×

In Search of Mozart

The music is sublime, but the words keep getting in the way. Documaker Phil Grabsky takes a respectfully genteel if not downright worshipful approach to his subject throughout "In Search of Mozart," a beautifully lensed but ploddingly paced tribute.

With:
With: Julian Rachlin, Jonathan Miller, Imogen Cooper
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson.

The music is sublime, but the words keep getting in the way. Documaker Phil Grabsky takes a respectfully genteel if not downright worshipful approach to his subject throughout “In Search of Mozart,” a beautifully lensed but ploddingly paced tribute that provides talking-head interviews and dramatic readings of old letters as the prosaic counterpart to a virtually nonstop soundtrack of the composer’s greatest hits. Even the most devoted classical music aficionados likely will enjoy this doc most when they’re able to provide their own intermissions by hitting the pause button.

When he’s not traipsing across Europe to dutifully film locations where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart worked, played and lived, Grabsky offers testimonials from a diverse array of musicians (many of whom also perform), historians and musicologists.

Occasionally, the interviewees are amusing and/or insightful. Violinist Julian Rachlin matter-of-factly notes that Mozart “must have been crazy to some extent.” But conductor Jonathan Miller begs to differ, asserting that, as was the case with Shakespeare, Mozart’s prodigiousness “seems to be associated with a perfectly normal psychological existence.” Music historian Imogen Cooper marvels at the “cheeky response” of piano to orchestra during the opening strains of Piano Concerto No. 9 in E Flat.

Long before the midway point, however, the sheer volume of verbiage becomes oppressive and repetitive. As experts debate whether Mozart intended this sonata as a tribute to his late mother or that opera as an attack on his demanding father, doc resembles nothing so much as a routine Biography Channel profile with a really terrific score. Even so, some auds may be more than willing to accept the didacticism in exchange for so many sterling performances of that music.

It’s worth noting that much of “In Search of Mozart” seems designed to debunk “Amadeus,” Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play (later an Oscar-winning film). Miller argues that Mozart was no more excessive in his scatological humor than many of his contemporaries. And the closing credits emphasize: “He was not poisoned. Nor was he a pauper when he died.” So there.

Popular on Variety

In Search of Mozart

Production: A Direct Cinema release of a Seventh Art Prods. production. Produced, directed, written by Phil Grabsky.

Crew: Camera (color), Grabsky; editor, Phil Reynolds; sound, Simon Farmer, Grabsky; associate producer, Nicky Thomas. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, June 28, 2007. Running time: 128 MIN.

With: With: Julian Rachlin, Jonathan Miller, Imogen Cooper
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson.

More Film

  • Refugees from the besieged Muslim enclave

    Sarajevo’s True Stories Market: Documenting the Atrocities of War

    Reconciliation and dealing with the tragedies of the Yugoslav Wars has been a major focus of the Sarajevo Film Festival and its CineLink Industry Days event in recent years. The True Stories Market, launched in 2016, aims to connect filmmakers with organizations that are researching and documenting the Yugoslav Wars that spanned 1991 to 2001 [...]

  • Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’

    Ena Sendijarevic’s ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ Wins Top Prize in Sarajevo

    “Take Me Somewhere Nice,” Bosnian director Ena Sendijarević’s coming-of-age story about a teen raised in the Netherlands who returns to Bosnia to visit her ailing father, won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival Thursday night, earning the Amsterdam-based helmer the coveted Heart of Sarajevo Award. The jury heralded the “beautifully photographed, acted, scripted [...]

  • Khadar Ahmed - BUFO - photo

    Bufo Sets Key Cast for Co-Production ‘The Gravedigger' (EXCLUSIVE)

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —   Actor Omar Abdi, who starred in the Ahmed-scripted short “Citizens,” and actress Yasmin Warsame, who made her name as a Canadian model, will topline romantic-tragedy “The Gravedigger,” the latest big screen project from Bufo, the Helsinki-based outfit behind Berlinale winner “The Other Side of Hope.” The film follows a Djibouti gravedigger [...]

  • Jacobs Ladder Movie 2019

    Film Review: 'Jacob's Ladder'

    It’s understandable that someone would want to remake “Jacob’s Ladder,” Adrian Lyne’s 1990 head-trip thriller about a Vietnam veteran haunted by fragmentary nightmare visions. I was far from alone in finding the original to be an overwrought but rather thin “psychological” horror film that was more punishing than pleasurable. And it wasn’t exactly a hit, [...]

  • Fiddler A Miracle of Miracles

    Film Review: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Still beloved and routinely revived 55 years after its Broadway debut — including a Yiddish-language version now playing in New York — “Fiddler on the Roof” is a popular phenomenon that shows no sign of subsiding. Max Lewkowicz’s “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” provides an entertaining if hardly exhaustive overview of how the unlikely success [...]

  • 'Weathering With You' Heads for $100

    'Weathering With You' Heads for $100 Million Box Office Haul

    Makoto Shinkai’s animated romantic drama “Weathering with You” passed the JPY10 billion ($94 million) mark in Japan on Wednesday, according to an announcement by distributor Toho. This makes it the tenth-highest earning Japanese film of all time. Since its release on July 19 on 448 screens in 359 complexes, the film has racked up 7.52 million admissions. The [...]

  • Burn review

    Film Review: 'Burn'

    There’s more smoke than fire in “Burn,” a reasonably promising single-location thriller that never quite settles on what it wants to be — a straight-up suspense piece, twisty black comedy, oddball character study, etc. “All the above” would be a tall but not impossible order to pull off. The problem is that writer-director Mike Gan’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content