I look forward to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) every year. Pouring over the lists of films on offer is exciting. Bingeing on up to four films per day can be mind-altering in a good way – or a bad way. Any of you who have participated in the science and whimsy of selecting from those lists realize that it is a bit of a crap shoot. Will you get the films you wish for? And will those films live up to your expectations?
Last September my TIFF binge was at the last minute with no preparation. I left my film selection up to the TIFF movie gods. On my last afternoon, loitering outside of one of the theatres, I was offered a ticket to a film starting momentarily. The gods had spoken. That ticket was for Seymour: An Introduction, a documentary I had heard nothing about. This turned out to be the best film I saw at TIFF. This is the best film that I saw last year.
The reason that the film was made is as interesting as the wonderful story that it tells. From a dinner party that sounds right out of a Woody Allen film (complete with New York psychiatrist) Ethan Hawke (famous actor guy) discovers Seymour Bernstein (formerly famous classical pianist guy). They bond over shared vulnerability, performance anxiety, and the drive to create great art. Hawke becomes obsessed by a story that he wants to tell – a story about art, artistic pedagogy, and the fear of performing what you love. This film is full of music and full of humanity.
Have a look at this brief clip of Bernstein talking with Hawke, recorded live in Toronto in September 2014. Don’t miss this film.