Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Le Concert (Brockway)

Le Concert
Reviewed by Ian Brockway

Radu Mihaileanu has often said that Charlie Chaplin as a comic and a
filmmaker, has always been important to him. This is evident in his
new film "Le Concert", a French film with a Russian slant. Or is it a
Russian film with a French slant? In this director's case, it does not
seem to matter; it is the mixing of cultures and the diverse musical
goulash that these cultures produce that is important to Mihaileanu as
seen in films like "Train of Life" and "Live and Become".

"Le Concert" commences with former famed conductor, Andrei Flipov
(Aleksei Guskov) now working as a janitor for the Bolshoi Orchestra.
Filipov causes a ruckus and is reprimanded severely by his boss. He
sent away to scrub the office floor. This has elements of Kafka as
well as Chaplin. I even thought of Cinderella as he is badgered and
harrassed by manager and audience member alike. Suddenly he hears the
beep of a fax. It is from the Theatre du Chatelet. They want to invite
the Bolshoi to perform. Filipov gets a Eureka! moment with the apropos
disheveled hair: he will get a symphony together and impersonate the

What follows is a Russian "Blues Brothers" tale blended with a Hal
Roach slapstick pace. Filipov together with his sidekick Sacha
Grossman (Dimitri Nazarov) who resembles Oliver Hardy, attempt to
assemble a classical symphony. They get into a tussle with a Communist
party chief complete with some old school face-squishing. They visit
an asthmatic trumpet player that insists he actually plays BETTER
with asthma. He is endearing and humbling, clearly played for comic

The band gets bigger little by little. They need a fiddle player and
some drums and about thirty passports, so they visit a band of gypsies
by a settlement to get that bit of nefarious business done.
The first part of the film echoes a musical Terry Gilliam film. Such
motley chaos enfolds upon this rag-tag band of characters. So much
farce and rushing about would make Mel Brooks himself dizzy in one
particular hotel mob scene.

By the second half of the film though, the film gets serious. Filipov
is obsessed and rightly so. His most famous and notorious attempt at
achieving harmony through Tchaikovsky was ruined by Communist
uprising. Guskov plays it well, brooding with a Depardieu-like angst
and he seldom smiles. He arranges to meet Superstar violinist Anne-
Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent) who is a Hitchcockian cypher part ice,
part sunshine. Laurent's portrayal is perfect in blending professional
rigidity with sudden gushing warmth.

Though the film at times seems to be in two parts, they indeed make a
whole. In our age of political polarization "Le Concert" gives a happy
lesson: every diverse background is a vital part of the universal
score and it is only through cooperation that our well-being is
maintained---musical or otherwise.

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