""Unquiet Traveler" is a unique documentary about the renowned Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski. The conceptual approach taken by director Bruno Monsaingeon is disarming in its simplicity--he accompanied the musician on a 2008 recital tour through Hungary, Poland, Germany, France and Lisbon, filming Anderszewski's impromptu performances at various stops, and recording the magnetic performer practicing on a Steinway in his private railway car while tossing off amusing and insightful observations on matters musical and otherwise. On Mozart's "Magic Flute": "I know of no musical work that's so sad and joyful, so cold, so dark and yet so luminous, so divine and so impertinent." On giving recitals: "When I'm confronted with the extreme loneliness of the recital, the heroism and the cruelty involved, I sometimes think that I'll never do recitals again." On the history of his native city: "The other thing I mourn is the destruction of Warsaw. I find it very hard to live with. A whole civilization, just murdered." The effect is utterly beguiling, and is far more revealing and compelling than the traditional "talking heads" interview format that Monsaingeon thankfully eschews. While Anderszewski has charisma to burn, Monsaingeon never lets his outsize personality overwhelm the music. Ample footage is devoted to the pianist in performance, although this is not a performance film, per se. The director also works in sequences of Anderszewski wandering through several Eastern European cities; rehearsing with the Brazilian conductor Gustavo Dudamel; and making a recording in a Berlin studio--all interspersed with wonderfully evocative shots of the train rolling through beautiful, snow-covered landscapes. These varied yet complementary elements add up to a striking visual essay on the creative process, one suffused with rare warmth and intimacy. Not least, "Unquiet Traveler" presents Anderszewski's humorous, analytical and self-critical assessments of his strengths and weaknesses as a musician and an individual. This is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in music, classical or otherwise."
Recommended for die-hard fans
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 03/03/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Unquiet Traveller," an 83 minute film about Polish concert pianist Piotr Anderszewski, opens with the pianist playing a Bach partita. While I immediately thought that he was playing too fast and that it was not music-making that would be to my taste, I also knew that it was way too early in the film to jump to any conclusions. As it turns out, neither the partita nor practically anything else in "Unquiet Traveller" is played in its entirety, mostly just snippets of this and that, and it's difficult to draw any conclusions about what kind of pianist Piotr Anderszewski really is. Despite the film's premise that its subject falls into the category of "great artist," the evidence presented was not enough for the uninitiated to decide for themselves. Anderszewski's personality, however, is a much simpler matter: he is bubbly, engaging, energetic, passionate, serious and imaginative. He is also a bundle of contradictions. For example, early in the film Anderszewski says he loves playing recitals, but also hates them and declares that he will never play in public again and instead will devote himself exclusively to recording. After consideration, maybe he will do the opposite. Perhaps, I wonder, he sees too many sides of the equation and has difficulty making up his mind? But later on, when talking about Brahms, he says the composer really had nothing new to say and that his output was just a reworking of Beethoven and so forth. But wait - a minute later Anderszewski proclaims that he adores Brahms who is his favorite composer!
Anderszewski is of course the film's visual focus and also the narrative voice reading sections from what I assume was a diary, since he was shown several times writing in a notebook. Many of his thoughts, which may no doubt sound both hip and profound to his dedicated fans, seemed a bit pretentious and self-involved to me. But what can you expect when you've been told from an early age that you're a genius? In any event, purely from the standpoint of interest, or lack thereof, too much footage was spent with the pianist rehearsing Beethoven's 1st concerto, conducting in a very animated fashion from the keyboard (usually a bad sign right there). And too much camera time was devoted to Anderszewski rambling on about Mozart while seated at the keyboard, singing, humming, pontificating and spouting melodramatic nonsense such as "I still haven't gotten over the tragedy of Mozart's premature death" - or something close to that. Anyway, you get the picture. On the other hand, there was a rehearsal of some of the finale of Brahms d minor concerto, mercifully with a conductor, and the little bit of this that was included was quite good. I also very much liked Andreszewski's playing of Szymanowski, a solo piece, Masques, and a piece played with his violinist sister. The film also poignantly addressed the pianist's frustration with stage fright which hinders performances that are a fraction of what he feels they could be. And I was touched by his preoccupation with pre-war Warsaw, poring over old photos and maps which showed the city before the destruction wreaked by the war and then the communists' ugly rebuilding projects. Clearly Anderszewski has a deep love and respect for his Polish heritage and Polish culture, which is admirable.
That I had never heard a recording by Anderszewski's prior to watching this film may (or may not) have put me at a disadvantage here; however, based on the film by itself, my impression is that Anderszewski is a talented musician who, at 41, is no longer a wunderkind and has a lot of competition. He certainly possesses personality; yet, with all of the charisma, poetic poses and animation projected in the film, which others may find charming and evidence of true genius, I began to wonder where the entertainer stops and the artist begins. Despite this there appears to be real substance here, and I look forward to hearing complete performances from this unusual pianist."
A wonderful experience
Stephen Benedict | Albany, NY USA | 08/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can scarcely remember when I've had a better musical and visual experience with a film. Perhaps I started with an advantage: I love trains. The idea of Anderszewski with his Steinway grand, in a perfectly appointed railway car, tootling through Europe and eastern Europe, recitals along the way, practising and demonstrating at the piano on the train, chatting intelligently about music and composers, wonderfully photographed and edited by Monsaingeon--this was as close to filmic heaven as I expect to get. It is perfect in itself, but of course leaves one, as it should, wanting to hear more--everything--of Anderszewski, live or on disk. I can't wait.
After watching my NETFLIX disc (surprisingly available so soon after release), I immediately ordered copies to send to my 95-year old former piano teacher in California (who worships Perahia) and several other piano-loving friends. Monsaingeon's Glen Gould film was great, but I think he outdoes himself with "Unquiet Traveler."
A Rare Glimpse inside Anderszewski's Life
Taylor | 08/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great documentary! I absolutely loved it. The way in which Bruno films is second to none, and he offers a rare glimpse into Anderszewski's life. I loved the train sequences and felt absolutely inspired by what Anderszewski says about Chopin, Beethoven and Brahms. His commentary about the composers is both charming and revealing. To be so exposed on camera as both a pianist and musicologist highlights his self-reflection and insight about himself as a musician. Incredible. I highly recommend it!"
One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen
Luke | Bronxville, New York USA | 01/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a professional musician, and I have never been so inspired by a music documentary. Anderszewski is truly a genius for our times, a multi-lingual European who can not only play but expound on the European musical heritage like no one else. His insights into Chopin, Mozart and Brahms are surprising, sometimes radical, always revelatory. He understands the music from the inside out, and conveys this understanding in a riveting, engaging and irresistibly humorous way. His trenchant comments on life at the highest professional levels of music are equally insightful. I've watched this film again and again, and introduced my friends to it. It has the same effect on everyone, and it'll have the same effect on you. If you love music, buy this DVD!"