Foreign Favourites Series: Le Concert

Such a terrific standard has been set so far with the Foreign Favourites series, and we are lucky enough to have it extended with an impressive entry by the funky Theflimculb. If you’re not already familiar with her site, do pop on over. She has the latest films reviewed in a neat style, has set up a literary spin-off site called The Book Gloop and is a big Beatles fan. No excuses, people. Leconcert film poster

Le Concert 

In 2009 Romanian born director and writer Radu Mihaileanu (The Train, Live and Become) offered up his homage to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in the form of Le Concert. The film is set is both Moscow and Paris and features Russian and French spoken language.

Le Concert is the story of Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov), a once renowned, now disgraced conductor, who, in his role as cleaner at the Bolshoi Theatre, intercepts an invitation for the celebrated Bolshoi orchestra to perform a one-off concert at the Chatalet Theatre, Paris. Unable to ignore a crazed idea that has taken residence in his mind, Andrei – at the encouragement of his chain smoking and adoring wife (Anna Kamenkova) – sets about rounding up his former orchestra. With the re-assembled musicians collected from a variety of down-and-out situations and depraved occupations across the city, Andrei intends to imitate the real Bolshoi orchestra and perform the one piece that was denied him some 30 years earlier when he was humiliated on stage by the KGB. But that’s not all, Andrei has a request for the Chatalet director; the orchestra will not perform unless accompanied by French violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent, you may know her as ‘the face of Jewish vengeance’ in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds). As the film progresses, spotlights appear over several backstories; it becomes clear why Andrei was dismissed, and also why he so fervently requires the accompaniment of Anne-Marie.

Despite its classical music focus and bilingual dialogue, Le Concert, is far from highbrow. It is, in essence, a good, old-fashioned farcical comedy. At the time of its release the film was treated harshly by critics who claimed it was too full of unlikely happenings (a frankly ludicrous reason to dislike a film). Yes, there are moments when viewers must loosen their grips on reality. In one scene, the orchestra members queue up in Moscow airport to collect their forged passports and visas from a merry band of gypsies. Whilst security guards offer a cursory glance their way, no further action is taken. This is not the Russia we see in the current media, but this is a comedy, it’s OK for it to stretch the realms of possibility. For the most part, Le Concert, is a raucous and vodka-fuelled rampage in Paris. It shamelessly adheres to stereotypes – the drunk and tardy Russians, the straight-faced and serious French – but it does so with warmth and affection.

Le Concert still

And Mihaileanu has a trick up his sleeve. For all those watching and rolling their eyes as wrinkled Russians sell caviar from suitcases and the communists raise their red flag to an empty auditorium, Mihaileanu reserves the closing minutes of the film for something different. As the orchestra, in their borrowed suits and ill-fitting shoes, take to the stage for their all-or-nothing deception with Andrei at the helm, Mihaileanu lets the music take over. The solo violin cuts cleanly through the comedy, the concerto builds to a crescendo leaving all the rough-and-ready clowning around behind. Here, sentiment takes centre stage, as conductor and violinist lead the orchestra through one of Tchaikovsky’s finest. Time slips backward, shifting to thirty years earlier, and we see Andrei as he once was, and Anne-Marie’s story (told with the aid of a regrettably dicey looking wig) is brought to a close. The final moments are powerful and they linger for some time after the credits roll.

Overall: Le Concert has its flaws, I admit. It does require its audience to let go of expectations and perhaps not take life too seriously for a while. But it also has a heart, it tells a story, and, if nothing else, it showcases a piece of music that I challenge anyone not to fall in love with.

Rating: 4/5

One of the reasons I set up the series was to discover new and exciting films so my thanks again to Theflimculb. I’ve never heard of Le Concert before but am very curious after such an intriguing premise and positive write-up.

Guest series: Foreign Favourites

World Map

There are so many innovative and thought-provoking films out at the moment, especially in awards season, that I felt inspired to put something up. In my Line(s) of the Day, my film quotes usually come from a Hollywood film, but there are a wondrous array of films outside the English language covering all genres and eras. I’m always keen to hear the thoughts and opinions of others and find out about films I may not otherwise see.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to create ‘Foreign Favourites’ and invite anyone interested to select a film of their choice and write a review to share on here. It can be film you’ve seen once, countless or been meaning to check it out for ages. It would be great to have you contribute and explore a genre that is often overlooked. As I know how busy you all are and to keep it fair, there originally was a limit of one per person, but I’ve since removed it. If you have one you plan to do, let me know here as soon as you’ve made your choice and I will put you down for it. 

Only a few rules:

– By foreign films, I do mean one that is in a non-English language for the majority of the film.

– The style is your own but please include a brief plot synopsis of the film and an overall rating.

– You can’t have reviewed it before.

–  Not everyone will have seen the film so no spoilers please.

Any questions feel free to ask. Hope to hear from you soon.

FILMS TO REVIEW (so far):

Alexraphael – Le Dîner de Cons  Read here
Beetly Pete – Closely watched Trains  Read here
Cindy Bruchman – Nowhere in Africa  Read here
Cindy Bruchman – The White Ribbon   Read here
Dell on Movies – Stranger by the Lake  Read here
Dohabitation – Battle Royale   Read here
Film Grimoire – Vivre Sa Vie   Read here
Filmnerdblog – Lady Vengeance   Read here
J James – M   Read here
Movierob – Hearat Shulayim  Read here
Oh! That film Blog – Volver  Read here
RobinsRealm Blog – Lilya 4-Ever  Read here
Silver Screen Serenade – Jagten   Read here
That Moment In – The Chaser   Read here
Thefilmculb – Le Concert  Read here
The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger – La Haine  Read Here
Where the Wild Things Are – The Lives of Others  Read here