Andre? Filipov (Alexe? Guskov) is a janitor at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, but thirty years ago he was a celebrated prodigy, done in by an avid Communist, Ivan Gavrilov (Valery Barinov), who raced onstage in the middle of a concert and ruined Andre?’s career. However, Andre? intercepts a fax directed to the Bolshoi from Olivier Morne Duplessis (Francois Berléand) inviting the orchestra to play at Pleyel in Paris in two weeks, substituting for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Andre? purloins the fax, erases it from the Bolshoi’s computer, and proceeds to contact all the members of his old orchestra to convince them to get together to go to Paris for the triumph that has eluded them for all these decades. In the process, he convinces Gavrilov to help them, but is he a friend or still an enemy?
What ensues is part adventure, putting together his old team of musicians who have spent the last three decades in mundane jobs, and part sentimental tearjerker, as Filipov gets acclaimed violinist Ann-Marie Jacquet (Mélanie Laurent, who gave such a terrific performance in Inglourious Basterds) to appear as a soloist. Ann-Marie’s story provides the counterpoint to Filipov’s quest for redemption.
The film is greatly enhanced by the score, which includes symphonic, modern, and Gypsy-infused music, with some chorale to translate the passing of time and contrast the present and the past. The film concludes with a beautiful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, which was cut from 22 minutes to 12 minutes by composer Armand Amar. It was performed on location at the famed Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Taking nothing away from the fine performances of Guskov, Barinov, Laurent, Berléand, and the others in the cast, the person who stole the movie for me was Miou Miou, who plays Guyléne de La Riviére, a friend, manager, and mother figure for Anne-Marie, who never knew her real parents. Although Miou Miou (a 1980 Best Actress Cesar Award winner) was born in 1950, she is still beautiful, even though she’s made up matronly which hides her beauty. For me, it was her performance that communicated the mystery that allowed the movie to be something more than an ordinary story of retribution.
Although I enjoyed the film, I think it probably appeals to women more than men. My friend who accompanied me gave it an 11 on a scale of 10, while wiping the tears from her face, and the two ladies sitting next to her were seeing it for the second time and still had tears streaming down their cheeks. While I thought it dragged somewhat during the first hour, it has some good comedic points, is a devastating commentary on Soviet Communism, and is rewardingly sentimental. In French and Russian. Opens July 30.