Concert (DVD)

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A fantasy of redemption I wish I could believe

Aug 6, 2011 (Updated Aug 6, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cast

Cons:story, pacing

The Bottom Line: Disappointment after the creatively falsified-identity masterpiece "Live and Become"


I was moved and entertained by Romanian-born, French, Jewish writer-director Radu Mihaileanu’s 2005 “Live and Become.” His 2009 follow-up (on a different continent), “Le Concert” is fitfully entertaining and aims to be moving, but I found it as believable as a Bollywood fantasy (which is to say, notat all).

The movie has some good performances by actors and musicians, but is very formulaic: a band of misfits pulling together to achieve an impossible dream for their leader—in this case Moscow symphony conductor Andrey Simonovich Filipov (Aleksey Guskov) rather than a coach (Hoosiers, 7 Samurai, The Little Train That Could, etc.). Thirty years earlier Andrey defied orders (from Brezhnev’s culture commisars) to purge Jewish musicians, including the violinist, Lea (Mélanie Laurent) who was performing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.

Commisar Ivan Gavrilov (Valeri Barinov) stopped the performance midway through the first movement, broke Andrey’s baton in half, and purged the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra. Now a janitor in the Bolshoi, Andrey  intercepts a fax inviting the orchestra to perform at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He and Jewish cellist-turned ambulance-driver, Sacha Grossma ((Dmitri Nazarov), convince the still-true-believer in communism Gavrilov to manage with the French. They assemble musicians who have not played in a symphony orchestra in 30 years. Some are gypsies, who have played regularly.

The all-Russian program is to begin with the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, played by an international superstar Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent, "Inglourious Basterds"). The gypsies provide passports at the Moscow airport, the musicians go on a wild night on the town in Paris. There is no rehearsal, but after Mlle. Jacquet comes in (which is not right away in the Tchaikowsky violin concerto) the orchestra is transformed from a pickup band of rusty musicians into the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, and Anne-Marie learns the true story of her parentage,

Aleksey Guskov provides convicing obsession to lead the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, and Mélanie Laurent is pretty and charming and there are some intercultural laughs and what clearly aimed to stimulate laughs. And there is the Tchaikovsky, but the plot strains credulity in too many ways for me to suspend disbelief. I suspect the same would be the case for Mihaileanu’s (1998) “Train of Life” (can I say “alas again?).

Perhaps someone who knows nothing of the realities of scheduling of superstar soloists and the co-ordination of orchestras could surrender to the fantasy of redemption (in which even commissar Gavrilov has catharsis), but I couldn’t.

The DVD contained no bonus features.

©2011, Stephen O. Murray


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