SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION
directed by Ethan Hawke
LOVE & MERCY
directed by Bill Pohlad
written and directed by Damien Chazelle
by Bill Chambers Ethan Hawke's first documentary isn't the affected thing its Googler-confusing, appropriated-from-Salinger title would suggest. (And perhaps we should be grateful he didn't go with Suddenly Seymour, Seymour Butts, or I Know What You Did Last Seymour.) Intimate but not prying, Seymour: An Introduction profiles the homuncular Seymour Bernstein, a former pianist of some renown who withdrew from the concert circuit in his prime to focus on teaching piano, hoping to stave off the neuroses of fame. Hawke decided to make the film after receiving some life-altering advice from Bernstein at a gathering, as if compelled to share his good fortune with the world, and that generosity of spirit courses through a piece that looks for wisdom, not pathology, in its subject's hermetic existence (57 years alone in the same New York apartment) and monk-like devotion to music. A forgotten genius, Bernstein also proves an unsung raconteur in enthralling stories that place him at the centre of a real-life Sunset Boulevard or on the front lines of Korea; he commands the screen in lingering close-ups and holds court with equally-captive audiences of confrères and disciples, despite his professed stage fright. The picture builds to Bernstein's first live performance in decades, a recital Hawke has arranged in a gesture that seems like a betrayal yet has the not-undesirable effect of making Bernstein look oddly heroic. If possible, he's an even more expressive individual when filtered through the keys of a Steinway.