This wittily conceived little film displays maverick Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan in top form as he juggles a disparate group of intriguing characters through a series of teasing situations. Made as part of a series of six films with the generic title “Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach,” “Sarabande” is the only one of the group that tells a fictional story and will no doubt be the one to arouse the greatest interest among cinephiles.
Renowned cellist Ma appears as himself, flying into Toronto to give a concert. Unfortunately, the driver sent to meet him, Sammy Angelopoulos (George Sperdakos), is waiting at the Air Canada terminal, and Ma is flying with Canadian Airlines. Their delayed connection (which inspires a wry joke at the expense of the Canadian government) is the beginning of several chance encounters, as a number of other characters with nothing evident in common are introduced — yet all prove to have connections through Ma’s music.
Sarah (Arsinee Khanjian) is a real estate agent currently involved in finding a buyer for the house of elderly Dr. Kassovitz (Jan Rubes), who wants his valuable collection of art and furniture left in place. Sarah suffers from coughing fits, and pays a visit to Dr. Angela France (Lori Singer), whose hobby is music and who attends a master class with Ma.
Kassovitz gives Sarah tickets to the Ma concert, though her boyfriend, Max (Don McKellar), who also seeks medical advice from Dr. France, isn’t into classical music. Sammy, who considers Ma “an ambassador from God” who “plays with the soul,” also has reason to consult the attractive doctor.
Egoyan deftly juggles these characters, their problems and their ambitions around Ma’s soaring rendition of Bach’s Suite No. 4 for cello, resulting in an immensely satisfying medium-length drama of deceptive simplicity. Ma is relaxed and engaging, while the other members of the cast, which includes a couple of Egoyan regulars, acquit themselves most engagingly. Production values are pristine.