Geoffrey Tozer was a child prodigy – he was playing Mozart at three and creating his own music at seven – who went on to become a phenomenally gifted and internationally acclaimed classical pianist. (Some say a genius.) He also died alone and destitute in 2009, aged only 54. This doco is an attempt to discover exactly what went wrong.
The title comes from Paul Keating’s searing speech at Tozer’s memorial service. Keating was a great admirer of Tozer’s talent, and a major (governmental) benefactor; he agreed to re-enact his speech – in which he slammed those who he believed treated Tozer shamefully – for the doco.
The tragic story is explored in a way that’s both nuanced and impassioned. It’s also both simple and complex, because key elements include a ‘stage’ mother who drove the young boy to excel… the Tall Poppy Syndrome… an ill-fated relationship… Tozer’s own utter lack of worldliness… alcohol abuse and unreliability… the alleged abandonment of the man by the musical establishment (arguably the biggest factor of all)… and much more besides.
Most of the interviewees are highly eloquent. That includes the late conductor and educator Richard Gill, who completed his own involvement in the project during his final months. One of the highlights is, incidentally, the inspired and delightfully aesthetically pleasing use of animated graphics.
Keating claimed at one point in his eulogy that the way Tozer was overlooked by Melbourne and Sydney orchestras was “a case example of bitchiness and preciousness within the Australian arts”. Speaking of case examples, this film is one of how to make a fascinating, balanced and very moving documentary.