(15) 122 min
Director Radu Mihaieanu made the beguiling Live and Become, a film that dealt with the difficult integration into Israeli society of the Ethiopean Falasha Jews. Similarly, his latest film also has a strong religious theme, and is based on several historical incidents highlighting the anti-Semitism of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.
Russian conductor Filipov (Aleksie Guskov), dismissed from his position at the Bolshoi orchestra for hiring too many Jewish musicians thirty years ago, is working as a cleaner. One day he intercepts an invitation for the Bolshoi to play in Paris, and like The Blues Brothers, decides to put the band back together. Herein lies the film’s problem: the director can’t decide whether he’s making a comedy or a drama; or going for slapstick or realism, and in the end it ends up being a hotchpotch, especially when the action moves to Paris and young virtuoso violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent) is employed to play with the orchestra.
It comes as no surprise when the ridiculous back story ties up her past with the orchestra. The action is hindered by clunky expositional dialogue that borders on the slapstick, especially in the Russian scenes that do move along at a fair clip. It follows the template of dozens of other musical movies, including The Commitments, in positing the drama around a will-they-or-won’t-they perform plot. The final concert may be a highlight, but it’s a crescendo that arrives far too late to help hit the right notes.