Seymour: An Introduction [2014)

Big gigantic balls.

It took Ethan Hawke.

Whom I formerly mistook for a hack.

To not even dabble in détournement.

But rather.

Straight-up.

Call it.

Seymour:  An Introduction

After Salinger.

But let me dispel all uncertainly early on.

This film, directed by Ethan Hawke, is a masterpiece.

The premise seemed interesting.

On Netflix.

“This should,” I thought, “be an easy one to jettison after a few painful minutes of shabby mise-en-scène…[after ignoring it on my ‘list’ for quite some time]”

And though there is no Liszt (ha!), Ethan Hawke tells one of the most touching stories I’ve ever seen.

Yes, that is the correct verbiage.

In the synesthesia of cinema.

It is the story of Seymour Bernstein (and not, as the title might lead one to believe, that of Seymour Glass).

Seymour did not become the supernova which his fellow Bernstein (Leonard) became.

No, Seymour Bernstein stepped away from the stage early.

As in, curtailed his career.

As a performer.

A pianist.

[but always a son–a man]

And so what makes Ethan Hawke’s film particularly special for me is the synergy created from two colliding ideas of great power:  music and anxiety.

Ah, to perform…

It’s hard (really, very fucking hard) for me to recall the good times which make me sad.

Those would be my four short years as a professional music performer.

[three of which coincided with a parallel mini-career as a studio (recording) musician]

Why did I step away?

To paraphrase Bogart in The Big Sleep, I must rank pretty high on insubordination.

I’m a rebel.

And though I pray that I never follow in the darker footsteps of Phil Spector, I was very much in what one would term popular or pop music.

But it wasn’t from a lack of training.

My bachelor’s degree, from an esteemed institution, is almost exclusively due to courses in Western classical music.

Though I am but an amateur pianist compared to Mr. Bernstein, I have a deep appreciation for what he is doing all throughout this film.

As a trained music theorist (my specialization).

And a trained composer (the activity to which I dedicated the bulk of my undergraduate hours).

But there is something more.

Seymour:  An Introduction is very much about hard work.

About craft.

What I’m doing right now.

What you are reading.

It is my craft.

Now.

Music has flown…like a fleeting bird.

And I have had to transpose my urge to create from “EveryGoodBoyDoesFine” by way of copious vicissitudes to “PleaseExcuseMyDearAuntSally” and other far-afield mnemonic devices.

Yes, dear friends…I identify with Ethan Hawke’s struggle.

And it is painful to watch him.

But he has redeemed himself with this film.

Through great doubt we travel…

What the fuck am I doing in business school?

Does my acting mean anything whatsoever to ME anymore?

To weave it, my problems were/are different than those of Mr. Hawke.

He is standing on the stage…[places, everyone]…on the X where I wish I was.

Directing a film.

You need a producer.

An “executive” producer.

You need a law firm.

Legal counsel.

[for all those archival clips you want to interpolate]

Yes…there is a long list of credited individuals at the culmination of Seymour:  An Introduction.

It doesn’t just say “Ethan Hawke”.

Those are the realities of film.

Godard has illustrated it as a process of check-writing.

$50 here.  [more like]  $3,000 here.

And again.  And again.

But it is obvious this was a project of love for Ethan Hawke.

And it worked.

Mr. Bernstein is 89 and still (apparently) teaches at NYU.

And what a gifted soul!

Ah…

This documentary reminded me of so many beautiful, important things!

It all moves too fast…

The pictures with Nadia Boulanger…

But Korea sticks.

At the front lines.

As jaw-dropping as Messiaen in his prison camp.

But let me speak to the choir now…

Friends of Deutsche Grammophon et al..

It’s important.

That extra dot.

To point out.

No pun intended.

A service.

PRACTICE in front of your audience (Warhol advised).

Dear Messrs,

[and scholarly, epicurean (?) womenfolk]

We have, in these minutes, footage of the great Glenn Gould.

We learn the chair.

How low.

Carry out folded.

Like a shabby parcel of manuscripts.

But Mr. Bernstein gives us the cinderblocks.

And while it is scary (Glenn Gould) in its proficiency.

The ear of God.

We get an even greater surprise.

Yes, most startling.

Clifford Curzon.

And the passion of a boy from Islington.

Precision.

Snap!

Unfurling arpeggios effortlessly.

While the baritone fingers surface the melody.

Just breathing above the water’s surface.

Curzon.

Those glasses.

We fall in love.

1977.

Year after I was born.

By 17 days.

Seymour Bernstein’s eight-year career was over.

As a public performer.

Debuting with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (!) a Brazilian piano concerto in world premiere (the 2nd by Villa-Lobos).

1969-1977

Double my career 🙂

[in more ways than one, I’m sure]

But as an astute student in the film observes, it was many thousands of hours (of practice and other dedicatory acts) to get to that point.

Mr. Bernstein didn’t sit down with the CSO and sightread the Villa-Lobos concerto.

It wasn’t his first time playing.

And so it comes back to work.

And anxiety.

& music.

Seymour Bernstein:  God bless you for knowing the quadrivium.

That MUSIC was one of the four higher liberal arts.

For the ancient Greeks.

Along with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy.

What isn’t mentioned is that in which I am currently dabbling.

[dabbling my ass off]

The trivium.

Those “lower” three of the liberal arts.

Grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

And the liberal arts…in opposition to the practical arts.

