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Case Number 23561: Small Claims Court

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Pianomania

First Run Features // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // March 24th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge P.S, Colbert was shocked to discover this masterful piano documentary contained not one set of "Chopsticks."

The Charge

"I had a really terrible dream. I dreamt that a string tore exactly in the area where I am now."—Stefan Küpfner

The Case

Have you ever wondered about the minutiae in a piano tuner's career? Neither have I.

Pianomania centers on Stefan Küpfner, who works for Steinway & Sons in Vienna, Austria. He starts with a tuning fork. He pounds keys, plucks wires, and ratchets tuning pegs this way and that, trying to find the perfect tone. Most importantly, Küpfner—who resembles a slightly fitter David Hyde Pierce—functions as midwife for the muse of Europe's most celebrated classical pianists.

Husband and wife documentarians Robert Cibis and Lilian Frank followed the concert technician on his daily rounds for two years, revealing a man in constant motion. Küpfner switches effortlessly from speaking German to English in order to communicate with his international clientele, but words often go by the wayside as the artists struggle to communicate their needs.

Chinese prodigy Lang Lang explains that when he uses the left pedal on a particular concert piano the notes are missing "the perfect disappearing." England's premiere recital accompanist Julius Drake estimates his instrument needs "Nothing drastic, just a little bit of magic." French conductor/soloist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, in preparation for a recording of Bach's "The Art Of Fugue," insists on a keyboard that can (spreads his hands wide) as well as (brings his hands close together, fluttering his fingers).

And so it goes. The man with the tuning fork in his toolbox makes his way from gig to gig, camera crew in tow. Küpfner may earn his pay as a master concert technician, but his method of diffusing frayed nerves is a subtle, razor-sharp wit which endears him to everyone he encounters.

Pianomania's standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation does the visuals proud, with a transfer that looks fantastic and treats us to some of the Austria's most beautiful indoor and outdoor venues. Audiophiles can choose between a Dolby 5.1 surround track and an equally wonderful 2.0 stereo mix. Subtitles are provided to cover the German dialogue, but my one quibble is that they drop out during the English conversations. The lone extra is a text-based Q&A with co-directors Cibis and Franck.

Invest in this rare glimpse of an almost unknown profession. I dare say you'll be charmed.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German, English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German, English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Concerts and Musicals
• Documentary
• Foreign
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Q&A

Accomplices

• IMDb








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