Present day Russia clashes with its communist past when a rag-tag group of Russian musicians seeks to pass itself off as the country’s famous Bolshoi orchestra in “The Concert,” an observant, highly enjoyable touching new comedy from Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu (“Live and Become”). “The Concert” is playing at the Angelika Film Center and, since it is playing in one of the art house multi-plex’s smallest theatres, my concern is that it may not be there for much longer, making it a shame to miss.
The premise of “The Concert” is intriguing and funny. Andrei Filipov (Alex Guskov) is a former orchestra conductor now reduced to being an alcoholic janitor working at the Bolshoi. When Filipov intercepts a fax from France inviting the Bolshoi to perform there he sees this as a chance to finish the concert he was not allowed to complete 30 years earlier. The concert was interrupted and cancelled by a communist party official, as the musicians were in the midst of playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, because the orchestra had employed Jewish musicians. The orchestra was disbanded. Now Filipov and his former musicians see impersonating the Bolshoi as an opportunity for redemption. For Filipov it may also be an opportunity to achieve what he describes as “perfect harmony,” a transcendent musical moment that occurs when he is conducting and all is going right with the music. To achieve this, Filipov engages the services of a famous French violin soloist, Anne-Marie Jacquet, a beautiful young virtuoso played by Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”).
“The Concert” nimbly runs the gamut from farce to deep sentimentality and the mystery of music, featuring a cast of likeable “off the wall” characters. Its story has been well structured and the film very well edited. The movie sets up its characters, their back stories and desires quickly and efficiently.
My only qualm with “The Concert” is that there are many characters, this being an orchestra, and while the film cannot focus on all them, some of the ones on which it does focus ultimately do not pay off. What I mean is that a character or characters given importance early on in a film should serve a function later in the story, perhaps even contribute to its resolution, something I felt, in some instances, was lacking here. Fortunately though the main story and major characters in “The Concert” have enough strength and charm to carry the film, making my criticism a minor issue. Most important, the primary narrative is set up and revealed in a manner that does not connect all the dots until it is necessary to do so, paying off the story with humor, grace and emotion in a manner that it very satisfying.
The Concert, Director Radu Mihaileanu, 2009,
The Weinstein Company, 119 minutes