After being humiliatingly fired mid-concert as the conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra for hiring Jewish musicians, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov (Alexei Guskov) is demoted to janitor. Thirty years later, while cleaning the boss' office, a fax comes in from the Châtelet Theater in Paris, urgently wanting to book the orchestra to fill an unexpected gap: the Los Angeles Philharmonic has to cancel their dates. It's short notice but Andrei sees a chance to finish his Tchaikovsky concerto for orchestra and violin - with the scattered ragtag musos he once worked with masquerading as the Bolshoi, with guest violinist, the sublime Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent). It's an audacious plan and is forever threatened with failure, but with good will and good luck, the musos get to Paris. That's when their real troubles start, and Andrei faces a decision about a personal secret that he isn't sure he wants to divulge.
Review by Louise Keller:
The past, present and future all come together in the rousing final scene of The Concert, a drama that doubles as a comedy of errors, in which music symbolises the epitome of harmony and happiness. In particular, the music is Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major and the concert is the incongruous coming together of many intangibles including a cobbled-together orchestra, a conductor who has not conducted for 30 years and a young violin star yearning for the parents she has never known. Everyone has a different agenda, including the KGB, the mafia, a talent agent and the Paris theatre director, in whose splendid establishment the film's climactic scenes play out. It's a film of highs and lows and wonderful contrasts and whose emotional palette tilts from the high to the low-brow.
It takes no time at all for us to catch on to the fact that Aleksei Guskov's Andreï Filipov, once an acclaimed conductor, is now working as a cleaner at the Bolshoi. A wild idea becomes a reality when an opportunity in the form of a piece of paper slides out of a fax machine. It is clear when Filipov and his cellist turned ambulance driver Sacha Grossman (Dmitri Nazarov) approaches Ivan Gavrilov (Valeriy Barinov) to negotiate the fraudulent deal with Paris' Theatre du Chatelet, that they have a turbulent history. 'We have to be demanding and temperamental,' Gavrilov insists as the conditions are set and we quickly see the obstacles that need to be overcome. Watch out for the airport scene in which 55 unlikely-looking Russian musicians are queuing up with their ID photos for their fake passports. And watch for the Paris restaurant scene in which Gavrilov is the only customer and a belly-dancer is instructed to dance for him.
Director Radu Mihaileanu's film is an ambitiously complex one that marries the sublime with the ridiculous. Brashness and elegance sit side by side from language gaffs to the harmonious music that communicates far better than words. It doesn't always work flawlessly but the imperfections don't spoil the overall impact. Mélanie Laurent is perfectly cast as star violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet, while Miou-Miou is great as Guylène the agent and confidante who knows more about the intervals between the notes than she lets on. The Concert is the unification of the individual and the collective, whose dreams miraculously transpire by default or by design and whose journey is as unique as the notes Tchaikovsky has written in his marvellous Concerto.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There's a wealth of material tucked into this screenplay, layer upon layer of references and footnotes on politics, history and histrionics, secrets and ridicule, themes of professional revenge and redemption - plus thunderously good music to finish things off. The film's tone tends to wobble as a result, and there are equally wobbly bits in the screenplay itself, but it deserves forgiving viewing for its good intentions, devotion to fun and its moving resolution.
Alexei Guskov is a rather bland figure, but it's his quest that takes our attention, to right the unrightable wrong of not only his dismissal but the Anti-Semitic reason for it and equally the insult to the music he was playing: the ravishing concerto by Russia's own Tchaikovsky. Not so bland is his good friend and cellist Sacha Grossman (Dmitri Nazarov) a small mountain of a man with a matching heart and hearty disposition, who is privy to the secret that Andrei has carried around for 30 years.
Mélanie Laurent is engagingly credible as the superstar violin soloist who is cautious about this gig until she finds a reason to become enthusiastic, and Miou Miou is terrific as her manager and surrogate mother.
Both François Berléand as Duplessis, the manager of the Paris theatre and Valeriy Barinov as Gavrilov the once great manager of the Bolshoi who is still flying the Communist flag with hopes of uniting the people in a new utopia, provide highly charged performances that are close to farcical - but they get away with it. That's probably thanks to director Radu Mihaileanu, whose previous film was the acclaimed Live and Become (2005).
The film keeps us engaged with its adventure quality and its romanticised journey of a heroic figure battling fate and his fellow musos for his rightful place on the podium - not driven by ego but by the harmony he finds in music ... 'the real communism,' he tells Gavrilov in one key scene. Communists get ridiculed as do the Russians in general as well as the French. The Gypsies are given a fair go though, and music gets top billing.
First published in the Sun Herald
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CONCERT, THE (M)
CAST: Alexei Guskov, Mélanie Laurent, Dimitri Nazarov, Miou-Miou, Francois Berleand, Lionel Abelanski
PRODUCER: Alain Attal
DIRECTOR: Radu Mihaileanu
SCRIPT: Radu Mihaileanu, Matthew Robins, Alain-Michel Blanc (story by Hector Cabello Reyes, Thierry Degrandi)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurent Dailland
MUSIC: Armand Amar
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christian Nichulescu, Stanislas Reydellet
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 29, 2010
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