In Search of Chopin

Phil Grabsky’s portraits of great composers (In Search of Mozart, In Search of Beethoven, In Search of Haydn) aren’t documentaries so much as illustrated collections of facts. This one, like its predecessors, provides a straightforward overview of the subject, with numerous musical excerpts, talking heads who explain Chopin’s cultural significance, and a prim-voiced narrator who delivers lumps of biographical data over shots of places where Chopin once lived. Grabsky’s mission to cover an entire life and oeuvre in a conventional feature length has always struck me as a fool’s errand—you can say only so much in two hours about three dozen separate compositions, and that’s exactly what Grabsky does here. As usual, he doesn’t present any of the compositions in their entirety, making this feel at times like a infomercial for a greatest-hits album.