Friday, February 08, 2013

The concert (2009)

It was not always clear that snobbery is the most problematic act of them all; it took me years to realise. Once upon a time I remember myself scoffing at people; as  well as I remember my mother reproaching me with the who-do-you-think-you-are look, and that was probably the best thing she ever did. She taught me to treat my fellow humans as equals. Not with lengthy explanations of any kind, no; only with a transient mood, a sense of empathy I could not grasp at the time -it seemed as an act of unneeded kindness. Until my little self grew up to understand that status quo,  education, looks, taste and so many other things that falsely define us in life are not a product of choice, but rather a mere gift of chance.

There's a saying in Greece to describe the situation of a person who once occupied an important position in the professional rank and then he found himself right on the bottom of the drain (Από δήμαρχος, κλητήρας). A series of unfortunate events and loads of back luck can easily do that to people; and vice-versa. This is the case of Filipov, an acclaimed  orchestra conductor for the Bolshoi that ends up as the concert hall cleaner. Consequently, he  sees his orchestra mates turning from musicians to beggars (sic).

While messing around the director's office holding a mop, Filipov finds a fax from Chatelet Theatre in Paris asking for the Bolshoi orchestra to perform in two weeks time; he comes up with a plan: he will dust off his pride, look for his old comrades that have sold their musical instruments for bread long ago and go for it. Life owes him this one performance, not as a symbolic reconciliation with the career he lost, but as his last (possible) meeting with his favourite music piece, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto which was left unfinished due to political dismay earlier on.

It's a dramedy we're talking about here, even if I was prepared to see a light piece, entertaining nevertheless. Heavy, too, at times; how else can you describe a film when it deals with  human beings that have been falling apart, but are resuscitated to life. Patience. Faith. Nerve. Things you ought to have, if you want to keep going.

Russian and French language go well together; a very long musical scene, swiftly filmed to keep it interesting; fun and loving intermissions, where a lousy crowd is taking seriously their chance to make money in Paris, and one thing that could convince them otherwise: the love of music and the common memory of a figure from the past so dedicated to it, that it drove her crazy. Le Concert (2009) was big at the Cesars at its production year and still has a cute website. An impossible mix of things: losers, bohemians, Jews and Gypsies with one thing in common: music. Are we all artists at heart? Are we all born to be Gods? And why do I feel guilty for not finding the titanic strength to stand up, whenever I fall, like those movie characters do?

* A wonderful Aleksey Guskov as the disrupted maestro and an ensemble cast that pays off. Melanie Laurent gives as an esoteric take of the heroine and acts as if she really knows how to play the violin. Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu -who also did La Source des Femmes, nominated for Palme d'Or on 2011- has yet to show us his full potential, even though he garners prizes thanks to his well-chosen, sensitive subject matter every single time.

** Thanks to RIFF for the screening. And the food, and all the rest.

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