Film review – The Concert (2009)

Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent)

This French made film is part farce, part Blues Brothers style putting-the-band-back-together film and part heist-type film. At the centre of The Concert is Andreï Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) a once acclaimed Russian orchestra conductor whose career was destroyed 30 years ago during the USSR’s Brezhnev era. Now reduced to working as a janitor, Andreï gets a shot at conducting again when he comes up with a scheme to reunite with his old musician friends and then travel to Paris with them in order to impersonate the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Andreï’s plan also includes convincing the acclaimed French violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds) to play with his impostor orchestra for deeply personal reasons.

For the most part The Concert is a fun comedy/drama where even its stories of anti-Semitic persecution and lives torn apart under Soviet rule are treated somewhat lightly. For most of its running time the humour oscillates between poignant commentary, wicked satire and absurdism. While The Concert doesn’t have the same savage bite of Billy Wilders 1961 Berlin-set One, Two, Three (where both capitalism and communism are equally mocked) it does enjoy putting the boot into characters such as former KGB man Ivan Gavrilov (Valeri Barinov) who cling onto a highly idealised view of what life was like under communist rule.

The Concert does slump in the middle when Andreï and his mostly dislikeable troop of musicians descend on Paris. Their generally drunk, wild and money-obsessed behaviour makes them more obnoxious (and a little stereotyped) rather than amusing. However, the film picks up considerably when Mélanie Laurent’s Anne-Marie character becomes more active in the film. Laurent may not actually have that much screen time but when she is on screen she uses that time to its full potential. By the time The Concert then peaks at its climatic ending, any previous faults are completely redeemed.

As the film’s title obviously states, there is a concert as the centrepiece of this film and it is one of those moments of sheer cinematic exuberance. Throughout the film Andreï speaks of his quest to achieve “ultimate harmony” and the prolonged final sequence in The Concert does exactly that. It can be tricky evaluating the overall worth of a film based on the one moment that the rest of film subserviently is building up to but the conclusion in The Concert is just sublime. The combination of music and incredibly moving acting with the heartbreaking flashbacks and the joyous flashforwards somehow wraps up every aspect of the film in a way that is completely satisfying. By doing so The Concert delivers one of cinema’s most moving and satisfying emotional payoffs in years, transforming a film that is pretty good into a film of true greatness.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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4 Responses to Film review – The Concert (2009)

  1. Paul Martin says:

    There is a good payoff at the end, but it is a long time coming. I completely agree with your comments on Laurent, who I’ve now seen in three films other than Inglourious Basterds and has been the best thing about each of them. She has a great screen presence and is able to depict seemingly conflicting emotions simultaneously. She’s one of the best screen discoveries of recent times.

    So, while I think the film isn’t great, those who are patient will be rewarded, and I’d recommend it to at least see Mélanie Laurent.

  2. doris childs says:

    Question: Who is the actual violinist in this film? Truly sublime!

  3. Hi Doris

    I’ve checked the media release and I’ve looked around online but I can’t find very much information about this. However, I did stumble across this interview with actor Melanie Laurent where she seems to say that it was actually her playing as a result of two months worth of training with Sarah Nemtanu, the soloist from the French National Orchestra. However, the interview is in French so I may have not understand that correctly. If it is indeed the case then it is very impressive!

    Cheers
    Thomas

  4. Charles says:

    I saw The Concert on an Air France flight. I liked it and tried to get the DVD. NETFLIX has it listed buy always says “waiting for announced release date.”
    The producers of The Concert, the Weinstein Company, have missed several announced U.S. release dates for the DVD. Widely available in France, Europe, England and elsewhere, failure to release the U.S. Region 1 dvd is a mystery. The arrogant, aloof and unresponsive Weinstein Company execs evidently don’t care to get consumer input–not by internet, mail or phone. Letter and half a dozen calls to several people in both their NY and LA offices go unanswered. It would be helpful if a recognized film critic to get through to the Weinstein Co. and request this movie DVD be issued. Charles

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