Arts &
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Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Nancy Snipper
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
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Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn

Radu Mihaileanu's

Radu Mihaileaunu


reviewed by


Sylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave The Concert, which played at the 2009 Cinemania Film Festival, 3.5 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.

Often, during tumultuous or unstable periods of history, or living under a dictatorship that severely restricts freedom or persecutes a particular minority group, an individual, in order to survive, may be required to take on a false identity. In a round about way, this identity issue informs the latest film, The Concert, by Romanian director Radi Mihaileanu.

Radu Mihaileaunu’s father, born Buchman, who along with other Jews, had to take on a false identity in order to escape from first the Nazis and then Stalin. The experience would mark both the father and son.

In his Train of Life (1998), which Mihaileaunu scripted and directed, the resident fool of his village devises a scheme to engineer a false deportation train across the Russian border so that the villagers can escape to Palestine. In Live and Become, which won the prestigious Mel Hoppenheim award at the 2005 Cinemania Film Festival, an Ethiopian Christian boy is persuaded by his mother to pretend he is Jewish during Operation Moses -- conceived to save Ethiopian Jews from famine- stricken Sudan – to survive and eventually enjoy a better life.

His latest offering, The Concert, is an intelligent, perfectly mixed blend of comedy and drama that is emotionally satisfying on every level: the music featuring Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is nothing less than cathartic; top-notch performances from a stellar cast that includes Alesksei Guskov, Melanie Laurent, Francois Berleand and Miou Miou; and keeping all the subplots from flying asunder is a sharp, incisive script.

The film sets out to address (correct) a past injustice. Thirty years ago, during the Brezhnev era, Andrei Filipov, the legendary prodigy conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra, was fired and publicly humiliated at the height of his glory for refusing to get rid of the Jewish musicians in the orchestra, which included his best friend Sacha.

When we first encounter Filipov, he is still at the Bolshoi but working as a janitor. Now aged 50, he has sunk into booze and depression. One day, late at night, he intercepts a fax inviting the Bolshoi orchestra to perform at the prestigious Théâtre Du Chatelet in Paris. Recognizing a golden opportunity to get revenge, he embarks on a wild scheme to round up all of his old musician buddies, most of whom are working at menial jobs, and convinces them to pose as the real orchestra. There are only two weeks to prepare, enough time for all sorts of craziness to happen.

When questioned why he employs humour to counter the injustices of the past, he answers: “Because I am not a violent person. Humour is the ultimate weapon I have against dictators that have marked my life and the lives of my loved ones. I use it to battle barbarism and death, to show that we are stronger than they are, that we are still alive so we have won.”

If The Concert initially strikes the viewer as more light hearted than his previous films, this is only an appearance that refuses to give in to the darker currents that write our history books. The implausible optimism of the film is provided by the redemptive and healing qualities inherent in music; we are treated to approximately 15 uninterrupted minutes of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Violin Concerto, whose transcendental beauty is nothing less than a revelation of man’s humanity.

Films such as The Concert confirm the magical qualities that inhere in cinema and productively engage the full range of human emotions. This 120 minute film flew by and received an ovation at the end. I, for one, am looking forward to Radu Mihaileaunu’s next.

For the ratings of 2009 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.
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