The Maestro (2018)

Though Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco taught some of cinema's most acclaimed composers, including John Williams, Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith, his own contribution to film is less renowned. Despite having composed the music for over a hundred movies, he only received on-screen credit for seven of them. “I know”, he tells his new student Jerry Herst, “and that is enough”. Despite its best efforts, The Maestro only partly succeeds in redressing this oversight.

After a snappy opening that succinctly sums up both men’s lives before their first meeting, the film then spends its remaining running time meandering from one inconsequential event to the next. On the rare occasion where a circumstance potentially has an emotional impact, such as a visit from Herst’s father or the death of a landlady’s acquaintance, the scene fails to resonate. Even a Hollywood party whose guests include Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse and Stanley Kubrick remains a decidedly dull affair.

Fittingly, the scenes that do score take place in front of the piano, as Castelnuovo-Tedesco coaxes Herst to put aside his lawyer’s brain and let the music naturally flow through him. As the title character, Xander Berkeley conforms to the film’s overall muted quality by underplaying a role that could easily have been over the top. 

Livening up proceedings all too briefly is Jon Polito in his last film role. As Castelnuovo-Tedesco's nemesis at MGM, Polito amusingly instructs the composer not to provide music that the movie’s audience will listen to. It would appear that the maestro did not pass this advice on to his students.

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Infers Jerry Herst wrote 'The Call of Tarzan' after the events depicted in the biopic, whereas he wrote the song for the 1933 movie Tarzan the Fearless.

Herbert Englehart (portrayed by Jon Polito) is a fictional character.

 

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s accent actually sounded more German than Italian, (due to being taught English by a German tutor).

Though there are no scene recreations in this biopic, it does depict Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Jerry Herst watching a film Tedesco composed the music for, The Loves of Carmern (1948).

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