Bernstien's Wall-new film by Spielberg
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Bernstien's Wall-new film by Spielberg

Donuel 14 Sep 21 - 04:16 PM
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Subject: Bernstien's Wall-new film by Spielberg
From: Donuel
Date: 14 Sep 21 - 04:16 PM

When I think of Lenny I don't think of west side story, I think of the On the Waterfront score

As anticipation builds for Steven Spielbergís upcoming West Side Story remake, attention is bound to turn once again to Leonard Bernsteinís ageless score, still one of the most thrilling orchestral works ever heard on Broadway, mixing jagged shards of testosterone-fueled jazz with exquisite expressions of love. But the composer takes a back seat in Bernsteinís Wall to the educator, activist, arts ambassador and extravagantly gifted conductor, whose work illuminating classical music for wider audiences made him a groundbreaking cultural figure in American television in the 1950s. Douglas Tirolaís fascinating docu-portrait takes advantage of vast archival resources to reveal the passions that drove the man, mostly on his own
While Tirolaís Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon wove together present-day interviews with choice material from the satirical magazineís heyday, the directorís new film is constructed entirely from existing TV interviews, news footage, home movies and audio clips. Aside from personal letters rendered in elegant graphics, the film presents what amounts largely to a first-person character study; the briefest interview snippets with Bernsteinís wife and his sister are the only significant departures.

Bernstein's Wall
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight Documentary)
Director: Douglas Tirola
Screenwriters: Leonard Bernstein, Douglas Tirola

1 hour 41 minutes
This is a thoughtfully constructed tribute that lacks neither cultural and political context nor intimate personal perspective. Perhaps most striking is the reminder of what a household name Bernstein became, something almost inconceivable for a classical music figure today. Thatís perhaps due to the singular nature of a man who appears as dynamic in his everyday life as he was at the concert hall podium. Celebrity with substance. Countless clips show him to be a great talker ó a teacher and a preacher, an advocate for social change, using the arts as a delivery system for freedom and equality, peace and unity. That he did this without ever dumbing down his message makes it all the more remarkable.

Tirolaís approach is signaled by opening with one of Bernsteinís direct-to-camera television lectures, which he began with the CBS arts series Omnibus in 1954, covering a wide spectrum of music including classical, jazz, musical theater and opera. He reflects on whether an artist has the power to change the world, to help erase the dividing lines and walls that challenge humanity.

The film covers Bernsteinís upbringing, his difficult relationship with his Ukrainian Jewish immigrant father, his post-Harvard studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Tanglewood Music Center in the Berkshires. While he credits the Boston Symphony Orchestraís music director Serge Koussevitsky with teaching him the fundamentals of conducting, Aaron Copland was his key mentor in terms of composition. Excerpts of their correspondence suggest a sexual relationship between the two men, or at least the desire for one. You can hear it in On the Waterfront.

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