Movie Review: A Late Quartet (2013)

A Late Quartet

A Late Quartet (2013) Christopher Walken Philip Seymour Hoffman

A Late Quartet (2013) – click full size

I’d never heard of this movie until I dropped by the Watershed cafe on Sunday and saw the promotional posters in the foyer of the small art house cinema there. Christopher Walken gazing out with that haunting melancholy that you know is soul-deep; until he smiles and then everything cold melts away in the dazzling rays of his heart.  I scan the names and see Philip Seymour Hoffman there too. Wow. Ok. Sold. It’s been ages since I’ve indulged in an art house movie.  Five years of relentless writing has dented my social freedom.  2013 started with me shifting to a new creative paradigm; one month of writing is now followed by one month off. And repeat.  It’s given me my life back.  So shuffling away from the obsessive, creative engine, this newly emerging me is finding huge gaps of time to fill.  Going to the Watershed Cinema is a welcome return to a previous ME, before life got so serious.

I went to see the movie last night.  6pm showing.  Cinema was about 1/4 full which is a shame. It deserves to be packed out.  The movie is an absolute gem.

It opens on an empty stage with a packed audience. A door opens and four musicians stroll to take their seats. Christopher Walken; Catherine Keener; Philip Seymour Hoffman; and Mark Ivanir. They pick up their instruments and pause before playing. There is a palpable tension. Something is not right.

Time rolls back and the story begins. I went in with a preconceived idea I was going to see an upper middle class tragedy where the professional friendships of four musicians are strained by the discovery one of them has started to develop Parkinsons; I thought it would be morose but carried by a classical soundtrack. It does deliver that. The music by Angelo Badalamenti, who forever shaped my imagination by what he did with Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, is wonderful.  But it also packs an extraordinary punch.  It’s a tightly compressed medley of coiled plots, held together by a surprisingly fragile bond – the quartet that these four musicians belong to, and have developed over the past 25 years of their lives.  The core of the story tracks the gentle and heroic demise of a great musician (Walken), but it doesn’t dwell on this unnecessarily, instead, the movie loads in complex emotions, personal fears, the brutish influence of strong egos against the delicate shells of insecurity, whilst everyone within – and intimately connected to–  the quartet start to suffer as strings of tension snap, and the whole structure starts to fall apart.

The movie ends where it begins.  And brings fantastic closure for you, the voyeur on this epic “stage-play” with solid, perfectly crafted characters that are brought into breathing, glittering and sobbing life by the acting skills. As a writer and director, Yaron Zilberman seems like a new kid on the block but you get the impression he’s been sharpening his talent for a very long time.

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David J Rodger – DATA

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