Seymour: An Introduction Screen 14 articles

Seymour: An Introduction

2014

Seymour: An Introduction Poster
  • Whether or not you’ve studied piano, or any musical instrument, it is fascinating to observe Bernstein’s gentle but rigourous technique in correcting errors, training the musicians’ bodies, and helping them to locate their own place within the piece they are trying to perform.

  • Seymour: An Introduction is an ode to Bernstein’s almost monastic devotion to his art.

  • Though it’s wise to be suspicious of movie stars moonlighting as documentarians, there’s nothing at all amiss about Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction, a warm, ingratiatingly modest profile of Manhattan piano teacher Seymour Bernstein, whose life-earned wisdom is exceeded by his openness to change and discovery—the master as perpetual student.

  • Hawke's occasional presence in the film—on the surface a possible tipoff to star vanity—actually illuminates a humbling transparency of intent. The filmmaker's concentration on Bernstein isn't a betrayal of his own ego massaging, but rather an attempt to have a genuine soul-bearing conversation. If that at times entails Bernstein taking emphasis completely away from the craft behind the film, it's all the more moving a confirmation of Hawke's modesty.

  • What Bernstein’s classes evokes, and subsequently what Seymour: An Introduction briefly grasps at, is the meticulous technical skill that goes into artistry. These and other procedural elements—including an absorbing sequence in a Steinway selection room during which Bernstein painstakingly chooses a piano for an upcoming recital—save the film from becoming yet another mediocre profile piece.

  • The conflict between striving for some objective ideal and seeking more intangible, intensely personal rewards isn’t limited to musical pursuits, either: Anyone who endeavors to create anything good has probably felt it. Ethan Hawke certainly has, and his sweet-tempered inquisitiveness, seemingly jumbled with some existential anxiety, has led him to make a lovely little documentary, Seymour: An Introduction.

  • It’s likely a cult will grow around Seymour, if not Seymour, which is as charming as its subject but lacks urgency for also being as low-key... In a moving section, Bernstein describes playing music while stationed in Korea, then breaks down under the weight of memories. It’s one of the rare times that the film is devoid of music, a strong choice by Hawke in a film that otherwise lacks much sense of authorship.

  • The movie kind of flits along... pleasantly and informatively enough without ever lifting off. Until the last fifteen minutes or so, in which Bernstein, having been convinced to play a semi-private recital for Hawke’s theater company, performs and discusses Schumann’s “Fantasia.” Hawke, in a rather disarming display of cinematic virtuosity, cuts from Bernstein playing the piece, Bernstein directly addressing the camera, Bernstein directly addressing a live audience...

  • For classical-music lovers, the movie is a treat, albeit a mixed one. It's a source of exalted moments and a springboard for big ideas—but some of those moments and ideas evoke fractures in Bernstein's world view and Hawke's filmmaking. Nonetheless, Hawke places his own personal conflicts in the film, often using them as the motive for his ongoing dialogue with Bernstein.

  • [Seymour is] such a charismatic camera subject that there’s no need for all the testimonials that Hawke includes; after a while, the parade of students past and present (including New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman) singing Bernstein’s praises gets a bit wearisome. The film also lacks a coherent structure or rhythm as cinema. But any time in such good company can’t be said to have been poorly spent.

  • Getting to witness an aged, talented pianist discover the finest instrument he's ever played, to share his pleasure in that experience, is a remarkable documentary moment. It makes me simultaneously nostalgic for and regretful of the many years I spent studying the piano without ambition or care. Also, I'm a total sucker for Hawke's whole searching, humanistic, semi-mystical, "why are we here, man?" thing. A sweet film, and that's enough for me most days.

  • As its title suggests, “Seymour: An Introduction” doesn’t try to offer the final word on its subject, Seymour Bernstein, the pianist, composer, teacher, philosopher and ultimate New Yorker. Instead, in 81 transporting minutes, this intimate, big-hearted documentary draws you so completely into his world that you feel as if you know all there is to know, even as questions linger.

  • It made me nostalgic for the bygone days of my own musical education, but Ethan Hawke’s sublime tribute to the great classical pianist Seymour Bernstein is a work of overflowing riches even for those who have never tickled the ivories... No fiction or nonfiction film I’ve seen this year has illuminated the purpose and the challenge of the creative impulse with such revivifying clarity.

  • A film as deceptively modest as its subject, Ethan Hawke’s candid portrait of octogenarian classical pianist Seymour Bernstein was as heady a plunge into the nature of creativity and the transcendent power of art as “My Dinner With Andre” had been three decades earlier.

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