Re:View – ‘Le Concert’
It’s a preposterous film, of course, but a crowd-pleaser in its native France and that means it will a/ never win an award and b/ hardly get distribution elsewhere before being remade by Harleywood.
And yet – there’s something so fundamentally winning about the damned thing that it becomes irresistible. A cleaner at the Bolshoi intercepts a Fax (remember those?) inviting the Bolshoi’s orchestra to attend a gala concert in Paris in two weeks’ time, and decides to re-form his own orchestra to do it.
Thirty years earlier he had been the Bolshoi’s conductor, but had suffered a breakdown and alcoholism after being forced to stop in the middle of a Tchaikovsky concerto, banned for employing Jewish musicians under Brezhnev. Now he plans to redeem himself through subterfuge. It’s a bit like a classical version of ‘The Blues Brothers’.
So off he sets, rounding up his old musicians from street corners and gypsy encampments. They’ll head for Paris and perform – without a single rehearsal – before the world without getting caught. But he also wants one of the world’s greatest soloists, with whom he shares a long-buried secret.
At the point where the concert can’t start because the entrepreneurial musicians are busy flogging black market caviar on the streets of Paris and the orchestra’s manager has run off to give a Communist party speech, I was ready to throw in the towel. But the film is about using the power of music to overcome all obstacles, and then perfectly proves its point with an eleventh-hour epiphany that refuses to leave a dry eye in the house.
In places, director Radu Mihaileanu has the subtlety of a nail-gun – his film ‘Train De Vie’, in which Jewish villagers make off with their own deportation train in World War 2, is identical in tone. ‘Le Concert’ is scrappily shot, rowdily performed, has more loose ends than a gardening jumper, and a gunfight at a hideously vulgar Russian wedding is beyond parody, but you’ll forgive it just about anything by the soaring end.