New Leonard Bernstein film will hold special interest for Chichester

The new film Maestro about Leonard Bernstein is certain to have added interest in Chichester where it will be shown from December 8 at the Chichester Cinema at New Park.
Roger Gibson (contributed pic)Roger Gibson (contributed pic)
Roger Gibson (contributed pic)

Chichester Cinema at New Park founder Roger Gibson, who is also the former artistic director and programmer for the Chichester International Film Festival, saw it in Venice and is looking forward to seeing it again.

Leonard Bernstein had a significant connection to Chichester. He was commissioned by the Cathedral in 1965 to compose Chichester Psalms, and his family visited many times. His son Alexander visited the city five years ago for the big Bernstein in Chichester celebrations marking his centenary.

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Roger said: “I saw the film in Venice and I thought it was wonderful. It was only just two hours. Some films are too long but this one felt almost too short for what it was trying to do. West Side Story was just referred to. From the point of view of the music there is some good stuff but you almost feel that it could have been a series rather than just one film but I really liked it. I had seen Bernstein in person. I went to quite a few concerts with Bernstein over the years and I think Bradley Cooper is excellent in the part. He looks incredible.”

There was plenty of controversy over the make-up that he used but Roger is fine with the end result: “I don't have any problem with it at all. And he looks really good. The opening shot of him in his 50s – and then you go back – you just think ‘Oh my God! That's amazing!’ and he's got the gravelly voice that Bernstein had as well.”

Roger suspects that there could be an Oscar in it for Bradley Cooper: “It goes into Bernstein's relationship with his wife and the fact that he was bisexual. It doesn't avoid in any way the warts to him but from what I understand the family agreed to the screenplay.”

Roger was delighted to have been part of the Bernstein in Chichester celebration in 2018 when the cinema showed five films.

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“Bradley Cooper puts Bernstein across as a difficult person in many ways, a man who has this conflict between composing and conducting but a man who also has this conflict with his sexuality which his wife knew about and accepted. You sense he was a very difficult man in many ways and a very conflicted man.

“I think that the film will do very well. It is going to be on Netflix but it's also going to be in the cinemas. They're allowing this film to be shown in the cinemas because they've realised that it doesn't do these films any harm at all to show them in cinemas before they go to Netflix.”

In 1979 Roger set up a film society which then became the Chichester Cinema at New Park which then spawned the Chichester International Film Festival in 1992.

Roger stepped down as the film festival artistic director and programmer in the summer, but he remains closely connected with the venue, working on the streamings of opera and ballet, special events and also the French Film Festival selection which has been shown in Chichester in November and December.

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“For the French Film Festival I had to select 21 films from about 60 and that has taken up a lot of time between the end of the film festival and now but now I'm a bit more relaxed!”

And delighted too: “I have been given the freedom of Chichester. That's going to be in January.”