Bradley Cooper in a scene from “Maestro.”

“Maestro” movie star Bradley Cooper’s big, new film about composer and world-famous manic conductor Leonard Bernstein, just opened on Netflix. Bernstein, even as a star, was always addressed as “Lenny” by everyone in his world.

“Maestro” opens with an aging Bernstein, as he is being interviewed by a film crew at the end of his colorful, vibrant life, sitting at a piano where he is, at the moment, unable to pick out few keys.

In an ashtray on the piano is a smoldering cigarette, one of several billion cigarettes inhaled. You will watch Lenny smoke, along with his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan, who is gorgeously gowned by Mark Bridges) and everyone in the picture, constantly smoking.

Throughout this 129-minute film, Cooper, as Bernstein, almost never appears without a cigarette in his hand and mouth. It was the times.

Cigarettes are such an omnipresent prop in “Maestro” that one would imagine Bernstein’s favorite brand would appear in the credits, just at the end.

All of the opening shots — in fact, almost half of the movie — are shot in black and white with a 1940s square aspect ratio by the film’s impressive cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Cooper’s lucky choice to hire. Get used to it. It does get to a nicer, warmer color.


And get used to this as well — this is Cooper’s picture. He has, with Josh Singer, written it, but he also directed it, edited it and probably cast it, most importantly with Carey Mulligan.

It’s Mulligan who brings, as she does to all her work, the much-needed class and brilliance to Cooper’s canvas. And when the camera is on her luminous face, it falls in love with her and seems never to want to leave. That’s what a star is.

Cooper, with this film, clearly wants to be a director-star with Orson Welles’ charisma, and hopes “Maestro “is his “Citizen Kane.”

You won’t recognize any one of the characters who once clung to the hems of the great Lenny, like Jerome Robbins, Aaron Copland and others. It’s clear that Lenny attracted the biggest planets of entertainment.

In the first black-and-white opening scene, it’s Nov. 14, 1943, as a telephone jangles, until a 25-year-old Bernstein jumps up and dances over the sleeping body of his boyfriend, David Oppenheim (Matt Bomer), to answer. He learns that he has been summoned to step in and replace, for the first time, the conductor at Carnegie Hall, who has fallen ill.

Lenny, to small applause, mounts the stage and with historic manic energy, captures greatness and becomes the first American-born artist to go on to conduct the New York Philharmonic, followed by the London Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic, and as Cooper knows, “A Star is Born.”

“Maestro” is a “big” picture. It sports an impressive cast of seasoned actors, is beautifully shot and is going to be marketed by serious professionals who will be bent on making it a big success at the Oscars. It may well win a boxful of golden statues, and in this age of mediocre offerings, could “sweep” the card. Who knows?

“Maestro” streams on Netflix.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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