A maestro and subtle slapstick

Alexei Guskov, Melanie Laurent in "The Concert," about a booted Jewish conductor reuniting his virtuosos and posing as the Bolshoi Orchestra.
Alexei Guskov, Melanie Laurent in "The Concert," about a booted Jewish conductor reuniting his virtuosos and posing as the Bolshoi Orchestra.
Posted: August 06, 2010

The Concert is a breakneck melodrama that milks laughs and wrings tears. In broadest outlines, this mistaken-identity crowd pleaser is about a janitor and onetime Russian symphony conductor, Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov), who belatedly completes a concert that was tragically interrupted.

In 1980, during the Brezhnev regime's crackdown on Jews, Filipov refused to fire Jewish musicians from the Bolshoi Orchestra. As a result, as he conducted Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, a Communist apparatchik broke Filipov's baton and his spirits.

Thirty years later, reduced to mopping the floors of the symphony hall where once he reigned, Filipov intercepts a fax inviting the Bolshoi to Paris. Why should the orchestra, a tinny echo of its former glory, go to the City of Light when Filipov can reunite his virtuosos and pose as the Bolshoi?

Radu Mihaileanu's farce, by turns slapstick and serious, doesn't merely play the audience like a violin but tickles it while beating it black and blue.

For a film that aims for cultural detente, The Concert weirdly trades in cartoon ethnic stereotypes. Soused Russians, conniving Gypsies, moneygrubbing Jews, and condescending Frenchmen cross paths and swords in the movie where the Bolshoi imposters never rehearse.

With mellow melancholy Guskov brings subtlety to this otherwise broad affair. Similarly Miou-Miou, as a stoic Parisian representative of a violin virtuoso, maintains her dignity despite smeared mascara. Melanie Laurent (of Inglourious Basterds) is lovely as the virtuoso whose mysterious connection to the conductor is revealed as she plays Tchaikovsky's throbbing concerto.

All in all, not good, but not bad.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

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