Sunday, April 15, 2012

COLCOA 2012: MICHEL PETRUCCIANI

Michel Petrucciani in Michel Petrucciani.
Glassworks

By John Esther

For those who have heard Michel Petrucciani play piano, it a pretty impressive experience. The guy's technique is stunning, a marvelous combination of speed, lightness and joy. But to see him play is something altogether more impressive and that is the best attribute of Michael Radford's documentary, Michel Petrucciani.

Born in 1962 with osteogeneis imperfecta (AKA glass bone disease), Petrucciani's body was highly delicate, prone to fracture. He would never grow taller than three feet and could not walk for most of his life. As the outside world was often too dangerous for the boy, Petrucciani would stay home listening to jazz and playing piano (with a custom food petal) on a constant, and soon, phenomenal level.

It was not long before he started playing with the jazz greats. As his career took off, Petrucciani would spend his time traveling the globe, but much of his short time on earth in Paris, New York and Big Sur where he fully engaged in the party lifestyle of a jazz musician. He was also quite the ladie's man, albeit not much of a monogamous one.

For anyone who knew the basic details of late pianist (he died in 199), not much of the information provided in the documentary will be informative. We get the familiar inspiring narrative of a little kid who could along with the sordid details of the rather hedonistic man, but not much else. For example, what were Petrucciani's opinions regarding art, politics or the second class status society places on people with disabilities? What did he think about rock & roll?

But these ommissions can be overlooked to some degree as Radford (Van Morrison in Irelend) unearths some fantastic footage of a man born just right to play the piano.


Michel Petrucciani screens April 17, 5:30 p.m. at Directors Guild of America. For more information: Petrucciani

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