It’s fair to say that a film about a Russian orchestra may not necessarily be at the top of my movie wishlist. My grandma on the other hand is a huge classical music fan, so I decided to watch The Concert with her. As I suspected, it didn’t really interest me but my grandma on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Concert is a French/Russian film from Radu Mihaileanu. It tells the story of Andrei Filipov, a celebrated conductor of the famous Bolshoi Orchestra in Moscow. During the communist era he is fired for refusing to get rid of his Jewish musicians.
The film begins with Andrei working as the lowly janitor in the concert hall he once directed. Seeking an opportunity for change, he intercepts an invitation from the Chatelet Theatre in Paris, asking the Bolshoi to perform. He comes up with a madcap scheme to reunite his former orchestra and perform in Paris.
I say madcap, because he hasn’t picked up a baton in twenty years and his orchestra consists of slightly crazy Jews and Gypsies. He insists on being joined by the young and celebrated violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent). His motivations for involving the young woman become apparent as the film fumbles along.
So, they arrive in Paris, initially the whole enterprise is a shambles but somehow, of course, they manage to pull it off and give a performance of a life time, which leads to tears and smiles all round.
The Concert is, I think, a comedy. However whether something is severely lost in translation or just that the comic timing is broken, is unclear.
The idea is a nice, but so far fetched and ludicrous that it would benefit from being an all-out comedy, and not sprinkled with so much sentimentality and political undertones.
The cast is pretty much unknown, unless you know the ins and outs of Russian and French cinema. The best known face in the film is Mélanie Laurent, who plays Anne-Marie, who found fame for her role in Inglorious Basterds. She is probably one of the highlights of the film.
The other highlight of the film is the music; the final scene, which is a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, is almost enough to single-handedly save the film. It is unusual and rather refreshing to find a climatic scene without any dialogue, instead just wonderful music and meaningful glances.
If you like Tchaikovsky and a bit of a caper then you will like The Concert. 8/10 from my Grandma and 4/10 from me.