Arts Desk

Reviewed: The Concert

The highlight of The Concert is the titular event itself, a lovely, moving 12-minute bit of Tchaikovsky. The rest of writer-director Radu Mihaileanu's film is amiable enough if underwhelming.

Built on an only-in-a-movie deception, the story centers on Andrei (Aleksei Guskov), a middle-aged Russian conductor who was once considered a prodigy but fell from grace when he was fired from the Bolshoi, midconcert, by Leonid Brezhnev himself for not having gotten rid of his Jewish musicians as warned. Now, Andrei still works at the Bolshoi — as a janitor. But when a fax arrives begging the group to play a date in Paris that the Los Angeles Philharmonic dropped out of, Andrei hides the invitation and sets out to impersonate the Bolshoi with his old orchestra in an attempt to redeem themselves.

As one might imagine, such a shenanigan leads to wackiness, though Mihaileanu caps it before all the chaos can become irritating. Andrei employs his friend and musician, Sacha (Dmitri Nazarov), to help him gather the gang, with their first stop being their blustery former manager, Ivan (Valery Barinov). Once he's on board, it's off to find the others, who've pushed their passion aside to work as museum guards, market vendors, even porno-dubbers. (Those who work as the latter appear in one of the movie's funniest scenes, the dowdy older couple moaning in a studio while the woman knits.) They're all game — at least until they get to Paris, where they treat the adventure more as a party than a job and leave Andrei scrambling to pull together a passable "Bolshoi."

One of Andrei's triumphs is securing violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Inglourious Basterds' Melanie Laurent) as a soloist. This also supplies another motivation/emotional void behind Andrei's push to pull off the ruse no matter what the cost: He's obsessed with young star, and as the rest of the project seems to fall apart, Anne-Marie's backstory is built.

Though the payoff to this mystery is a little disappointing, Mihaileanu at least gets credit for not taking the plot line where it so obviously wants to go. And even if there were no attendant baggage to Anne-Marie's story, Laurent is a magnetic presence, her character headstrong with Andrei (especially when she sees the disarray of the orchestra) and later clearly in the clouds when she knows she's playing a difficult piece well. The film focuses on the concept of harmony both literally and figuratively — and, like its players, settles into an uplifting groove itself despite imperfection.

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