The crowd-pleasing comic Euro-drama The Concert is, at its musical center, as full of ripe emotion as Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. It’s also as darkly funny as a Slavic farce, a composition of sweet cacophony. Alexei Guskov plays a celebrated conductor who lost his job at the Bolshoi Orchestra during the dark days of Communism. Now he’s a cleaner at that same music hall — a cleaner who decides, in a crescendo of inspiration, to reassemble his displaced Russian musicians and storm Paris by passing them off as the famous Bolshoi.
Not capriccioso enough for you? The maestro requests the participation of a young French virtuoso (Inglourious Basterds‘ lovely Mélanie Laurent), an orphan whose own mysterious past is linked to these motley, obstreperous players. As if composing his own symphony, Romanian director and co-writer Radu Mihaileanu (Live and Become) contrasts passages of brisk hilarity (many of them featuring the wacky ways of Gypsies, old Commies, and modern state functionaries) with satisfying sentimental passages likely to wring tears — especially with a soundtrack of Tchaikovsky, that old bosom heaver. An equal-opportunity jokester, Mihaileanu also scores warm laughs at the expense of Russian Jews, French bureaucrats, and posers of all stripes. This former violist can vouch that Laurent does a bravura job of fake fiddle playing, and Guskov’s baton work as a conductor is exemplary. A-