We can only be cautious when seeing a Hollywood star attempt to take on the director’s hat: it always has the effect of the whim of a spoiled child who wants more than what he has, as the The profession of director requires a concentration whose nature is the opposite of that required by the profession of actor. Defying predictions and prejudices, Maestro confirms what was glimpsed in A Star Is Born : Bradley Cooper is a filmmaker. For his second film, the star took on a biopic project on Leonard Bernstein that had remained on the shelf: Scorsese would have first aspired to direct it, then Steven Spielberg, but due to lack of time, and convinced by Cooper’s first attempt , they will produce his film.
Biopic produced by Netflix and released for the holidays: there was enough to get lost, to create a most formatted “authorizing” object by recounting the life of Leonard Bernstein, father of West Side Story , conductor and immense teacher who hosted television programs for decades to democratize classical music. His tragedy was never to be considered a serious composer – after West Side Story, the reception of his works remained at least lukewarm. We will not know much about this quest for recognition, which Bradley Cooper leaves to biographers, because it is a completely different story that interests him: his relationship with Felicia Montealegre whom he met in 1946 – they married in 1951.
Maestro opens with an old and lonely Bernstein (Cooper himself), giving a television interview from his Connecticut home that stirs memories. A long flashback begins: the year 1943 and the painting of a New York intellectual environment in full frenzy. It is in the middle of one of these bohemian evenings that Leonard, a young composer, and Felicia Montealegre, a beginning actress, meet.
In this first part in black and white, Cooper summons the furious energy of musical comedies, of these films populated by troupes of artists setting out to conquer New York, chatting late at night, intoxicated with ambition and desire. The director rolls out a salvo of references: Stanley Donen ( One Day in New York, Let’s Sing in the Rain ), the fury of screwball comedies and a pinch of Woody Allen, taking from these totems a crazy energy, a bit demonstrative. With a twirling Steadicam and sparkling dialogues, the beginner’s boisterous virtuosity nevertheless fits the subject well. Everything here is surface, energy, youth.
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