Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in a still from “Maestro.”
He had an innate talent for melodies. Compose them, conduct them, play them on the piano, teach them, write them. The verb has changed, not the extraordinary result. “I’m interested in everything that is music,” he says in the film. Only one symphony remained hidden from Leonard Bernstein. The most complex and universal, yes: life. At times she seemed to be attuned to angels. Others, however, even screamed in the ears of his wife and children. It happens to all of us, every day. And even the maestro, as director Bradley Cooper’s film showed today in competition at the Venice Festival. It will be shown in some cinemas in November and on Netflix from December 20th.
The creator films and plays one of Hollywood’s most admired characters. But he focuses not on the soundtracks of West Side Story or The Law of Silence, but on his marriage to actress Felicia Montealegre, their parallel romances and their most intimate existence. Turbulent, excessive, painful. But human. The applause at the end of the screening continued as a concert by Bernstein himself appeared on the screen. And a few more came before the names of the producers: Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, who initially wanted to direct the project. Four pieces of evidence prove more than just that it was an important and long-awaited film. Although for this reason and because the actual protagonist was so demanding, one had to demand more. Cooper, of course, orchestrated his contribution well. But his film stays true to a well-known Hollywood score that sounds like something we’ve already seen. Except when, in rare moments, the director dares to find his voice outside the choir.
For Bernstein, being unique was almost automatic. By a lucky coincidence, at the age of 25, he took over the direction of the concert that would change his life. But luck only gave him one chance: what came later and is now music history is thanks to genius and talent. And an infectious enthusiasm. “I love people,” he never tires of repeating on screen. Although Cooper dares to look behind that happy grin. It turns out that the man who is always laughing can also be depressed. He prefers to see jealousy on all sides as long as he doesn’t look at his own arrogance. And he gives other men his endless passion, even if it makes his family miserable.
In this way, Maestro fully penetrates the composer’s most tender side. In life, he preferred to keep it in the shadows, to deny it. “We don’t know why he denied everything. Maybe our mother pushed him. In my book I talked about what we went through as a family related to my father’s sexuality. It challenges and confuses you, but the love and connection we have always maintained has allowed us to navigate through the difficult times,” said Jamie Bernstein, one of the three daughters, at the press conference. And he sang, also on behalf of his two brothers, a thank you to the filmmaker: “We were overwhelmed by the effort he made to tell a really authentic story about our parents.” We were part of the creation of this work . We never thought it would involve us in this way. “It was very moving.” However, there were also limits: Cooper didn’t let her watch the filming.
The actor was also behind the camera for the second time on set. And indeed, it rests on the same pillars that sustained A Star is Born: a magic tested by time and ego; the saving power of art, of music. And at the same time the illusion that he can save everything. Or even fill a life. “Bradley changed the concept and decided to focus more on the love story, the portrait of a marriage. “It’s always a good time to tell something like this,” said Jamie Bernstein.
The director couldn’t explain it personally. A few days ago he visited the Lido to attend the film’s technical tests. Your perfectionism as a filmmaker is entirely up to you. But there is a collective fight for her other side, the actress in the film. And the strike by actors and screenwriters against the major Hollywood studios and platforms is clearly expressed: advertising is also prohibited. That’s why Cooper couldn’t talk about the five hours of tinkering to become the oldest Amber. And with the false nose that has caused so much controversy because it supposedly repeats stereotypes about Jews. To the point that makeup artist Kazu Hiro explained, “I didn’t expect this to happen. I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings. I wanted to portray Lenny as realistically as possible. […] “It was our only intention.” The family and several Jewish associations in the United States defended the production from the start.
The truth is that Cooper is unrecognizable. And his performance, along with that of Carey Mulligan in the role of Montealegre, is one of the film’s most successful notes. Just like the beautiful use of ellipses and scene changes or the restraint in some emotional sequences that Hollywood knows how to overload with sugar or flood with tears. But overall, almost everything happens like in many biopics of this style. romance and some fighting; the idyll that decomposes but offers resistance; Fame and success, mermaids, as beautiful as they are hungry. In short, the formula of a certain large-scale commercial production in the United States: simple but effective. Nobody asks for dissonance. It’s about making sure everyone enjoys the concert.
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