I Am Not a Rock Star is an intense portrait of a young pianist
A documentary by Bobbi Jo Krals. In English and French with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, January 11, at the Vancity Theatre
What would happen if your sulky teenager was also, at least potentially, a world-class concert pianist? It could make handing out weekly chores, and daily encouragement, even more complicated than it is for most families.
Clearly, Montreal’s Marika Bournaki is no ordinary adolescent. As captured by filmmaker Bobbi Jo Krals from the age of 12 through 20 (with some video of her early performances, at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere), the girl is, by turns, bratty, brilliant, infuriatingly self-indulgent, and, above all, talented. The concentration on her career takes its toll on her overshadowed younger siblings, and it opens a can of worms for her mother, a thwarted ballet dancer. But the movie is really about Marika’s stormy relationship with her father, Pierre, a Juilliard-trained violinist who gave up music for finance and, eventually, managing his daughter’s career.
The pretty, blond-haired pianist seems to enjoy a good challenge, but even after she moves to Manhattan, also to study at Juilliard, her dad’s well-intentioned hectoring grinds on occasion. “Are you fucking insane?” she retorts, via Skype, when he suggests that she open an upcoming recital with a bête noir Sergei Rachmaninoff number. Things really boil over when they fly to London together to investigate a music school and the diva smokes cigarettes, drags her heels, and complains about the hotel.
Still, Marika isn’t quite as tough as she looks, as evidenced by tears shed after a concertgoer’s thoughtless criticism and the sheer delight she displays when given a chance to tackle one of Glenn Gould’s prized Steinways. This intense study is also a kind of redemption tale, with the passage to adulthood marked by hints of wisdom and greater artistry to come.