by Donal O’Hara
The Concert is basically a cross between The Blues Brothers and classical music but unfortunately takes the great parts of neither. The story goes that a formerly great conductor named Andrei, now working as a cleaner at the Bolshoi Theatre, intercepts a last minute call for the prestigious orchestra to play a theatre in Paris. Fearing the real Bolshoi will disgrace Russian music he sets about getting his old gang back together in order to impersonate them.
The film opens as a sort of farce, throwing us into the plot very quickly and there are a lot of early scenes that consist of Russian characters, we’ve never met before, shouting at each other. I presume this is supposed to be funny but it’s not, in fact it’s actively unfunny most of the time, with a lot of dodgy stereotyping and some truly bizarre flights of fancy (there’s a shoot-out at one point).
The film’s tone is like a sine wave. In the middle of the farce it tries to get serious revealing that Andrei fell from grace for using Jewish musicians during a Soviet crackdown. But this is never fleshed out and later in the film it starts acting out Jewish stereotypes with 2 of the characters arriving late to the concert as they were too busy trying to make a quick buck.
It also commits another of my pet hates in singling out classical music as a higher art form. I love classical music but I don’t it judge as better than any other type, whereas The Concert repeatedly references the difficulty of Tchaikovsky or the technique of the musicians and it just sounds affected and sycophantic.
The film isn’t all bad, as I did chuckle a couple of times and there’s a good 30 minutes near the end. The female lead Mélanie Laurent, that audiences ought to recognise from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, is also very good; to be honest it’s unfair to say that the acting is bad as the film fails for higher reasons. Oh, and the music is quite good too. I really didn’t enjoy The Concert but my eyes got a work out from rolling so much.