The Concert - DVD Review

'the film culminates in a weird blend of imagined futures and half-remembered pasts which again echo its unusual but pleasing blend of overt comedy and stoic drama'

A truly eclectic production, The Concert was made by Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu with a mixture of French, Italian, Romanian, Belgian and Russian money. On screen the action flits between Russia and France with both respective languages featuring as conductor Andrey Filipov (Aleksey Guskov) attempts to succeed in replacing the Bolshoi Orchestra with his band of ragtag musical misfits.

There are pleasing parallels in the way that Mihaileanu's script, produced with the help of several contributors, plays around with genre in the same mixed fashion that characterises the film's inception, development and funding. Broadly speaking The Concert is a comedy and after the early setup has been dispensed with quickly, Mihaileanu has great fun creating the disparate group of ousted musicians who attempt to pass themselves off as the real Orchestra. Behind this though the film has a real dramatic heart which beats mainly in time with Mélanie Laurent's violinist.

Laurent, who featured in Tarrantino's Inglourious Basterds in 2009, is an absolute pleasure to watch as Anne-Marie and rounds out an impressive lead trio with Guskov's sincere but inwardly damaged conductor and Dmitri Nazarov's likable, John Candy-esque sidekick, Sasha. Despite her relatively small screen time when compared to the other two though, it is Laurent who many will remember after The Concert is over. Her Anne-Marie is a picture of loving restraint and well-bred scepticism; she wants to help Filipov and Sasha but obviously detects a professional risk beneath the personal link which the final scenes spell out a bit too obviously.

Despite their lack of restraint, the final scenes - which build nicely into a wonderful, almost wordless, soaring payoff - are again a success, culminating in a weird blend of imagined futures and half-remembered pasts which again echo the unusual but pleasing blend of overt comedy and stoic drama.

For all the strong points of The Concert it does feature two extremely weak ones; two characters - one Jewish and the other Romani - who display some of the clearest racial stereotyping seen on film recently. The old Jewish gentleman and his son barely pass a second during the film without pro-actively trying to flog some tat for the best price possible whilst the Romani character is the group's illegal fixer, forging passports in an airport terminal at one point whilst his extended family keep watch on the security guards. At best this is lazy characterisation writ large and it cannot help but bring the piece down, especially given the time devoted to the Jewish tradesmen. A shame that the final report on The Concert must concern its near ruination by such shambolic side-acts.

Look further...

'The film has a big heart as well, amplified by the sincere screenplay and the emotionally affecting performances' - His Eyes Were Watching Movies, 7/10

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