"I never dreamt that, with my own two hands. I could touch the sky."
So says Seymour Bernstein in Ethan Hawke's sublime and profoundly affectionate tribute to his guru and music teacher, the great, modest and humble man, now 86 still living in a one room apartment on the upper west side, so crammed with his piano and music and books it would take centuries to read and rediscover all his secrets after he dies.
Seymour: An Introduction was the best film I saw in 2014, and in my limited knowledge of the documentary form, it's the greatest documentary I could ever hope to see in my lifetime. It always comes down to the subject and here, the subject is an untouchably rare human being, the master, the guru, the saint. For Ethan Hawke, and many others who are interspersed through this sublime film is the shocking recognition that although you've never met this man, you know him immediately, and the fact you know him now changes your life.
Ethan's movie ran from Sundance through the Festival circuits in 2014 and since then has had a too sheltered life on VOD and direct order video. These screens are from a commercial DVD finally available from the States on the IFC Films label. I consider it one of the most treasured discs in my library.
Hawke's empathy and skill as a filmmaker is not only to acquaint us with Seymour Bernstein, but to transport us into the precious and secret realm of the artist whose skill or genius is, as others might put it, to communicate god through his ego. I can't bring myself to use that word meaningfully but it comes close to the rapture he allows me to feel.