An over-the-top, impassioned musical comedy ultimately wears its unsentimental heart on its sleeve.
The Concert (mostly in French and Russian with English subtitles) is a product of the Leonid Brezhnev era when Ronald Reagan began as the United States Commander-In-Chief.
Radu Mihaileanu (who also writes) centers the tale around an interesting character, one Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov) who's toiled for some three decades cleaning Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. That's after he was fired for hiring Jewish musicians when he was the highly touted conductor of the Bolshoi.
When Andrei comes upon a fax intended for Paris's Chatelet theatre manager (Francois Berleand), he sees the opportunity to get his old colleagues back together. He'll underhandedly find a way to face up to his past when the Bolshoi orchestra is invited to play there. Of course, he needs some backing from old chum "Sacha" (Dmitri Nazarov) and crotchety aging manager Ivan (Valeriy Barinov).
Some arthouse cineastes may find the proceeds a bit high-strung for their tastes; a few of the personalities are of the larger-than-life variety. Still, the arguably often exquisite filmmaking is in sync with the rather wry, ebullient atmosphere established rather quickly. It neatly upends the stereotypes often depicted, including nomadic types, as well as Jews.
But, Mihaileanu wins us over through an affable, even gritty Guskov, like a microcosm of a bigger picture, through a more wild take on the notion that "most men live lives of quiet desperation." Nazarov exemplifies the film's farcical nature, almost at times like a Zero Mostel, through a credible Sacha while making Andrei's ardor for personal redemption viable.
One of the more attractive supporting players is talented French violinist Anne-Marie, a spirited Melanie Laurent (impressive as Shosanna in last year's Best Picture nominee Inglourious Basterds). Her backstory becomes clearer near the conclusion as emotion crescendos in the last act with Tchaikovsky's concerto. If you can get past some of the riotous build-up with some seedy mob stuff and earthy, grounded humor, The Concert achieves unexpected vivid, harmonious results able to stir hearts and souls.