he lives by what he says, watching Bernstein over the course of the film, and at the press conference it all came off as a little too polished. He's not so much expressing his feelings but speaking well rehearsed lines. It was something that really hit home for me when I saw  Bernstein in the flesh and he used whole sentences and phrases from the film in differing contexts. It reminded me of the various self help gurus you see on TV talk shows. People are clearly finding him intriguing because he seems to be a Jewish Yoda saying the things they want to hear.

What also lessened the impact for me was that there is something about this film and it's subject and the film IN NO GREAT HURRY:13 LESSONS IN LIFE WITH SAUL LEITER seem awfully similar. Watching SEYMOUR I kept going I've been here before... What is it about being an older New Yorker that seems to impart great wisdom, or BS that sounds like wisdom?

This isn't to say that the film is bad, it's not, it's just not the be all and end all, nor is Mr Bernstein as wise as he seems, he simply knows the right phrase to turn.

Worth a look see when the film plays Saturday and Monday at the New York Film Festival especially if you want to see a self help film that doesn't seem to be one. Besides Bernstein is supposed to be playing the piano after the screenings (or at least Saturday's)

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