French helmer Radu Mihaileanu spackles his canvas with more schmaltz than usual in "The Concert."

Romanian-born French helmer Radu Mihaileanu spackles his canvas with more schmaltz than usual in “The Concert.” Continuing his attraction to themes of false identity, the director presents a purged Bolshoi orchestra conductor who sees his chance to perform again by pretending to be still attached to the great institution. But the story regurgitates the usual trappings of underdog tales, milking stereotypes as well as tear ducts. Pic may appeal to the over-50 crowd in Francophone territories, though the smallscreen will likely generate more viewers.

Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov) is a former world-famous conductor whose championing of Jewish musicians during the Brezhnev era cost him his post at the Bolshoi. Now the concert hall’s janitor, he’s a defeated man. When a fax comes through at night from Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet, begging the Bolshoi to step in when another orchestra cancels, Andrei hides it from the management, seeing it as his chance to conduct again.

With the help of best friend Sacha (Dmitry Nazarov), Andrei ropes in Ivan (Valeri Barinov), a former KGB apparatchik still loyal to the Soviet system who was the Bolshoi’s manager and speaks French (though in a flawed, florid style that provides some of the pic’s forced laughs). Ivan arranges everything with Chatelet director Olivier (Francois Berleand), who thinks he’s getting the Bolshoi instead of a rag-tag assortment of ex-professional musicians.

The only piece Andrei will conduct is Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and the only soloist he’ll accept is young French violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent). She’s never played the Tchaikovsky before, but she jumps at the chance to perform with “the legend.” The flawed script is so full of holes that no one is expected to question why such a “legend” is still washing floors 20 years after glasnost.

It’s not simply that the narrative suspends belief, but the parade of tired stereotypes (criminal gypsies, avaricious Jews, unreconstructed commies) are older than Henny Youngman routines. Verbal paeans to the glories of music feel like a Hallmark card, while the final concert’s expected emotional crescendo is undermined by spliced-in flashbacks. Uberto Pasolini’s 2008 “Machan,” centered on a fake Sri Lankan handball team visiting Bavaria, was far more successful at capturing this kind of gumption and making it fun.

Of the performers, only Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”) makes any impression, thanks to her old-fashioned screen incandescence; top thesp Vlad Ivanov is wasted as a Russian oligarch/music lover who bankrolls the scheme. Standard-issue, sweeping lensing was done mostly in Romania (repping Russia), with a few setpieces in the Chatelet.

The Concert

France-Romania-Belgium-Italy

Production

A Les Productions du Tresor presentation of an Oi Oi Oi Prods., Les Productions du Tresor, France 3 Cinema, EuropaCorp (France)/Castel Films (Romania)/Panache Prods., RTBF (Belgium)/BIM Distribuzione (Italy) production, with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinecinema, France 3. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Alain Attal. Directed by Radu Mihaileanu. Screenplay, Mihaileanu, Alan-Michel Blanc, Matthew Robbins, from an original story by Hector Cabello Reyes, Thierry Degrandi.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Laurent Dailland; editor, Ludovic Troch; music, Armand Amar; production designers, Cristian Niculescu, Stanislas Reydellet; costume designers, Viorica Petrovici, Maira Ramedhan Levi; sound (Dolby SRD/DTS Digital), Pierre Excoffier, Selima Azzazi, Bruno Tarriere; assistant director, Olivier Jacquet; casting, Gigi Akoka, Herve Jakubowicz. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Extra), Oct. 19, 2009. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Alexei Guskov, Dmitry Nazarov, Melanie Laurent, Francois Berleand, Miou Miou, Valeri Barinov, Lionel Abelanski, Anna Kamenkova Pavlova, Laurent Bateau, Vlad Ivanov, Alexander Komissarov, Ramzy, Roger Dumas, Vitalie Bichir. (French, Russian dialogue)
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