Trailer for the movie "Maestro", directed by Bruno Sheesh (courtesy of Lev Cinemas)
The grade: a star and a half (photo: photo processing, .)
Father and son are engaged in the same field.
This is a very specific field of expertise, niche and with a dry and serious image - perhaps because of the long tradition behind it.
It's a field that the general public knows very little about, but if you dive in, a whole world of intrigue, connections and internal intrigues is revealed, completely dramatic for the small community that deals with it.
But the relationship between the father and the son is not one of shared fate and support, on the contrary - they compete with each other.
The father's success is clouded by problematic social skills, while the son fought for enough years for his place until he reached a position of great importance challenging even his father's status.
Now the father receives a message from Sunat Haim about a very important and enviable honorary title, without knowing that there was an unfortunate technical error - the winner is not him, but his son.
A small caption at the beginning of the new French film "Maestro" states that it was inspired by "Footnote" by Yosef Seder.
"Inspired" is an accurate definition, because the film of the director Bruno Shisch is not exactly a remake but more of an adaptation, another interpretation of the idea described in the opening paragraph.
In the "footnote" these were the philologists Eliezer and Ariel Shkolnik (Shlomo Baraba and Lior Ashkenazi), scholars of Jerusalem Talmud at the Hebrew University, among whom is an exciting win of the Israel Prize.
In "Maestro" we are talking about François and Dani Dumar (Pierre Arditti and Ivan Atal), who made a name for themselves in the world of classical music as prominent conductors.
Instead of an important prize, the achievement is an honorable position - the chief conductor of the prestigious Italian opera house La Scala.
On paper, it could totally work, but on paper, mashed potato-flavored instant powder was also, in the end, inspired by mashed potatoes.
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And no one even shouts "I'm a philologist!".
From "Maestro" (photo: Courtesy of Lev Cinemas)
It can be argued that the troubles of "Maestro" already started with the connection between him and a film that is truly one of a kind.
Not only did it win numerous awards and decorations, it was screened around the world and entered the Oscar's top five in the foreign language film category - Yosef Seder's film is not an easy film to imitate.
It had everything that makes a movie a memorable experience: a brilliant script, a tone that zigzags between tones and genres, a unique cinematic expression, iconic jokes, unforgettable characters and also an ending that caused a slight controversy among critics and viewers.
"Maestro", on the other hand, is a lazy family drama, with situations and scenes you've seen a hundred times before and zero courage.
In this sense, the film aligns with the hero Danny Dumar, who time and time again was scolded by those around him on the grounds that he was a coward.
This is actually the central conflict in the film, even more so than the father and son relationship: unlike his ambitious father, his mother and ex-wife's nagging, and even his teenage son, Danny lets things happen around him and is always afraid to take the extra step necessary to get what he really wants.
The characters have to say it from time to time because without them you wouldn't notice it - or simply think the opposite, because every character behaves in every scene in a way that the plot needs them to behave.
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Apparently, during the writing phase, someone thought for a moment or two about the psychology of the characters and the relationship between them, only that instead of writing this characterization into the story, it was put in the mouths of the characters between small talk about packing shirts or party plans.
Given how arbitrary any such sentence feels, there's no difference between dramatic accusations from one character to another and "pass me the champagne bucket."
Even the climactic moments that are supposed to break this bourgeois routine fail to generate any real interest or drama - they feel like they're ended with a question mark or stopped in the middle.
Longing for Cedar.
From "Maestro" (photo: Courtesy of Lev Cinemas)
It's likely that even without the unflattering comparison to the source material, this film would have felt sparse and mundane.
But unfortunately for him it shares a distribution year with another film about problematic types in the world of classical conducting - "Tar the Conqueror".
A light comparison between the two films reveals another significant weakness of "Maestro", which is his inability to say anything interesting or substantial about the world in which it takes place.
While "Tar" revels in the dramatic and impressive movements of conducting and plays in a multitude of ways with the seemingly sterile environment of concert halls, "Maestro" feels as if it was decided to place him in the realm of classical music at the flip of a coin.
You won't learn anything here that you didn't already know about classical music or the act of conducting, because the entire engagement with the subject boils down to general sentences like "I'm not as good at X as my father, who has golden hands."
The X could equally refer to painting portraits, styling hair, taming lions or affixing stamps,