Greetings again from the darkness. Typically when a film is billed is a “French comedy”, we can expect a farcical good time with self-centered characters who flitter their days away. Director Radhu Mihaileanu delivers something completely different and unexpected.
Two really fine performances drive this film. Aleksei Guskov plays Andrei Filipov, the one time conductor of the Russian Bolshoi orchestra, who lost his beloved job because he employed Jewish musicians during the harshest of Communist days. Nearly three decades later he finds himself as the janitor in the same hall where he once conducted. Because of this, an opportunity presents itself that allows him to seek redemption in his own life, and that of another.
Melanie Laurent, who was so outstanding as the theatre manager with a nasty plan in Inglourious Basterds, plays Anne-Marie Jacquet – a violin virtuoso who Filipov longs to have in his orchestra for a show in Paris. Ms. Laurent displays tremendous screen presence with minimal dialogue. She is quite a talent and I hope she spends more time in the U.S. making movies! The comedy portion of the film occurs as Filipov frantically assembles his orchestra from all over town. They have each gone their separate ways and some no longer even have their own instruments. Of course, none of the musical portion is believable, but as I said, this is a story of redemption.
The film climaxes with a wonderful onstage performance combined with a startling montage that deftly provides the details into the story that’s been skirted for the first 90 minutes. It is a wonderful ending to a decent film that really had the potential to be amazing.