A messy, comedic sprawl that leaks at the seams, the Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu’s Concert aspires to be something like a French-Russian answer to The Producers. Lunging wildly between satirical farce and teary sentimentality, the movie follows the misadventures of a ragtag symphony orchestra that travels from Moscow to Paris under false pretenses.
Hoary stereotypes abound. Drunken Russians, thieving Gypsies, crooked oligarchs and zealous former Communist apparatchiks: All are caricatured in a story whose multiple subplots tumble over one another in a chaotic pileup.
The protagonist of The Concert, Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov), is a former musical wunderkind and conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra who fell from grace 30 years ago in an anti-Semitic purge near the end of the Brezhnev era. After flouting authority by hiring Jewish musicians, Andrei was rudely ousted midconcert during a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a romantic war horse that the movie milks for
its last ounce of schmaltz and
Reduced to toiling as a janitor in the concert hall in which he was fired, the miserable Andrei still dreams of restoration. His enterprising wife earns money by hiring “extras” to attend underpopulated political rallies and parties. Andrei seizes his chance for redemption when he intercepts a fax from the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, inviting the Bolshoi Orchestra to substitute at the last minute for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Instead of putting the invitation into the proper hands, he and his best friend, Sacha Grossman (Dmitry Nazarov), a bearish cellist, secretly recruit the remnants of the old orchestra, many of whom have given up classical music. One supplies the sound effects for pornographic films, another drives a cab, and others are found fiddling in a Gypsy camp.
During negotiations with the persnickety Parisian impresario Olivier Duplessis (Francois Berleand), Andrei grandly insists that the musicians dine at a chic restaurant that has changed hands and turns out to be a belly-dancing emporium. Most important, he insists the featured piece be the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. For reasons that are not fully explained until the end of the movie in crudely inserted flashbacks, the soloist must be a beautiful and celebrated young violinist, Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent), who has never played the piece before.
Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) is a radiant screen presence among an otherwise ramshackle assemblage, and the movie bets all its chips on her performance to deliver a shamelessly tear-jerking payoff.
Unless you buy The Concert’s nonsensical premise — the film was written by Mihaileanu, Alan-Michel Blanc and Matthew Robbins — appreciation of this satirical fairy tale is next to impossible. The movie never satisfactorily explains how the musicians acquire their instruments, travel visas and concert attire in only two weeks. In one bit this raucous, ragtag orchestra lines up in a Moscow airport to receive fake passports without anyone blinking an eye.
Once in Paris they storm the city like a barbarian horde, demanding their money, getting drunk and scattering hither and yon. The Concert doesn’t even pretend to understand the workings of the classical music world. The night of the event the members of the motley ensemble straggle into the theater (some of them late) to take their seats and play without having had a single rehearsal. The harder this desperately obsequious circus of a movie tries to entertain, the more it falls short.
ALEXEI GUSKOV (ANDREI FILIPOV), DMITRY NAZAROV (SACHA GROSSMAN), MELANIE LAURENT (ANNE-MARIE JACQUET), FRANCOIS BERLEAND (OLIVIER DUPLESSIS), MIOU MIOU (GUYLENE DE LA RIVIERE) AND VALIERI BARINOV (IVAN GAVRILOV)
IN FRENCH AND RUSSIAN WITH CHINESE SUBTITLES
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