From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (2003)




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In 1979, violin virtuoso Isaac Stern embarked on a goodwill tour of Red China. Filmmaker Murray Lerner went along for the ride, and the end result was the unforgettable feature-length documentary From Mao to Mozart. The best scenes involve Stern's tutoring and coaching of gifted Chinese students, and Shanghai Conservatory of Music director Tan Shuzhen's recollections of his travails in the less enlightened China of the 1960s. The film is extremely well balanced, treating Eastern and Western musical culture with equal respect and (sometimes) awe. From Mao to Mozart won the 1981 "best documentary" Academy Award.

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Isaac Stern
as Narrator
David Golub
as Narrator
Tan Shuzhen
as Narrator

Critic Reviews for From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China

Audience Reviews for From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China

An American violinist goes to China to teach young musicians. There are certainly aspects of this film that bothered me even though they wouldn't bother others. From my post-colonial background, I'm always very cautious about Occidental people going into the "Orient" with a posture of superiority, and Isaac Stern, despite his romanticization of the landscape (scored, of course, by "Oriental" music), fits the bill as one who assumes weakness on the part of his charges, seeking to correct and "teach" rather than being open to learn. His main complaint is his students' lack of passion as they play, but if I closed my eyes, I couldn't tell the difference between Stern's "passionate" playing and his mocking of his students' lack of passion. Overall, I think this is a dated film, reproducing the doctrines of American exceptionalism common to its age.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

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