Heartwarming and inconsequential even as it deals with the fallout from the collapse of communism in Russia, The Concert is never quite as meaningful as it makes itself out to be. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining and even occasionally moving, though, or that it doesn’t find poignancy in the human cost of political change. It just does so in a mostly broad, cheesy manner that tends to undercut its efforts at political or social resonance.
The concept itself is pretty silly: The former conductor of Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi orchestra, Andrey Filipov (Alexei Guskov) was stripped of his position during the Communist regime and has been relegated to serving as the orchestra’s janitor. Fortuitously, he’s cleaning the director’s office when a fax comes in from a high-profile concert hall in France, requesting a last-minute booking for the Bolshoi. Andrey intercepts the fax and decides to accept the concert on behalf of his former colleagues, and sets about putting the band back together and bullshitting his way into French society.
It’s a set-up for goofy comic bits (once in Paris, the uncultured Russians behave like savages), but it’s also a heartstring-tugging tale of redemption, as Andrey longs to complete the concert that was cut short when the Soviet government banned Jews from performing. To that end, he connects with a French virtuoso violinist (Melanie Laurent) who has a mysterious connection to the orchestra’s past. The various threads come together in the movie’s lovely final sequence, as the orchestra performs a Tchaikovsky concerto that was rudely interrupted 30 years earlier, and the truth about the violinist’s past is revealed. Director and co-writer Radu Mihaileanu doesn’t hold back on the sentiment, but the climactic sequence works because it isn’t full of overwrought emotional moments. The movie leading up to it is much less graceful, but it’ll still manage to put a smile on your face.