Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
On October 1, 2009 at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, Paul Keating gave the eulogy for the pianist Geoffrey Tozer after he had died alone and practically destitute at 54. He outlined Tozer's achievements as a concert pianist, his rise as a child prodigy, his competition wins in Europe in the 1960s, his stellar recordings through the later decades. Keating then unleashed a targeted but unprecedented attack on the Sydney and Melbourne symphony orchestras. ".. If anyone needs a case example of the bitchiness and preference within the Australian arts, here you have it..." Janine Hosking, an experienced documentary-maker, decided to find out. She tells her story through a clever device: the much-loved music educator Richard Gill becomes our guide and the film's interlocutor.
Tozer's troubles went way beyond his relationships with the Australian musical establishment of the time. They tried to work with Tozer as he spiralled into periods of unreliability, exacerbated by serious alcoholism; worse he became unpredictable in performance, improvising passages and confusing the accompanying orchestra. Keating also makes the point that “Australia does not love its artists enough”. Keating first heard Tozer play in 1986. He instituted the Australian Artists Creative Fellowships to assist established artists in mid-career. Tozer received several of these grants, which then became a stick for the opposition to beat Keating with. John Howard discontinued the grants when he became prime minister.
And there are many questions to answer. Clearly, Tozer's mother Veronica was a major influence as his first important teacher. She was part of the reason that Tozer grew up with very few life skills beyond the piano. He couldn't drive nor pay his own bills. Nor could he admit that he was gay, although the film remains somewhat opaque about when he finally figured that out. Hosking does Tozer and us a service by broadening our understanding, both of what made him great and of what might have brought him to such a point.