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A LATE QUARTET
DIRECTOR: Yaron Zilberman
CAST: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, Catherine Keener, Imogen Poots, Liraz Charhi, Madhur Jaffrey, Anne Sofie von Otter, Wallace Shawn.
Running time: 105 minutes
This one is for an audience who can sit back and enjoy every breath the actors take like a note of music exquisitely played. That’s how it should be experienced.
Zilberman is a first-time director and he makes many mistakes, but you forgive them because of the cast he selected and the performances he has coaxed from them, or allowed to unfold.
We are talking Hoffman, Walken and Keener, which is not to be sneezed at, but with each one, because these are unusual roles, it’s as if they took special care – as with a musical instrument – so that everything seemed perfect when it came to the performances.
The story is intriguing and you are tempted to go with the musical metaphors as the director did (and is forgiven for), but that would be too easy. Some things are overplayed and too predictable, but if you buy into the whole affair (which I did), none of that matters.
It is about the story absolutely, but it is really about friendships, family relationships, the way people grow old and experience one another. Communication is key, but also one of the toughest aspects of relationships to get right, often leading to dysfunction on a massive scale – as it plays out here. People don’t always say what they mean, then they do things that express feelings like betrayal, anger or envy.
The Fugue, a New York chamber quartet that has been together for 25 years, might disintegrate when the cellist, Peter (Walken), informs the group he has Parkinson’s disease and is forced to retire.
Things spin out of control when second violinist Robert (Hoffman) sees this as his chance to play first chair on occasion. This upsets Daniel (Ivanir), the first violinist, and Robert’s wife seems trapped in the middle of what appears to be a power struggle.
Robert and Juliette’s daughter, Alexandra (Poots), takes violin lessons from Daniel, which exacerbates the emotional tensions between the group while affairs, things that could and should have been or should never be discussed, suddenly spearhead rifts that seem inevitable.
It really is a glorious piece for those who like a slow-moving, gentle, yet sometimes hysterical drama with acting that blows your socks off. Even with the knowledge of the cast’s acting chops, it’s lift-off into another stratosphere.
And for those who love classical music, it holds the movie fantastically.
If you liked Seraphine or Quartet you will like this.