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The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

I approach this review with an unenthused sigh, knowing that my opinions on The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble will sound pompous, crusty, and blasé.

Academy Award winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) returns to documentary filmmaking with The Music of Strangers, a film chronicling the artistic process of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his organized instrumental ensemble of global musicians.  Neville gives the audience a taste of different cultures by individualizing specific members of the group, which in turn allows movie goers to see deeper feelings behind music performed by the Silk Road Ensemble.  The film also gives Yo-Yo Ma a different kind of stage – the documentary gives the musician a platform to reflect on his life.

The Music of Strangers is bound to fascinate many audiences.  Morgan Neville is courteous towards his interviewees, giving his subjects the opportunity to open up while also providing respectful clips to fill out their stories – he gives Yo-Yo Ma the same treatment.  The doc also has a fluency that you can’t help but admire as Neville’s busy scope discovers plenty of backstories and live performances.

But, to be honest, I grew tired of the film.  Like a metronome, The Music of Strangers maintains a consistency, but offers few surprises.  Its smooth cinematography and intelligent interviews can’t cover the more basic, more mundane qualities of the doc’s design.

The Music of Strangers is fine.  But then again, it’s just fine.

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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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