The Concert

2011-01-07 12:55
 
The Concert
What it's about:

Andrei Simoniovich Filipov was once a renowned conductor in the former Soviet Union until his unlawful decision to include Jews in his orchestra brought an abrupt end to his promising career. Now, relegated to working as a janitor at the Bolshoi, the acclaimed musical venue, he is finally presented the chance to reclaim some of his glory after intercepting an invitation for the Bolshoi orchestra to play in Paris. Masquerading as the real Bolshoi orchestra, Filipov and the former members of his orchestra head off to Paris for a chance to put on one final show and to at long last bring Filipov's musical vision to life. Things are more than they seem, however, as Filipov insists on working with a young violin virtuoso, Anne-Marie Jacquet, a young woman who has deep and emotional ties to his past.       

What we thought:

Is there place for sentimentality in cinema?

It's a simple question. And, for all the world, it would seem the answer is no less complex: no, no there isn't. Cynicism has increasingly become the default language of modern art – and, by reflection, society in general. There will always be an audience for "the weepies", but when it comes to "respected" films, novels and music? An ironic raised eyebrow would seem to be  the minimum requirement here. Is there really no place left for a good, old-fashioned feel-good movie?

Enter The Concert.      

It may be hard to believe a film that is as sentimental, as outright goofy as The Concert so unabashedly is, can also be so very, very good. It's a film, after all, that is filled with the broadest of humour, the most predictable of plots, the most obvious of pratfalls but, most importantly, it has the kind of music-transcends-all sentimentality that made the 2007 schmaltz-fest August Rush the well meaning but ultimately lame duck that it was. And yet, The Concert is simply a wonderful piece of work – a feel-good movie that actually leaves you feeling good, rather than a little bit sickened by all the sweetness.         

Putting aside the question of whether a foreign language makes sentimentality easier to swallow, it's hardly difficult to defend the film. For a start, it has some terrific performances. The supporting cast may come slightly closer than is comfortable to being outright caricatures, but they are responsible for a lot of the film's rambunctious, giddy humour. Better yet, are the two main actors. Alexeï Guskov is brilliant as Filipov, as he imbues his character with all the weariness, mischief and quiet humility that the role demands. Melanie Laurent, meanwhile, follows up her incredible breakthrough in Inglourious Basterds with a role that is equally memorable and nuanced. By turns tough, brittle and charming, her Anne-Marie never falls into the double trap of being little more than a plot device or, worse, simply the emotionally manipulative tragic figure.

Great as the performances are though, they would almost undoubtedly be nothing without the perfectly controlled direction of The Concert's own conductor, Radu Mihaileanu – definitely a filmmaker to watch out for. He keeps the film well-paced and the humour very light on its feet but it is with the film's most dramatic and most sentimental moments that he really shows his chops. The story touches on everything from romantic relationships to familial bonds to political persecution to tragic pasts and all of these are handled with aplomb, and complement the broad comedy perfectly. What really pushes Mihaileanu over the edge though is the way he deals with that most tricky of themes: the (redemptive) power and wonder of music.

With so much else going on in the film, it is oh so easy to overlook the thing that ties it all together: the music. Elvis Costello reputedly once said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" and you can almost as easily apply that to making films about music. For every gem like Almost Famous and (most of) Amadeus, we have things like the aforementioned August Rush and last year's absolutely passionless Coco and Igor. The Concert, however, clearly falls in the former category as it is able to convey all the beauty, the passion and life-affirming, transcendental wonder of music without ever having you reaching for either the sick bags or sleeping bags. Best of all, it's able to capture everything that's great about classical music without resorting to the worst kind of pompous, full-of-itself priggishness that connoisseurs of the genre are so often guilty of.     

The Concert isn't just a great film, it's a great film filled to the gills with all those things we really aren't supposed to like any more. It's also a film that's clearly going to go straight to the art circuit but this is a film that screams for as wide an audience as possible so head on down to your nearest art cinema – with your reading glasses in tow if need be – and settle in for one of the year's true gems.

Is there place for sentimentality in cinema, then? As long as it's handled as perfectly as it is here, you bet.

The Concert isn't just a great film, it's a great film filled to the gills with all those things we really aren't supposed to like any more.
Read more on:    review  |  music  |  movies

Gordon 2011/01/08 8:34 AM
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The Concert like all good music is "food for the soul" Feel Good in a big way
M 2011/01/11 4:03 PM
Hulle compare die movie met August Rush, gedink dis vir jou. Wys dit daar? xxx
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