The nation that launched Sputnik also won the race to the summit of culture. But with the breakup of the Soviet Union, many great artists who were once at the mercy of the Party are now at the mercy of the market. The comic fable "The Concert" provides a lively soundtrack for a tour that moves from the new Russia to old places in the heart.
Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov) was a celebrated Soviet conductor until he refused to purge the Bolshoi Orchestra of its Jewish members. Now, 30 years later, Filipov is reduced to sweeping floors in the concert hall. But when he intercepts a last-minute invitation for the orchestra to play in Paris, he decides to assemble his own troupe and settle some scores.
That entails recruiting a Jewish cellist who's been working as an ambulance driver, gypsy violinists who can forge passports and a KGB nemesis who can speak French (and wants to promote Communism in Paris).
In the Russian scenes, the montage of menial labor and gangster capitalism is reminiscent of the social satire "Goodbye Lenin," but there's a melodramatic subtext to the culture-clash comedy in Paris. Filipov insists that the only soloist who can do justice to the Tchaikovsky violin concerto is French virtuoso Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent of "Inglourious Basterds"), a young woman with whom he has a secret connection.
"The Concert" builds beautifully from a farcical premise that requires a suspension of disbelief to a musical climax that washes away our cynicism in a wave of honest tears.
Three and a half stars (out of four) • Rating PG-13 • Run time 1:59 • Content Some strong language and sexual content • Where Plaza Frontenac • Language In Russian and French with English subtitles