Review by Jack Foley
RADU Mihaileanu’s The Concert is a generally amiable comedy-drama that hits as many low notes as highs.
It boasts a strong, engaging cast and builds to a genuinely poignant and euphoric conclusion, but it’s hampered by some lazy plotting and lacklustre farce along the way.
Years after being disgraced for supporting Jewish musicians under the Brezhnev regime in 1980s Russia, former Bolshoi conductor turned janitor Andrei Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) hatches a plan to get his old chums back together to impersonate the Bolshoi at a concert in Paris. In doing so, he also calls upon the talents of solo violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent), who has a secret connection to their past.
Mihaileanu’s film has plenty to recommend it, not least a luminous performance from Inglourious Basterds’ Laurent, as well as some nice dramatic elements stemming from the mystery surrounding her back story.
But it takes an eternity to get where it’s going and suffers from a curiously uneven mix of comedy and drama, which deprives Laurent of the screen-time she deserves. Rather, the director prefers to focus on the comedy, some of which sits uncomfortably alongside the pot-shots taken at the hardship of life in Communist Russian.
The comedy is also more bumbling than farcical, only really ever generating minor smirks rather than out and out laughter, another element that ruins the overall enjoyment.
That said, Mihaileanu’s main players give it their all, if sometimes in an OTT way, and most contribute in some way to the film’s big crescendo – the extended concert and unravelling of emotion that helps things to end so harmoniously.
It’s during this sequence, and it’s subsequent flashbacks and flash-forwards, that The Concert comes alive and just – only just – papers over the many cracks that have come before.
If you can tolerate some of its more testing indulgences, then The Orchestra is worth booking a ticket to see. Laurent, meanwhile, proves there is life beyond Tarantino and deserves her belated moments to shine.
In French and Russian with subtitles
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK DVD Release: November 8, 2010