Film review: In Search of Chopin

Serious doco about music, writes Christine Powley.

In Search of Chopin
Phil Grabsky
Cast: Juliet Stevenson, David Dawson, Leif Ove Andsnes, Daniel Barenboim, Marek Bracha, Ronald Brautigam, Vinciane Esslinger, Hershy Felder, Nelson Goerner
3 stars (out of 5)

Almost everything I knew about Chopin I gleaned from the 1991 film Impromptu, which stars Hugh Grant as the sensitive musician and is most concerned with how he got together with the scandalous novelist George Sand, played by Judy Davis.

It is great fun as a movie but it was no surprise to learn after watching In Search of Chopin (Rialto) that the great man was nothing like Hugh Grant.

In Search of Chopin is a serious documentary mostly concerned about the music.

It gives us a year by year chronology of his life narrated by Juliet Stevenson. It shows us shots of the places he inhabited while alive.

It reads us extracts from his letters. And it has many interviews with pianists sitting at their pianos so they can illustrate the point they wish to make by playing extracts from his compositions.

It is all very thorough, earnest, dull and illuminating often all at the same time. Coming in at just under two hours I felt a wicked relief that Chopin was not long-lived, which I am sure was not the intended effect.

However, I did appreciate the care that went into this and I have gained a much more rounded understanding of Chopin's characterbut I would have been happier if the avalanche of detail had been better controlled.

Best thing: Chopin was a great composer for the piano and watching this leaves you in awe of the skill it takes to play.

Worst thing: I am not someone who obsesses over technical details, so if I notice how terribly the shots are framed it means that they are a right mess. Routinely cutting the top off someone's head is not artistic, it is just lazy.

See it with: Your piano teacher.

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