Sometimes it’s tough to notice when a movie devolves from crowd-pleasing to audience-pandering, but you can pinpoint the moment that Radu Milhaileanu’s simpering music drama mounts a full-frontal heartstring assault. Publicly denounced while leading the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra through Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra 30 years ago, legendary conductor Andre Filipov (Guskov) now cleans the venue’s offices. An intercepted fax prompts the disgraced artist to assemble his ragtag former players and pose as the current Bolshoi ensemble for a gig in Paris, playing—what else?—the same piece.
Once in the City of Light, we’re treated to endless pidgin French subtitles (so...funny?) and ethnic caricatures—money-obsessed Jews, ribald Gypsies—that carbon-date to around vaudeville’s heyday. Then comes the secret weapon: Filipov insists that a celebrity violinist (Laurent) be the featured attraction. The maestro’s teary-eyed look upon her arrival suggests they’ve met before...perhaps when she was a baby?
From there, it’s a slow-and-steady ride to the sort of predictable catharsis and underdog glory typical of such tepid Foreign Film for Dummies entries; the fact that Harvey Weinstein, who used to milk imported mediocrities like this back in the Miramax-imized day, is distributing this only adds a meta twist. So it’s the story of a down-and-out bigwig vindicating himself by revising his crowning cultural moment. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.—David Fear
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