Seymour: An Introduction
is a loving portrait of a lovely man. Seymour Bernstein is an elderly but spry New Yorker who turned his back on a career as a professional pianist at the age of 50 to instead become a piano teacher, spiritual adviser and all-around 88-key Buddha.
As he prepares for his first public recital in 35 (!) years, Bernstein talks with students and friends about his various philosophies, and at times Seymour: An Introduction
resembles the lower-key works of director Hawke’s mentor Richard Linklater. For the most part, Hawke doesn’t insert himself into the narrative or make the film about himself, instead only appearing onscreen as much as he needs to, wisely remembering that he’s not the interesting part of the movie. As Bernstein goes about his life of teaching piano masterclasses and tending to his one-room apartment of 57 (!!) years, Seymour: An Introduction
considers such issues as the seeming inevitability of geniuses being monsters. So many extremely talented people are also extremely horrible as human beings; is there a connection, and is it impossible to be a both a genius and a nice person at the same time? The existence of Seymour Bernstein offers evidence that, rare though it may be, it can happen occasionally.
Rated PG. Opens Friday, March 20 at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.
Ethan Hawke’s documentary