|22 november 2023
Bradley Cooper's second directorial effort, Maestro, is a cinematic symphony that traces the multifaceted life of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The film, which is not without its imperfections, is a captivating exploration of Bernstein's music, his relationships and the complex dance between his public persona and his private struggles.
From the outset, Cooper's film draws thematic parallels with his previous works, notably A Star is Born, as both films explore the intersection of love, art and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of greatness. The controversy surrounding Cooper's use of a prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein is duly acknowledged, but any initial reservations are quickly dispelled, as the actor immerses himself in the role, deftly capturing the essence of the iconic composer.
The story of Maestro unfolds like a carefully prepared album, adopting a non-linear narrative approach that enriches Bernstein's character. The use of black-and-white sequences, which serve as a visual metaphor for the past, transitions smoothly to color as the story progresses, ingeniously reflecting the evolution of the era. Cooper's meticulous attention to detail extends beyond the visual to the aural, mirroring Bernstein's staccato style and resonant voice with the musical cadence of a jazz riff.
At the heart of Maestro are dynamic performances by Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan. Cooper's interpretation of Bernstein is a tour de force, encapsulating the conductor's charisma, passion and internal conflicts. Mulligan, who delivers what is arguably the best performance of her career, shines in the role of Felicia Montealegre, offering a convincing counterpoint to Bernstein's larger-than-life personality. The on-screen chemistry between the two actors elevates the film, making the tumultuous journey of their relationship both poignant and powerful.
The exploration of Bernstein's bisexuality adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, with Felicia's point of view offering a poignant perspective on the sacrifices and compromises made for the sake of love and artistic brilliance. However, the film could have delved deeper into Bernstein's internal conflicts, particularly regarding his sexuality, rather than spending a lengthy period on the seduction phase.
Maestro is not free of pacing problems, and its quiet rhythms can seem pronounced, especially during the transition from theaters to Netflix. Despite this, the film's commitment to capturing the essence of Bernstein's life, times and complex relationships is commendable.
Bradley Cooper's direction displays a confidence and flair beyond his years, employing clever edits, fades and witty game cuts. The film's brilliance and Cooper's passion for his subject shine through, even if some scenes are a little overdone. The use of Bernstein's music, particularly during the haunting orchestral performances, adds a layer of authenticity and emotion to the film.
Maestro may not appeal to everyone, due to its profound contemplation of art and unconventional narrative structure. However, Cooper's commitment to exploring the complexities of Bernstein's life, coupled with outstanding performances, makes this film a worthy addition to the awards list. When the film is released on Netflix, audiences will be invited to immerse themselves in the complex symphony of Leonard Bernstein's life, love and music, a harmonious tribute to a musical genius.
Directed by Bradley Cooper
Written by Bradley Coope, Josh Singer
Produced by Fred Berner, Bradley Cooper, Amy Durning, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg
Starring Carey Mulligan, Bradley Cooper
Cinematography : Matthew Libatique
Edited by Michelle Tesoro
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Production companies: Sikelia Productions, Amblin Entertainment, Lea Pictures, Fred Berner Films
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates : September 2, 2023 (Venice), November 22, 2023 (United States), December 20, 2023 (France)
Running time : 129 minutes
Viewed on November 28, 2023