Revenge, or at least the quest for justice, is a theme frequently featured in westerns. Relentless duplicity, on the other hand, is more often to be found in crime movies. Ride Clear of Diablo (1953) is a pretty good example of a conventional western that blends both of the aforementioned elements into its brief running time. By using the revenge motif mainly as a device to drive the narrative, rather than indulging in any especially deep analysis, and thus keeping the focus firmly on the various double-crosses, the film manages to provide plenty of exciting, pacy entertainment.
A Late Quartet refers to one of a group of string quartets written by Beethoven at the end of his life, in this case, specifically Opus 131.
|A Late Quartet|
|Directed by||Yaron Zilberman|
|Produced by||Yaron Zilberman
|Written by||Yaron Zilberman
|Starring||Philip Seymour Hoffman
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti (Score)|
|Editing by||Yuval Shar|
|Studio||Opening Night Productions
|Distributed by||Entertainment One|
|Running time||106 minutes
Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Robert Gelbart
Christopher Walken, as Peter Mitchell
Catherine Keener, as Juliette Gelbart
Mark Ivanir, as Daniel Lerner
Imogen Poots, as Alexandra Gelbart
Wallace Shawn, as Gideon Rosen
Anne Sofie von Otter, as Miriam.
Garry and I watched A Late Quartet yesterday evening. I had purchased it from Amazon a few weeks ago after reading some very good reviews. It sounded like a movie for grown-ups and there have been a dearth movies that don’t star fresh-faced children. It turns out the reviewers were right.
It’s a lovely film. If anyone is a “hero” in this film, it’s Christopher Walken who plays against type with elegance and grace. Add Marc Ivanir, who usually plays Israeli heavies on NCIS and other crime shows (he actually is from Israel and is an actual hero) as the dedicated and ever so slightly demon-haunted violinist, plus Phillip Seymour Hoffman doing his usual workmanlike job and Catherine Keener on viola and as “could be better” wife to Hoffman’s second violin It’s a great mix of characters and some of the best work done by Walken and company.
Their movie musicianship is realistic. I know they were not actually the group used to produce the sound track but it looked to this ex-music major as if they knew their way around string instruments. Some may have had some early training, others were coached for the movie. Whatever the means, it enabled the cinematographer to follow the actors’ movement closely, without resorting to long shots that disguise the real identities of the performers. Well done.
While doing a little side bar reasearch on the stars, I discovered — entirely to my surprise — that Walken actually attended the same college as Garry and I and probably was there during one of Garry’s years at Hofstra University. He was only there for one year and left for a gig in an off-broadway show, but it was news to us that he’d been there at all.
It is one of the many ironies of Garry and my education that most of Hofstra’s most famous graduates are not graduates, but attendees who left before getting a degree to begin highly successful careers. We had a very good drama department and perhaps the biggest measure of its success is how many of the students in the program were “discovered” before they got degrees and went on to fame and fortune without benefit of that all-important piece of paper.
Although it doesn’t hurt if you know some classical music and particularly, if you understand the cutthroat world of classical performers, but if you don’t, you can still enjoy the movie.
The plot? It’s the 25th anniversary of “The Fugue”, a classical string quartet. The world is catching up with them. Christopher Walken, their cellist and oldest member of the quartet has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and needs to retire. The first violinist is in love with the second violinist’s daughter, and the second violinist wants to be the first violinist … and sex in the form of “oops” infidelity adds enough spice to imperil the survival of the quartet if the rest of the problems were not enough.
Walken as the sensible, down-to-earth member of the group, dealing with his own burdens and unwilling to tolerate the childish carryings-on by the other performers, is wonderful. “The Fugue comes first,” he says, or words to that effect. It’s interesting to see Walken cast as the stable, adult, and not even slightly crazy member of the group.
The music — especially Opus 131, the late quartet — is magnificent. I’ve rarely heard this piece performed. It’s an exceptionally challenging piece of music, written when Beethoven was already swathed in silence by the loss of his hearing, yet still able to hear it in his head and write some of the most advanced, complex and intense music of his life.
I admit to being inclined in advance to like this movie. I love the music, studied classical music for many long years. I love Beethoven, probably my all time favorite composer, whose music I play as I drift off to sleep at night and whose symphonies have been my companion on many journeys throughout my life.
It did not disappoint us. It’s not a light piece of fluff, nor is it depressing or hopeless. Problems come, problems are addressed, problems are resolved. Not everything has a happy ending but within the limits of what is possible, these adults work out their problems, musical, health, personal and relationship, like … adults.
It is a nice change from watching stupid kids running around like stupid kids, clearly clueless about life and from the looks of things, not likely to become wiser assuming they manage to survive to grow older.
It’s very much worth a couple of hours of your time, if just for the music. But it is really better than just the music. The DVD is available on Amazon (which is where I got it) and the soundtrack is available separately.
- A Late Quartet movie review: Marvellous maestros (dailymail.co.uk)
- Reviewed: A Late Quartet (newstatesman.com)
- A Late Quartet (thetimes.co.uk)
- A Late Quartet (2012, Yaron Zilberman) (jwillmoran.com)
- “A Late Quartet”: Dir. Yaron Zilberman (duffandnonsense.typepad.com)
- Christopher Walken: Learning to ‘play’ the cello for A Late Quartet was hard for me (metro.co.uk)
- Movie Review: A Late Quartet (2013) (davidjrodger.wordpress.com)