LE CONCERT (15) * Directed by: RADU MIHAILEANU Starring: ALEKSEI GUSKOV, MÉLANIE LAURENT, DMITRI NAZAROV HHHHH
Writing dramatic cheques its irritatingly broad comedic tone can't hope to cash, Le Concert is one of those jaunty Full Monty-esque films that thinks it's easy to segue from knock-around farce to serious political drama on a whim.
After somewhat improbably being mistaken for the Bolshoi, a rag-tag group of disgraced Russian classical musicians are invited to perform in Paris. Once part of a celebrated Moscow orchestra that fell foul of Brezhnev's repressive regime in the 1980s after they refused to sell out their Jewish compatriots, the downtrodden working men set out to rediscover their self-worth.
Director Radu Mihaileanu exploits this heavy-duty historical context to try and wrench some pathos out of his otherwise predictable triumph-over-adversity tale.
It doesn't work. Instead we get distasteful attempts to intercut the caper-like antics of drunken musicians on a jolly with tales of people being sent to wintry deaths in the Gulags. It doesn't help that the film rolls out every classical music clich in the book too, something that sabotages Inglorious Basterds star Mlanie Laurent's attempt to rise above the melodramatic plotting that requires her to play a French violinist with an unwitting connection to the Russian orchestra's on-a-mission conductor (Aleksei Guskov).