Film Review - The Concert

The Concert, directed by Romanian filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu, is a mercurial yet dazzling get-the-band-back-together French and Russian language film.

Unabashedly buoyant, The Concert portrays Andrey Filipov (Alexeï Guskov) as an endearing but broken janitor, who 30 years prior was a celebrated conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. His fall occured when Filipov was publicly ousted for refusing to fire his Jewish musicians at the Soviet government's behest.

When Filipov intercepts an invitation for the Bolshoi to play at the Châtelet Theater in Paris, he recognises his last chance to reunite his gypsy and Jewish musicians and to finally perform Tchaikovsky's Violin concerto. The show hinges, however, on Filipov's demand that the graceful Anne-Marie Jacquet (a regal, if slightly too self-restrained Mélanie Laurent, whom I've been eagerly awaiting to see again after her role in Inglourious Basterds) will agree to be his violin soloist.

Whilst the reasons for Jacquet's inclusion are disquietingly called into question, Filipov has the added frenetic nightmare of getting the reprobate musicians to the stage on time, if he is to ever lay the ignominy of his past to rest.

The first two thirds of The Concert brilliantly established nuanced yet endearing characters within a plot readily poised for humour and affection. Wonderful scenes of tongue-and-cheek villainy aligned with films detailing lighthearted impersonation and miscreancy were delivered consistently, satisfying the expectations you didn't anticipate having at the start of the movie. Frustratingly, the final chapter flounders at the point that should have been easiest to sell: the performance. Mihaileanu lost some sight of his tone by jarringly adding the odd moment of outrageous and over-the-top humour with the emotional climax. Though it was only moments that periodically interjected, they made it difficult to maintain in the film's closing the emotional connection so well established in the previous chapters.

Despite this momentary loss of focus, The Concert easily soared for a number of other reasons. Fantastically lyrical scenes developed with a tender yet robust levity, exceedingly well supported by a score that never over-stepped it's bounds into interference (compared to, for example, August Rush). The acting was also nearly uniformly superb, with special mention necessary for Dmitri Nazarov as Aleksandr 'Sasha' Grosman, who played the unassuming and heartbreakingly earnest best friend to Filipov. The Concert is a must-see.

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