Former Bolshoi conductor Andrëi Filipov (Guskov), disgraced for supporting Jewish musicians under Brezhnevs regime in the 80s, is now a lowly janitor at the Bolshoi. Intercepting a fax inviting the Bolshoi to perform at the Châtelet Theatre, he resolve
For two thirds of its running time, Le Concert (The Concert for those non-French speakers) is the kind of feel-good foreign language flick that Hollywood falls over itself to remake. A shaggy story of thwarted dreams and a rag-tag band of underdogs pulling together to defy all odds, Radu Mihaileanu’s likable comedy-drama has a great start and barnstorming end. It’s just a shame the middle can’t match that quality.
Riffing on similar themes of fakery and deception to his biggest hit Train Of Life — a Jewish village use a fake deportation train to bamboozle the Nazis — Mihaileanu sets up his intriguing idea in fun, engaging strokes: a disgraced conductor (a subdued Aleksei Guskov) finds a new lease of life when he intercepts an invitation for the Bolshoi orchestra to play. After a crisp opening montage setting up Filipov’s fall from grace, we launch into a Blues Brothers-style plot of the conductor reuniting the band, chiefly its bear-like cellist Grossman (Dmitri Nazarov) and manager Ivan (Valeriy Barinov), an ex-Communist with his own agenda.
So far, so funny and smart. It’s just when the gang get to Paris that the movie tonally loses its footing. Filipov only agrees to do the concert if the solo violinist is Anne-Marie Jacquet (Inglourious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent) and the mystery surrounding the connection between the two is drawn out and overwrought. Similarly misjudged, there are passages of dialogue trying to describe the power of classical music that feel too on the nose. At the other end of the scale, Mihaileanu indulges in some slapstick involving crazy schemes of various orchestra members that lack the first half’s easygoing charms.
Still, things get back on track in the last third, with a virtuoso concert set-piece that intercuts the plot with Anne-Marie’s Tchaikovsky violin concerto performance, which in itself gives the end a huge emotional wallop. The film’s other boon is Laurent, lending Anne-Marie an old-school movie-star charm that wasn’t part of her revenge remit in Basterds.
More sentimental, less spiky than Mihaileanus stock-in-trade, Le Concert is an enjoyable take on the underdogs genre. And Laurent and the music are sublime.