By Gregory Crofton
At 25, after bumping around New York City without a consistently paying job, Leonard Bernstein got a call from “God.”
Really it was a conductor named Artur Rodziński on the phone, and he told a young Bernstein that God had told him to hire him as his assistant conductor to the New York Philharmonic.
Soon enough Rodzinski fell ill with the flu, and Bernstein took the stage as conductor. He led the philharmonic orchestra through a thrilling performance, and became an overnight sensation.
Bernstein would defy the odds throughout his 72 years, overcoming the challenges presented by his Jewish heritage and bisexuality to build a career with worldwide cultural impact.
“Bernstein’s Wall,” which played this week as part of the Nashville Film Festival, tells the whole story of this man’s life, probably too much of it. It’s an archival documentary — meaning it’s made with historical footage, not recently shot interviews. The doc is also narrated using Bernstein’s voice.
What I enjoyed most about the film is that it allowed me at last to get a feel for this man, one I had heard and read about over the years. But what I struggled with was all of the Bernstein on Bernstein. It really needed some outside perspective and tighter editing.
No trailer is available, but actor Jake Gyllenhaal is expected to portray Bernstein in a Hollywood film.