DIR: Radu Mihaileanu • WRI: Radu Mihaileanu, Matthew Robbins , Alain-Michel Blanc • PRO: Alain Attal • DOP: Pierre Milon • DES: Christian Niculescu, Stanislas Reydellet • CAST: Aleksei Guskov, Mélanie Laurent, Dmitri Nazarov
Generic titles for films don’t come much better than The Concert. Add an exclamation mark and you’ve got yourself an American road-trip teen comedy! The concert in question here is a recital of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by the Russian Bolshoi Orchestra to be performed in the Chatêlet Theatre in Paris. However, in spite of the serious musical nature of the material the tone of the film is closer to the teen movie of the same name which has yet to be made.
The plot follows a former conductor thirty years after he was disgraced and is now working as a cleaner at the Bolshoi. He intercepts an invitation for the Bolshoi Orchestra to perform in Paris and quickly sets about attempting to reassemble his old team, who have similarly fallen on ill times, to impersonate the Bolshoi and perform in their place.
The Concert is played for laughs and is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy. The band of misfits which make up the imposter-orchestra are flawed and likable. The film even has a decidedly Irish feel to it, if you squint your eyes a bit it could almost be set in Ireland. Maybe squint them a lot. Perhaps what gives it that distinctive Irish feel is the quite alarming number of caricatures. The writers have included all of the Russian stereotypes; we get gun-toting mobsters, men guzzling vodka like water, conmen pawning off Chinese phones and even an entire family of passport-forging gypsies among the ensemble.
This degree of caricature is harmless enough and in good fun because the film was written, funded and directed by Russian citizens. It’s okay if people laugh at the Russians because they’re laughing as well. Nobody gets hurt, people enjoy the film and it makes some money and publicises their country and maybe even boosts tourism. Right? Perhaps, except that the film was written, funded and directed by the French. What’s more, The Concert has as yet (according to IMDb.com) no release date in Russia. Me thinks the Russians aren’t laughing.
Stereotypes aside (if only it were that easy), The Concert is worthy of your evening. The opening credits are accompanied by a taster of Tchaikovsky which whets the appetite and left me eagerly anticipating the grand finale which the film’s title promised. The Concert is highly entertaining and will leave you with a sizeable craving for the next Tchaikovsky recital in the National Concert Hall. Just don’t tell the Russians.