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Bengali Sushila Sen and her son, Manek, relocate from India to London after Sushila's relationship with her husband fails. Sushila struggles with everyday living. A child piano prodigy, Manek's schoolteacher refers him to a piano teacher, Irina Sousatzka, a Russian immigrant renowned for her teaching skills. Irina forms a strong bond with Manek, not only teaching him piano but also valuable life lessons. Disagreements arise, as Manek does not want anyone to run his life for him, but nevertheless the training progresses. Sushila, a baker and seller of Indian cuisine, loses an important client after her hair is found in one of her baked goods. To help his mother, Manek feels pressure to use his piano skills to earn some money. This is against Irina's wishes, however, as she is trying to protect Manek from her own negative experiences as a young concert pianist. She believes no student should perform until they are ready. But Manek, encouraged by a pushy music agent, decides to perform ... Written by
John Schlesinger became famous as a polemic and very socially oriented director, but this is his Masterpiece of all times. It is not a monumental movie and it is not a box-office smashing hit.
No. This is a far superior work of artistry, worked and reworked from the guts and above all, from the heart.
The story is very skillfully developed and has plot twists and turns as the classical masterpieces interpreted in this movie.
Yes, because it is a tale of two cultures: the Western and the Eastern. The western side is taken by a (Russian?) piano teacher, living in London (masterfully played by a magnificent Shirley MacLaine) and the Eastern is represented by a would-be and reticent Hindi piano student.
Not only does Schlesinger tell us the story of the two and their passions and strives in life, but also gives us a whole palette of undertones in quite different social worlds.
Despite its length (slightly over two hours) the movie has never a dull moment or a static conversation. Emotions are fully and honestly expressed by all involved and never for a moment, one can feel he is watching a movie here.
Quite the contrary. All the characters play their parts so much to the hilt, that it "sucks" us in and doesn't let loose until the end credits roll.
I am not an emotional person generally, and many "tearjerkers" only make me crack up, so academic they are, but when I watched this movie for the first time in New York City at the Carnegie Odeon Movie Theater, I must admit I came out in tears and had to make an effort not to be noticed for that.
Not that it is particularly sad, quite the contrary. Despite some very dramatic moments, it is truly a wonderful comedy. No the sadness comes out from the realism contained in the lives of the characters, in which we all could find similarities.
The dreams, the passions, the disappointments, the crime and punishment and finally, the absolute redemption are all very important factors in this excellent movie.
The music world is only a mask to show us a much deeper view on society as such. But the film is conducted by Schlesinger (the old fox) as an orchestra conductor, directing a symphony by Beethoven.
His baton is light but never loses out on a note. His conducting is comparable to the mastery of Herbert von Karajan. The only difference is that he waltzes with a camera.
If you want to discover a different movie from the same-o, same-o, then this is an absolute must see.
I personally laughed, cried, got concerned and was worried, was uncomfortable, then immediately relieved by pleasant surprises throughout the entire movie, but above all, it made me think about the similarities with my own world and this is probably why I learned to love this tiny masterpiece.
I just own the VHS version, but would like to plea the producers of the movie (Universal was the distributor, but the movie was a Cineplex/Odeon production) and all those who are involved in DVD production to finally decide to release a pristine copy, with a decent digital sound and a crisp image.
Of all the movies around, this one surely would merit an extra effort to digitalize it and therefore preserve it for posterity.
I can only recommend it. This movie is for all, although some scenes may be a bit difficult to understand by younger audiences, without an adult presence. But in reality, this is a naive suggestion, since it has to be watched by the entire family on a quiet movie evening around the living room.
You need some concentration though, to watch it. It is not a popcorn and beer movie. This is a movie for those who love to think.
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