The Concert

Aleksei Guskov – sort of the Russian Sam Neill – plays Andrei, the disgraced former conductor of Moscow's famed Bolshoi orchestra who, thirty years after his dismissal, now works as a janitor at the very theater he once commanded. In an admittedly contrived turn of events, Andrei intercepts a faxed invitation to the Bolshoi to play in Paris, and decides to round up all the old musicians he once led and go to Paris in order to perform, quite fraudulently, as the Bolshoi.

What starts off as a farcical comedy slowly transforms into something more poignant, as a Parisian violinist (Mélanie Laurent, from Inglourious Basterds) is asked to perform with the orchestra, and we soon learn that there is some sort of secret history that involves both her and the Russian conductor who is so fascinated with her.

Cynics will deride The Concert as predictable, sentimental, and manipulative – and indeed, it is all these things. But I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker, I fell for it.

I think the film works in spite of its faults because Mihaileanu and his writers never stray from the story's theme, that of the transformative power of music. One look at any cast member's face and it is clear how much music means to his or her character, and that's very touching. The film also provides some wry insight into both Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, and how the fall of the Iron Curtain affected so many people, for better or for worse. (As such, it's not a dissimilar experience from the fine German dramedy Goodbye, Lenin!)

I hesitate to recommend The Concert to everybody, only because you might wind up rolling your eyes at it, but I was very, very moved. And whenever a movie does that to me, as jaded as I've become, I can't help but love it.