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Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov, the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians. Now a mere cleaning man at the Bolshoi, he learns by accident that the Chatelet Theater in Paris has invited the Bolshoi orchestra to play there. He decides to gather together his former musicians and perform in Paris in the place of the current Bolshoi orchestra. He wants a young violinist virtuoso, Anne-Marie Jacquet, to accompany his old Jewish or Gypsy musicians. If they all overcome the hardships ahead this very special concert will be a triumph.
A cynic might call The Concert sentimental, a curmudgeon might even call it shameless, but only a stone could fail to feel something by this crowd-pleasing comedy's emotional conclusion. The story begins in modern-day Russia with Andreï Filipov Alexei Guskov, former conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra. In 1981, when Brezhnev ordered him to fire his Jewish players, he refused, lost his job, turned to the bottle, and now works as the Bolshoi's janitor. His best friend, Sacha Dmitri Nazaro, the quintessential gentle giant, a cello player, has remained loyal to the Maestro ever since--and now drives an ambulance. When Andrei intercepts a fax meant for the head of the orchestra, Sacha agrees to go along with his crazy scheme to get the old gang back together, pass themselves off as the Bolshoi, travel to France, and perform with famed violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet Mélanie Laurent, the heart of Inglourious Basterds. Andreï also hopes to take care of some personal business since he has a connection to Anne-Marie that the musician's manager, Guylène Miou-Miou, has kept secret for 29 years. After a series of slapstick misadventures, long-buried music and secrets tumble out into the open. Director Radu Mihaileanu Live and Become keeps things humming along--with an assist from Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major--but offers few real surprises, so it's fortunate that his leads give such convincing performances, since too many of the other characters, from the unctuous official to the crafty gypsy, cross the line into caricature. --Kathleen C. Fennessy