The short animated film, Oscar by Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre begins without beating around the bush. There is no flowery intro or slow lead-in. Oscar Peterson’s voice appears in the opening sequence with assurance and purpose, announcing, “I love what I do.”
There is nothing revolutionary here in terms of ‘plot’. Instead it feels more like a glimpse of the musician for audiences who may already know a bit about him. In just 12 minutes, however, we learn about loneliness on the road and the melancholy of having great news to share about last night’s performance, with family not physically present to hear about it. It is with regret that Peterson speaks about his divorce. Given the chance, he says he would have done things a little differently. Still, he insists that if one respects the instrument, the instrument will in turn respect the player. It’s rather appropriate that Saint-Pierre uses a cut-out animation piano as a metaphor for a human heart.
Along with other cut-out animation, Saint-Pierre integrates a collection of old photos of young Oscar at the keys. Alternately seen focused on playing, or smiling widely, Peterson talks about going from the Paris of North America (Montreal) to Carnegie Hall. He wanted to leave behind an ideal for young pianists. And that he did.
Oscar is part of the Fantasia Festival’s Genres du Pays section. Cinemathèque Québécoise, July 28th, 2017 at 7pm.