There is something as resonant and beautiful in a wise authentic person, someone who genuinely walks his talk, as there is the sounding of a single note on a Steinway piano. When life or music are played with passion and conviction it moves just about everyone. Hence why we all need an introduction to Seymour Bernstein through director Ethan Hawkes gorgeously straightforward yet emotional documentary Seymour: An Introduction, about former concert pianist, now longtime piano teacher Seymour Bernstein. Watch the entire 5 star review, and why Seymour is so compelling, BELOW.
Here is the trailer, so you can see what some of the hype is about! Be advised, those who live in the Washington DC area, that on Saturday, March 28th, Seymour will be at the Landmark Bethesda Row theater for the 1:50 and 7:00 pm showings of Seymour: An Introduction, and he’ll be doing a Q & A afterwards. I’ll be there, join me! And see the film. It’s GREAT!
Here is a transcript of my video review, should you want to kick it old school and read the thing:
There is something as resonant and beautiful in a wise authentic person, someone who genuinely walks his talk, as there is the sounding of a single note on a Steinway piano. When music is played and live is lived with passion and conviction, it moves just about everyone. Hence why we all need an introduction to Seymour Bernstein through director Ethan Hawkes gorgeously straightforward yet emotional documentary about former concert pianist, now longtime piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.
Ethan Hawke has done just about everything and been all the way from the bottom to the top. He has directing films, written books, been both nominated for an Oscar and ridiculed as an actor on film, and nominated and ridiculed as an actor onstage. If you are multitalented, curious, and successful long enough in the arts, that’s how it’s going to go. Suppose, though, stage fright, nerves, and oppressive self-doubt plague you no matter the accolades? As someone attempting to be a whole, ever-advancing artist and authentic human being, what does one do? How does one advance as an artist expressing the beauty of art and still feel joy?
Luckily for those who ponder these questions, which are where metaphysical and practical meet, after a recent bout with stage fright, Hawke met former concert pianist, now longtime piano teacher Seymour Bernstein at a dinner party. It was such an inspiring experience, Hawke knew right away he wanted to make a documentary about him.
Released for the first time at the Telluride Film Festival in 2014, Seymour: An Introduction is a series of unscripted interviews with Bernstein and a peek into some of his teaching sessions and master classes. More than that, though, it’s an examination of the responsibility of artists to use their talent in ways that advance themselves spiritually and as ever better people.
In a world where (ahem) YouTube, reality tv, Vine, and the social network laud personalities that put hunger for fame first and personal conviction or artistic fire way down the list, Bernstein’s observations couldn’t be more timely. Listicles and soundbites are eroding deeper examination or meaning in news and criticism. No one now is holding a standard for excellence in art, music, or writing, but perhaps they never did.
It is clear Hawke and Bernstein came to be great and trusted friends. In the few moments Ethan Hawke is onscreen, he shows his confusion, his struggle to integrate what he does, his acting, with who he is. As with all his students, Bernstein quickly and gently points out something very basic and true.
What transcends the usual biographical documentary is how all encompassing and inspired we can see Bernstein is as a a lover of music and a life teacher. He breathes with passion for life and learning, especially the education of how to bring together an individual and their calling. It is impossible for an audience to sit through this introduction without being moved to consider how his words relate to bettering and deepening their own lives.
At the end of this documentary is the concert, Seymour’s first in nearly 40 years, that is a solo performance so full of nuance and passion it wouldn’t matter if the viewer had never heard classical before.
If film exists in part to awaken the soul, as all art should, Hawke has already begun his journey of infusing his best talent into his work. We all need a little Seymour Bernstein in our lives. We can thank Ethan Hawke for bringing him into the spotlight if only for a little while.
5 out of 5 stars.