The Concert, a French-Russian production, opened at Paradiso this week. It will probably become a minor middlebrow hit for cinema goers who don’t like multiplexes, don’t mind subtitles but aren’t overly critical in their watching – generous filmgoers, rather than demanding ones. It’s a feel-good film about music and redemption, set in Moscow and Paris; what more could you ask?
The problem is, it feels like two rather different films messily welded together. The first film is a madcap comedy, the sort that I never love but done well enough, as a Russian conductor demoted to a cleaner twenty-nine years ago for harbouring Jews in his orchestra steals a fax and pretends to be back in charge of the orchestra for a major show in Paris. He and his oddball friends have to patch together an entire orchestra in a couple of weeks and face various obstacles and some funny moments.
The full back-story is hinted at in the first half but takes over the film in the last half, centring on a beautiful French violinist who is twenty-nine years old and who the conductor insists on having as his soloist for the concert. The film becomes a drama of redemption, an inferior As It Is In Heaven. The uneasy meld of comedy and drama is shown in the final sequence, the actual concert, as ‘comic’ images like the no-good cellist having been bound and gagged and two Frenchmen deciding to kiss each other passionately play next to emotional flashbacks from the conductor’s past. Laugh or cry? I can’t do both! My wife was insulted at the idea that a ragtag orchestra who don’t even rehearse once can come together at the last minute with a violinist who has never before performed Tchaikovsky and produce stunning music designed to bring tears to our eyes.
Having said all this, it is an entertaining film with quite a number of funny scenes, interesting characters and amusing dialogue. Many people will love it.