The Concert (Le concert) Review
Moscow, the present day. Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov) is a disgraced former conductor reduced to the status of a cleaner at the Bolshoi Ballet. One day, he sees a fax from the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris requesting a performance there in a fortnight to cover a cancelled booking. Andrei has an idea. With the aid of his friend Sacha (Dimitri Nazarov) he sets out to reform his old orchestra – which was disbanded thirty years ago – and to go to Paris and perform there, posing as the Bolshoi...
The Concert, a multinational coproduction from a Romanian director, is a pleasant if undemanding two hours. The script, by director Mihaileanu, Alain Michel Blanc with the “collaboration” of US writer/director Matthew Robbins, plays its somewhat unlikely plot as farce. That's just as well, as if you stopped to think about it, the plot makes little sense. Would someone disgraced in the Brezhnev era remain so some twenty years after the fall of Communism? (This isn't a period piece: they spend Euros in France.) How convincing would be an orchestra that hasn't rehearsed, with a solo violinist (Anne-Marie, played by Mélanie Laurent, cast before she had made Inglourious Basterds) who has never played the piece – Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto – before?
When all that is said, the film is amusing if lightweight, and more bittersweet than it seems at first. The performances by Guskov, Nazarov, Laurent and Miou-Miou (as Anne-Marie's manager, an old flame of Andrei's) give the material some polish. The film is good-looking (Luarent Daillant was the DP) and – especially important, given the subject ,matter – sounding. It's hardly the cutting edge of European cinema and isn't meant to be, but there is an audience for films like this, if they aren't offended by the two uses of strong language, with one Oedipal Noun tipping this over into a 15 certificate.
The Concert is released by Optimum on a dual-layered DVD encoded for Region 2 only.
Shot in Super 35 and shown in cinemas in Scope, The Concert is transferred to DVD in the correct ratio of 2.40:1, anamorphically enhanced. The film has a warm look, which is quite in keeping with its tone, with some uses of filters and blown-out highlights avoiding it seeming over-lush. Grain is natural and filmlike.
There are two soundtrack options, both using the original mix of French and Russian dialogue, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). Given the subject matter, it's no surprise that the main beneficiary of the sound mix is the music. The surrounds are mostly used for ambience, with the occasional use of directional sound. The subwoofer fills in the lower-end of the music, most notably in a sequence set on the Paris Metro. English subtitles are optional and do a good job of translating the Russian characters' broken French into broken English.
The extras begin with the theatrical trailer (2:11) and continue with an interview with Radu Mihaileanu (13:49). This is in standard EPK form, with text questions followed by video answers. Mihaileanu speaks in English, but subtitles are not provided. As so often, this interview doesn't dig very deep, though Mihaileanu sees humour as a means of survival - in Soviet Russia for his characters, in Ceaucescu's Romania in his own experience - and he took inspiration from Chaplin and Lubitsch for this film.