Good but a little white-washed
John Grabowski | USA | 09/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This PBS documentary is loaded with clips from Lenny's long career, and captures many of his great moments on film. There are also the requisite interviews with people fawning over him. No mention of the extremely negative (often deservedly so) reviews he got in his early days at the helm of the NYPO, or the sordid story of how he wrestled the top job there away from Dmitri Mitropoulos by "outing" him when he himself was flagrantly bisexual. What he did to his wife, emotionally, in her final years, is only briefly hinted at. The whole Tom Wolfe/Radical Chic incident is also only glossed over in about a minute, and the effects this and other "anti-Lenny" incidents had on his psyche are barely mentioned. His depression is talked about, but the reasons behind it are not. But TV documentaries usually skim the surface this way, and the real treat is in the performances and interviews captured here. This is a great two hours for any Bernstein lover. They may not learn anything new, but they'll have a wonderful time reliving the old."
D. Roberts | Battle Creek, Michigan United States | 08/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has been said many times that music is the universal language. While the truth of this statement is self-evident, occasionally even universal languages require translators. For that, great men such as Leonard Bernstein have stepped to the fore to assist the rest of us in understanding what is perhaps man's single greatest art form.
This is a magnificent documentary of the life of this incredible individual. Leonard Bernstein can be called the Carl Sagan of classical music. What the Cornell astronomer did to popularize science to a wide audience, so too did the conductor do the same for classical music. The present DVD traces the remarkable career of Bernstein from his early flirtations with fame up through to his death in 1990.
The footage contains commentary by his daughters, son, friends and fellow conductors and musicians. Some of the notable names to compile the latter groups are Michael Tilson Thomas, Seiji Ozawa, Isaac Stern and Andre Previn. All angles of his life are covered, from his professional life to his personal life to his struggles with his bi-sexuality.
The shortcomings of this DVD are few, but I am compelled to point them out. For one, it is only hinted at a few times just how diverse Bernstein's taste in music was. Not everyone knows this, but he was a huge fan of both the BEATLES and PINK FLOYD. Some anecdotes from the likes of people such as David Gilmour and Paul McCartney would have complemented this DVD nicely. Both knew Lenny and were friends of his.
Also, it would have been nice to have learned more about his childhood. They pretty much skimmed over that, for the most part. The "story" portrayed almost begins where he sub-conducted for Bruno Walter, getting his big break.
That said, this is a must-buy for all fans of music, all fans of Leonard Bernstein, and all fans of the human race. Paul Hindemuth once said "Those who make music together cannot be enemies. So long as the music lasts." Hence, nobody could ever be a true enemy of the great Leonard Bernstein, for he made music with the entire world."
An excellent summary of a remarkable individual.
N. Daniele Pietro | 12/30/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For fans of Leonard Bernstein, this is a "must-have". This documentary captures the man's once-in-a-century talent and his passion for music.Without a doubt, Bernstein was the most influential American classical musician of the twentieth century. This documentary adequately captures that. The film is really a mix of interviews, film clips, and still photographs. The interviews are thoughtful and sometimes even memorable. The film clips are interesting, such as rare footage of his politically controversial "Mass" and ground-breaking "Candide" and "West Side Story". Unfortunately, still photographs comprise a bit too much of the material, and I found this to be the film's only drawback."
"Lenny in Retrospect"
Shawn Anderson | Jamestown, NY | 03/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leonard Bernstein is perhaps one of the greatest men to stand on any podium, anywhere in the world. One gets a sense of how much larger than life he was through watching this video. The video provides a poignant look into his family life, and how much of his work was influenced by his personal life. Like any man Bernstein had to grapple with outward, and inner personal turmoil which is highlighted in this video. The Chichester Psalms allowed him to get further in touch with his Jewish roots, something that he was very proud of. Clips from rehearsals around the globe are included, as well as personal family home video footage. This video is a must for any home library, and especially for any Bernstein fan."