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Review: The Concert

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The past denied

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- The bizarre and moving adventures of a Russian orchestra striving to relive a past cancelled by the Soviet regime. A co-production between France, Romania, Belgium and Italy

Review: The Concert

To come to terms with the past. One’s own. Radu Mihaileanu, Romanian (who fled to France in 1980 to escape the Ceausescu regime) and Jewish, is not one to renounce this filmmaker’s privilege, and after Train of Life and Live and Become [+see also:
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interview: Denis Carot
interview: Didar Domehri
interview: Radu Mihaileanu
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, with The Concert [+see also:
trailer
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interview: Radu Mihaileanu
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]
he now turns his gaze on the brutal communist dictatorship how it stripped many of everything they had, with no advance warning: jobs, children, the life they knew.

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This is the genesis of the film’s memorable protagonist, Andrei Filipov (Alekseï Guskov), who, back in the days of the USSR, was a renowned orchestra conductor at the Bolshoi. Fired at the height of his career when he refused to let his Jewish musicians go, the regime countered by reinventing Andrei as a janitor: at the Bolshoi, of course.

Then one night (in the present), while dusting the office of the director, Andrei intercepts a fax. It’s an invitation to the orchestra to perform in a celebrated theatre in Paris, and Andrei gets an insane idea: reunite all his old buddies, try to pass for the official Bolshoi orchestra, and perform a liberating Tchaikovsky....

The Concert tells the story of the past denied and the protagonists’ remarkable comeback using the same tools Mihaileanu honed to spoof the Nazis in Train of Life, irony and a feeling for the grotesque. The white-hot subject is hard to draw out to the two full hours the film lasts.

The director, who co-wrote the script with Alain Michel Blanc and Matthew Robbins, based on an original story by Hector Cabello Reyes and Thierry Degrandi, doesn’t misfire as far as this aspect is concerned (thanks to two or three great lines, among others, that take aim at the communist regime), while the dichotomy/alchemy between the outright grotesque (metaphorical and surreal) and the drama barely alluded to (melancholy and painful) is less convincing.

Besides the very convincing performances and direction, and the great turn by Alekseï Guskov, around whose character the entire film hinges, it is the (for lack of a better word) secondary actors that render this film an overall winner. However, a special mention goes to the splendid Mélanie Laurent, recently thrust into the international limelight by Quentin Tarantino, who cast her in Inglourious Basterds [+see also:
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. Once again, the French actress infuses her character with a grace and lightness as well as depth that, given her performance in the previous film, are probably her own.

The Concert, produced by Les Productions du Trésor, EuropaCorp, OÏ OÏ OÏ Productions, Castel Film, Panache Productions, broadcaster RTBF, BIM Distribuzione with the participation of France 3 Cinéma, Canal +, Ciné Cinéma and the support of Eurimages, has already been sold all over the world (except to the Ukraine and, it comes as no surprise, the Russian Federation).

The film’s first theatrical release, after its screening out of competition at the Rome Film Festival, is slated for November 4 in France.

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