Exactly 30 years after his “Van Morrison in Ireland,” English helmer Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) returns to almost-divine music and his nonfiction roots with “Michel Petrucciani,” which chronicles the short but intense life of the late, great French jazz pianist. Though hardly a hagiography — in fact, the pic plays up the fact that contradicting stories exist about the 3-foot-tall performer who suffered from brittle-bone disease — Radford’s procession of unidentified talking heads and archive pics and footage nonetheless feels rather safe. Smallscreen playdates will be forthcoming, with minor arthouse riffs a possibility.
An overview of Petrucciani’s life and career as well as the many aspects of his complex personality — raconteur, clown, womanizer, virtuoso musician, handicapped adult trapped in a tiny body — all arise organically from the material, but the pic lacks the audacity (or virtuosity) of its protag. Nimble editing mostly compensates for lack of onscreen identification of the many memory-spouting agents, lovers, fellow musicians and family members (including son Alexandre, who inherited his father’s condition and is credited as a co-producer here). Quality of the archive footage varies wildly; soundtrack is great but sound mix not exceptional.