A Late Quartet

A movie about a string quartet? How tedious could that be? In the case of “A Late Quartet,” not tedious at all—this is a lively, energetic movie about a talented group of musicians, performed by a talented group of actors.

You don’t have to be a Beethoven fan to appreciate “A Late Quartet.” There’s plenty of music, but the story is more about the musicians and their passions, musical and otherwise.

Christopher Walken is a recently widowed cello player who is diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a violinist who is married to the quartet’s viola player, played by Catherine Keener. Ukraine native Mark Ivanir is the intense first-chair violinist who wants every note played perfectly.

But musicians do not always play every note perfectly. Christopher Walken’s character has a wonderful scene in the film in which he relates a tale about an encounter with violin great Pablo Casals. The point of his anecdote is that a live performance of music reveals personal interpretation.

The quartet has been together for nearly a quarter century when we meet them. The group is upset first by their cellist’s Parkinson’s, then by Hoffman’s character’s desire to make a change to the group. Then come marital issues between the couple and an upsetting romantic choice by the first chair.

Along with the quartet, a beautiful young actress with the unfortunate name Imogen Poots gives a nice performance as the aspiring violinist daughter of the couple.

Director Yaron Zilberman (such an unknown that he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page) who co-wrote the original script, does an excellent job of making these actors appear to be real musicians. (At least to my non-musician eyes.)

Yes, the story is a bit soap opera-ish, but the cast is strong and the music enjoyable. While “A Late Quartet” is unlikely to move beyond art houses, don’t let Beethoven scare you away from a good movie.

Advertisements

Arbitrage

Every character in “Arbitrage” has to make choices. Deciding between doing what’s right and doing what’s expedient is not always easy to do.

“Arbitrage” crams a lot of plot and a good number of characters into this two-hour movie. And, yes, many choices.

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a New York finance tycoon who makes big deals and big money. As he turns 60 and prepares to sell his company, things begin to spin apart. His biggest deal may collapse. His mistress is angry that he is missing her art show opening. Should he cut out from dinner with the buyer’s reps and attend to the mistress? Choices.

To make amends he takes her for a drive away from the city. He crashes the car and she dies. He runs away and calls an old friend to pick him up. Should Miller go to the cops and fess up or should he attempt to move on and avoid being connected to the accident? Choices.

Turns out his company’s books are cooked, too. Should those who are privy to the irregularities speak up or risk fraud charges? Choices.

Should his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, put up with his infidelity in order to share his wealth? Choices.

Should the old friend who gave him the ride deny involvement to avoid possible jail time? Choices.

Should the associate who lent Miller 400 million to cover certain losses be patient about getting repaid or should he turn evidence of fraud over to the feds? Choices.

Should a detective play by the rules or should he do whatever he needs, to be sure a judge and jury hear the truth. Choices.

More on the cast: Miller’s mistress is played by former Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta. The man buying the company is played by longtime Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Tim Roth plays the detective investigating the accident. Attractive unknown Brit Marling plays Miller’s daughter and handles a couple of pivotal scenes well.

The lead role in this movie requires a strong performance and Gere delivers. As you make your own choices for grownup entertainment, “Arbitrage” is a good pick.