May 11 2011 12:00 AM

’Le Concert’ celebrates a case of musical vengeance


After your career as a maestro has been demolished and
you’ve been branded an "enemy of the state" by no less than Leonid
Brezhnev, what do you do for an encore?

If you’re Andrei Filipov, former conductor of the Bolshoi
Orchestra, you spend 30 years hoping for a second chance and, when
opportunity knocks in "Le Concert (Th Concert)," it turns out to have
been well worth the wait.

Director Radu Mihaileanu’s lively comedy-drama sends
Andrei (Alexeï Guskov) and former fellow Bolshoi artist Sasha (Dimitri
Nazarov) on a hectic mission to round up almost five dozen musicians for
a last-minute booking at Paris’ renowned Chatelet Theatre, where they
will — with a whole lot of luck — finally seize the spotlight once

Aside from restoring his reputation, Andrei has another
reason to visit the City of Light: Violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie
Laurent of director Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds") has
agreed to be the star soloist for the evening, and Andrei has been
following her career since the beginning.

Yes, there is a secret connection. No, happily, it’s not exactly what you might be thinking.

After an engaging set-up that efficiently spells out
Andrei’s circumstances past and present (he has been reduced to toiling
as a janitor in the theater in which he was formerly a superstar), "Le
Concert" loses some of its zip in a slightly clunky middle stretch
involving Andrei’s crew running wild in Paris. But all is forgiven when
the orchestra members finally stop playing around and actually start

In 1980, Andrei’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin
Concerto was halted midway by the blustering Brezhnev, who snapped
Andrei’s baton in half and denounced him in front of the shocked
patrons. Now Andrei is conducting that piece in front of a sold-out
Parisian crowd, with Anne-Marie — who has never performed Tchaikovsky
before — at his side.

Although mostly humorous, "Le Concert" does an impressive
job of conveying Andrei’s precarious emotional state as he begins to
worry that this incredible possibility could easily turn into an
international embarrassment. Guskov’s effectively understated
performance is superbly complemented by Laurent, who shows us
Anne-Marie’s dedication to her work and her impatience with suffering
fools. (The actress also spent two months studying violin prior to
filming; the effort shows.)

What could have been cartoonish stereotypes  — the neurotic conductor and the bratty diva — instead become sensitively drawn characters with genuine depth and drive.

"Le Concert" climaxes with that long-awaited Tchaikovsky
collaboration, in which the volatile music is infused with a potpourri
of potent emotions. Ghosts are exorcized, futures are changed and the
movie launches into a crescendo that threatens to bring down the house.

With apologies to George Herbert, performing well is the best revenge.

’Le Concert’
Presented by East Lansing Film Society, Lansing Symphony Orchestra and East Lansing Rotary Club
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12
Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, East Lansing
$10 general admiision; $25 VIP Tickets for movie and afterglow reception
(517) 487-5001