The Concert Movie Review
Andrei (Guskov) was a great conductor until he clashed with Brezhnev in 1981.
He's now a cleaner at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, and when he intercepts a fax he decides to reclaim his reputation by gathering his old orchestra buddies and illicitly taking a high-profile gig in Paris with the help of his pal Sacha (Nazarov) and their pushy old manager Ivan (Barinov). Meanwhile, Andrei will also need to face up to his past, most notably to Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, as well as rising-star French violinist Anne-Marie (Laurent) and the high-spirited orchestra members.
The film has a lively, funny tone from the start, packing the screen with big personalities and raucous dialog. Writer-director Mihaileanu cleverly maintains a completely out-of-control vibe without ever losing a single plot strand or character. He also helps us vividly engage with the characters; we feel their desperation to reclaim their reputations and right the wrongs of the past, and as the film progresses we also start to understand their raw passion for the music. So when the final scenes come along, the film wallops us with a huge wave of never-sentimentalised emotion.
In other words, this is gorgeously orchestrated filmmaking, keeping us riotously entertained with believable, hilarious characters while underscoring everything with strongly resonant themes. Most effective is the notion that music is good for the soul (this film proves that). There are also several scruffy, rude gags along the way to keep things realistically grounded. And even if the script is packed with French, Russian, Jewish and Gypsy stereotypes, it continually subverts them to make a point.
Meanwhile, the cast is terrific. Guskov is a superb central character, letting us glimpse just enough of his inner life to know that there's a much bigger story here than we are seeing. Laurent is simply wonderful in a role that could have been pretty simplistic, but isn't. And after the farcical build-up, the concert scene at the end is a clever combination of music, acting, cinematography and editing that catches us wonderfully by surprise.