since birth, Japanese classical pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s admirers even
included the late great Van Cliburn, who heard the young musician during the
international competition that bears his name. It is therefore probably safe to
conclude Tsujii acquitted himself quite well in Fort Worth. Viewers will follow
his progress round-by-round and even more importantly watch Tsujii give back to
the survivors of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Peter Rosen’s Touching the Sound: the Improbable Journey
of Nobuyuki Tsujii (trailer
screens today during the 2014 San Diego Film Festival.
often hear how other senses compensate for lack of sight among the blind. In
Tsujii’s case, he developed a Mozart-level musical talent, at an astonishingly
young age. It is not just his ear and his mechanics that impress, but also his
remarkable memory for long passages of music. Clearly, he was born to play the
piano—a fact his supportive mother quickly recognized.
Tsujii’s mother is a central and edifying figure in his story. However, it is
worth noting the extent to which his fellow students also accepted Tsujii,
despite his differences. In fact, Rosen shrewdly recognizes one of the pivotal
stories of his early career revolves around his mother’s decision to allow him
to attend a class camping trip, rather than force him to practice slavishly for
an important competition.
surprisingly, Rosen’s nicely constructed and surprisingly intimate documentary
has absolutely nothing bad to say about Tsujii. At only twenty-four, he has not
had much time to do anything scandalous, especially while living the life of an
international prodigy. Perhaps the film’s greatest drama involves the Chopin
and Cliburn competitions, but the most emotionally resonant sequences capture
his special concerts for tsunami survivors. The healing and rebuilding are far
from complete, yet in films like Touching
we get a sense of the dignity and resiliency of the Japanese people.
Nations that have endured far less have demanded far more, considerably less graciously.
Of course, Rosen also documents the fact Tsujii
sure can play. Altogether, he is quite a nice young chap, who is particularly
gifted expressing the lyrical beauty of his instrument. Definitely worth
spending time with, Touching the Sound screens
this today (9/27) as part of this year’s San Diego Film Festival.
Labels: Documentary, Nobuyuki Tsujii, SDFF '14