¡Viva Maestro! (CREDIT: Greenwich Entertainment/Screenshot)

Starring: Gustavo Dudamel

Director: Theodore Braun

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: Unrated (But It Would’ve Been a G or PG)

Release Date: April 8, 2022 (Theaters)

I’m not much of a patron of classical music performances, but I do love going to the movies (obviously). Which is to say, despite not being in his target audience, I am familiar with Gustavo Dudamel, as his conducting of the L.A. Philharmonic was featured in a “One Night Only” event broadcast to cinemas several years ago. And I saw the pre-show ad for that performance a lot. Even in that one 30-second snippet, it was clear just how preternaturally charismatic he was, even considering the baseline of gesticulation in his line of work. So when I found out that I would be going to see a documentary about him, I figured it wouldn’t take much to make him compelling. Suffice it to say, ¡Viva Maestro! doesn’t get in the way of itself.

When making a documentary about a living person, one central question is (or at least should be): Why now? What about this particular moment in time is so significant to this particular person’s life? Considering the inherently difficult and mercurial nature of filmmaking, I imagine that the main reason is that this just happened to be when director Theodore Braun was finally able to put together everything he needed. But whether it was planned or serendipitous, ¡Viva Maestro! captures Dudamel at a crossroads, as political strife in his native Venezuela prevents him from being able to return home while he’s in the middle of an international tour. Ultimately, that is more of a backdrop than anything else. Dudamel has always been reluctant to publicly share his political views, and ¡Viva Maestro! doesn’t press him much on that matter.

Thus what we have here is a mostly straightforward portrait of what it’s like to be one of the most famous and acclaimed conductors in the world today. I found the most compelling scenes to be Dudamel’s rehearsals with his orchestra. The word to describe them is “exacting.” Every note has to be played correctly to the exact right fraction of a second. That might sound like something out of Whiplash, but there’s also warmth at the core of Dudamel’s instructions to mitigate the intensity. This isn’t the life for me, but it is the life for people who have dedicated themselves to playing an instrument. People flock to this guy; ¡Viva Maestro! keys right in on his loyalty and dedication.

¡Viva Maestro! is Recommended If You Like: Holding your arms at perpendicular angles

Grade: 3 out of 5 Batons