Andrei Filipov was a famous conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra in Moscow. When Ivan Gavrilov (Valeriy Barinov), an influential spokesperson for the Communist Party, hijacked the stage in the middle of a Tchaikovsky concerto to tell the public that Andrei had hired Jewish musicians for his orchestra, the anti-semetic attitudes of 1970s and 80s Russia prevailed and Andrei’s career was shattered.
The film begins thirty years later when we see Andrei (Aleksei Guskov) working as a cleaner in the Bolshoi’s theatre. Andrei sees a fax of an invitation for the Bolshoi Orchestra to play in the famous Theatre du Chatelet in Paris arrive when he’s cleaning the company director’s office. Seizing the opportunity, Andrei steals the invitation and gathers all of his old friends to make up an orchestra, go to Paris, play at the Chatelet and finish the Tchaikovsky concerto that saw the end of his career.
Along with the aid of Andrei’s friend Sacha (Dimitry Nazarov) and his wife Irina (Anna Kamenkova Pavlova), Andrei uses Gavrilov (the man who ruined his career) as a manager, simply for his ability to speak fluent (and eccentric) French. The aim is to trick the managers of the Theatre du Chatelet into believing that they are indeed the Bolshoi Orchestra. Andrei has one demand though: to have the French violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent, Inglorious Bastards) play the solo in the concerto, for personal reasons that we discover later in the film.
The Concert has a strong script at its helm. Its words are carefully chosen for the most hilarious and moving effects. Much of the humour is derived from language, whether it is the tone and volume in which Ivan Gavrilov speaks (very loud and rude), or how many of the Russian characters make mistakes with their French. One hilarious scene occurs at the wedding for a wealthy political hotshot who also happens to be a terrible cello player. A gangland war breaks out during the wedding and hilarity ensues, ending in Ivan enlisting the political hotshot and his money in their scheme.
The film also touches on some deeper racial points. Andrei’s career was ruined by racism and the theme is plotted throughout the movie with Gavrilov’s involvement in Communism making a point about politics, power and its effect of the arts.
The acting in The Concert is truly magnificent. Aleksei Gustov holds the film together with such warmth and dignity that his despair make you barrack for him, the underdog, and make you desperate to see him play the concerto that he always wanted to conduct. Melanie Laurent is a breath of fresh air. Learning the violin for months in preparation for the role, Laurent shows off a talent that could easily be mistaken for that of a classically trained musician.
Along with a cast of talented French and Russian actors, Laurent and Gustov lead The Concert into its final breathtaking minutes. The Tchaikovsky concerto sees overwhelming love and care displayed by the filmmakers as well as the players onscreen and it is these moments when cinematic magic happens. The Concert is an eccentric French and Russian musical delight. Funny, moving and so intrinsically arty, it is hard not to love.
The Concert is released through Hopscotch and is in a limited run throughout Australia.