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Seymour takes a bow

by Mark Burger

Having previously helmed the features Chelsea Walls (2002) and The Hottest State (2007) – the latter an adaptation of his own novel – actor Ethan Hawke returns behind the camera to tackle his first documentary feature, Seymour: An Introduction.

As the title implies, this easy, breezy, 84-minute outing introduces audiences to Seymour Bernstein, an ingratiating, softspoken raconteur and teacher of music at New York University. At the film’s outset, it is 2012 and he hasn’t given a public performance in 35 years – although he’s about to.

Friends, colleagues and former students universally regard Seymour with unbridled affection and respect, and although he disdains heavy analysis of the creation of performance of music, he has a tendency to proceed to do just that, yet never in pretentious terms. Besides, when he discusses the music of such masters of Schubert, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart to the accompaniment of their music, it’s a fairly irresistible approach.

Seymour does recount a few disappointments and traumas in his life (including Korean War memories), he comes across as perfectly amiable, adjusted, and comfortable. The film shares those qualities. Seymour: An Introduction is a light documentary, and none the worse because of it.

Seymour: An Introduction opens Friday at a/perture cinema, Winston-Salem !

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