Movie Review: “Le Concert”

“Le Concert” (***)

In a love letter to Tchaikovsky, director Radu Mihaileanu creates an effective comedy that uses simplicity as its strongest asset. Andrey Filipov (Aleksey Guskov), a former orchestra conductor with a horrible end to his career, decides to get back into the conducting business through less than conventional manners. He steals a n invitation fax from the Bolshoi orchestra company and decides to form his own orchestra to play in Paris. While assembling a ragtag team of local musicians he once knew, he also tries to commit legendary violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent) as the violin soloist. She agrees only knowing of his previous fame and his attachment to the jewish heritage.

Here’s where things start to lose me. There are two currents running through the story of Filipov’s past: an emotional one and a political one. The emotional strain is easy and extremely rewarding. The political? There’s a lot of jokes about Russians and communists and Jews. I think Filipov stood up for Jewish rights but is everyone Jewish? Unclear. Fortunately, it’s not really important.

Guskov in the lead is giving his best Liam Neeson impression while mastering the art of “quiet stoicism”. He acts as the straight man for the majority of the film, letting the hijinx swirl around him. Between the rich playboy who throws lavish parties, the old jewish man who always tries to make a deal, and a group of fun loving gypsy types there is never a slow moment to the movie. The pace continues relentlessly through each joke I can only describe as “european”.

Mélanie Laurent is absolutely fantastic, guiding her performance with a grace and vulnerability. She also is a relatively believable violinist in character as she has the subtle discipline of a classically trained musician. I’m really excited to she her career continue to blossom. Another stand out was Russian actress Anna Kamenkova as Filipov’s wife. She brought and incredible amount of life and vivacity to a supporting role. She’s the kind of person that makes you believe there are no small parts, just small actors.

However, the real star of the film is Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D. Major op. 35. It soars and glides with incredible beauty. I regret not knowing the piece before hand. It truly is a concerto worth obsessing over as each sustained tone sweetens and intensifies the mood as much as the surprising wild riffs. I don’t believe that his orchestra could have pulled it off, but I don’t care. I believe the concerto in its entirety is featured in the film, as well it should be.

This is the kind of movie I’m sad Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. It fits into a small category of simple stories well told. Nothing is really flashy or wild, the actors are all formidable, it’s extremely accessible, and probably difficult to hate. It’s a mature film, one that asserts itself confidently, and you certainly can’t find enough of those anymore. I would truly recommend this film to anyone.

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