If director Phil Grabsky is really searching for Mozart, as the title of his new documentary would have you believe, he doesn’t seem to be looking very hard. While Grabsky and many of the talking heads who populate his film acknowledge many of the challenges inherent in trying to understand a figure as significant as Mozart — separating the man from the myth, actually explaining the nature of his brilliance without simply repeating the fact of his genius over and over again — they only sporadically manage to do anything about it. For his part, Grabsky takes an utterly conventional approach, mixing filmed performance segments, slow pans over 18th-century paintings, interviews with musicians and Mozart scholars, and solemn, deep-voiced narration. It’s no surprise, then, that the final product is hard to distinguish from something you might see on PBS, the History Channel, or A&E’s Biography (of which Grabsky is a veteran). This is not to say the film is totally without insight, but it never scrapes together an overarching thesis about Mozart either, except that he was a genius and that that movie Amadeus was, like, totally inaccurate, man. That may be forgivable in a 44-minute television episode, but in a two-hour-plus film it makes for a grueling slog.
Opens July 20 at Cinema Village