[the latter being such as medicine…or architecture]

{Footnotes to be provided when hell freezes over}

And so I heartily recommend you watch this documentary.

Appreciate the importance of music.

See Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac.

[he will laugh!]

Because God gives back.

Even though Mr. Bernstein doesn’t believe.

It makes no difference to me.

I am but human.

And I have a right.

To believe.

In God.

In music.

He just disappeared.

One last concert.

At the YMCA.

Knowing when to end.

When the notes fade.

And if on a good piano,

they almost seem to swell first.

As if by magic…

-PD

Masculin feminin: 15 faits precis [1966)

I don’t write about the film, I write about me.  I don’t write about the film, I write about the world.  No.  I write about the film the best I can.  I am on a mission to start every sentence with I…from now to the end of eternity.  Not quite.

I don’t know what pops up in your reader.  You know about the reader?  Tell me about the reader, Charles…  Yes?  And???  Right.  The reader writes.  Correct!

We are some macro-blogging mofos.  Four times I wrote it and four times it autocorrected to micro.  And so the stupid hyphen.  Just like the titles.  Diacritical marks are the first to go in totalitarian societies.  Then the dollar words.  Soon, all words which might express inefficient, ineffective concepts such as tenderness.

Now we are rolling.  Give the anarchist a cigarette!

D’accord…

Allors…

Jean-Pierre Léaud was the Jason Schwartzman of the 60s…or vice versa.  And while we might think primarily of Truffaut, here we see Léaud in a truly penetrating role.

Chantal Goya.  She plays the ice-cold bitch pretty well…completely meretricious, vacuous, etc.

And then we run into red hypertext “links” for Catherine-Isabelle Duport and Michel Debord.

Yeah, we all know:  the children of Marx and Coca-Cola.  Could have been.  Tarzan vs. IBM.  Could have been.  The ape and the onion.  Mercury Rev.

Well, yes:  it could have been.  Today.  Particularly dreary.  All week.  Usually I embrace it.  Pretend like I’m Liam Gallagher in Manchester.  But not today.  Not this week.  Only shadows in the night gets it right.

It’s a bummer.  I’m too old to be young.  Too perverted to be romantic.  Too romantic to live.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

And yes:  I catch the aspect ratio.  I yell Trotskyite.  Not really, but parallel.  I detest the cowardice…when I myself am a basket-case.  It’s ok.  We are human.

We remember Marx and Coca-Cola, but we forget James Bond and Vietnam.  We forget the military-industrial complex.

Let me tell you how it happened.  I lay down as always with my sea-foam-green (eau-de-nil) headphones ready to continue my reflection on the great oeuvre.  And my computer doesn’t cooperate.  It’s as if I have conjured the spirit of JLG.  The sound outraces the picture.  Chaplin-fast to Notre Musique-slow.  The waves come crashing in.  Ingmar is hijacked and ridiculized.

Translation:  my computer won’t play the disc.  After 15 minutes of relatively good play, it jerks and stops and pauses and reloads in an endless loop.  It’s like as a kid with that De La Soul CD…I’d physically pick up the player an inch and let it drop down.  Somehow it would catch.  It was just that disc.  No, not this time.

I have cared for this film like a child.  It is one of many baby Jesuses in my Jodorowsky stable.  Manger.

And so I traveled far to rewatch this.  Fifteen paces maybe.  15.  So what?

Et allors?

Pauvre Wikipedia.  Lion-wannabe.  Quick!  Call Tim Rice and Elton John.  Pathetic.

Yes, she keeps abreast of the pop charts.  Cashbox.  And he likes her type of breasts.  Why not say it?

And isn’t there anything else you like about me?  Well, Miss 19, there’s not much more to like.  A Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and you’re happy.

Yes, Seymour Glass.  I’m sure he just backed up too far on the balcony…trying to get all two of them in the picture…in Florida…like Richard Manuel.

Duport eats a bananafish.  Marquis de Sade.  Such a perfect day.  Cassis and mineral water.  And Orangina for Marlène Jobert.  Perhaps.  Who cares.

You can tell a redhead even in black and white.  She should have been more famous.  Eva Green’s mom.

yé-yé all day long

Mozart

the orchestra is fantastic

clarinet concerto

middle movement

Paul.  Again with the Paul.  It started tentatively in Vivre sa vie.  And then Paul Javal.  Contempt.  In the name of the father.  And now again without Christian name like Le Chiffre.  James Bond and Vietnam.  Same complex.  Inferiority.  Military-industrial.

With that I am at 666 words.  Ed Sanders decides to consult Harry Smith on how to levitate the Pentagon.  Exercise the demons.  Nothing like a demon with love handles. Give ’em a good workout.

B-A-C-H.  Psychotic fugue on the Mashed Potato.  Dee Dee Sharp.

What other kind of fugue is there?!?  Jonny Greenwood would surely tell you it’s reversible.  Amnesiac.

ménage à quatre

bullshit

intellectual parlor games

Wikipedia

I know.  I know.  Hawaiian.  Quick!  Vite!

caméra-couteau

probing, probing

like Tony Parker

pass the goddamn ball

I’m not sure you want to know.  I am a lip-reader.  Baudelaire.  Au lecteur.  Samuel Fuller.  Les Fleurs du mal.  No one under 18 admitted.  Strictly no admittance.  778 words and I haven’t gotten to the film.

-PD