4 stars (out of four)
The hoopla surrounding Mozart's 250th birthday anniversary may have waned, but the celebration of the composer's genius is eternal. No more important, or more beautifully filmed, documentary about Mozart's life and music has emerged from the Mozart Year 2006 than writer-director Phil Grabsky's "In Search of Mozart."
Seamlessly melding music and biography, the award-winning film takes us through a 25,000-mile journey along the routes Mozart followed through Europe in search of fame (which he finally achieved) and a lucrative court appointment (which he didn't). His short but eventful life is traced through narration (by Juliet Stevenson), excerpts from letters and commentary from a host of scholars and musicians ranging from period specialists such as Roger Norrington to the late musicologist Stanley Sadie.
We meet a singularly ordinary man--given to bathroom humor and constantly putting the bite on friends for years--who wrote singularly extraordinary music. That timeless music rightly is made the central focus: We are treated to a constant wash of excerpts, from the child Wolfgang's first keyboard fancy to his unfinished Requiem--more than 70 works in all, performed by such artists as Leif Ove Andsnes, Rene Jacobs and Frans Brueggen, many of whom share their insights.
What emerges is a far more accurate, complete and endearingly human portrait of Mozart than any documentary has ever painted. If all you know of him are the glossy lies disseminated by "Amadeus," don't miss "In Search of Mozart." It's a must for tyros and cognoscenti alike.
'In Search of Mozart'
Screens at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Fri.; 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sat.; 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. Sun.; 6:30 p.m. Mon.-Tue.; and 6 and 8:30 p.m. Thu. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; 312-846-2800, siskel%filmcenter.org. The 5:15 p.m. Sun. screening will be a Siskel Film Center-WFMT-FM benefit. Tickets are $75 and the program includes guest speakers and food. For reservations, call 312-846-2600.