PERFORMANCE (or A LATE QUARTET): A Review

PERFORMANCE (or A LATE QUARTET): A Review by Salty

How do you title a film that is called different things in different countries? So annoying, why why why? I think it is because a film titled A LATE QUARTET releasing close to a film titled QUARTET in Australia would have confused the hell out of a stupid public so they changed it to PERFORMANCE. Odd

And what a weird choice I made to view this following my screening of G.I. Joe Retaliation it was like going from the Sahara to the Antarctic but I actually loved them both and they gave me the best of both worlds – I got to watch mindless man film action movie then got to see a character film studying chamber culture in New York starring some of the best actors on the planet. Win win.

 

A Late Quartet
A Late Quartet

 

This film is an in-depth study of chamber music and high culture in New York, it is so beautifully made and so complex and so delicate. The basis of this successful Quartet is a 25yr balancing act of finely tuned precision and perfection to achieve the music of the gods. Everything is so finely tuned and wound tight that one tiny disruption to order brings chaos, and it is with the diagnosis of one of the members with early Parkinson’s disease that everything about this quarter of a century quartet unravels.

A Late Quartet
A Late Quartet

Previously unmentioned jealousies, prejudices, desires, egos, the works come pouring out of the tiny little hole made in their dam of friendship and musical perfection. And what better people to have in the movie doing all of this emotional turmoil than Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken and Mark Ivanir (Ukranian). Originally the film was to have Ethan Hawke in it, probably in Ivanir’s role but he had to leave due to scheduling issues.

 

A Late Quartet
A Late Quartet

 

These actors are all just perfect in all their deliveries, you never really see it but would think them all chamber musicians, the handling of the playing of all the music is so well handled. Hoffman is the conflicted Robert. Keener plays his emotionally embattled wife, Juliette. It should be noted I love Catherine Keener with all my heart, one of my favourite female actors on the planet ever since I saw Being John Malkovich. Walken is the cellist who has just received the news that he suffering from Parkinson’s – and I should note an oddity about Walken – he is an actor who’s name always escapes me – I mean every time I need to think of his name it is gone and I have to look it up – it is my film oddity, Walken always disappears. And Mark Ivanir is the precision-minded, if somewhat arrogant, first violinist who refuses to let Robert share in the glory.

A Late Quartet
A Late Quartet

 

The film homages the music scene and captures a theatre, or chamber music, culture that most of us are not open to. It has the chamber music essence that Black Swan captured for ballet and immerses in it. For that alone it is a brilliant peek into a different world than our own. The entire film is inspired by and structured around Beethoven’s Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor. If I have this correctly, it is a mammoth movement based on structure and one misdirection can unravel the piece as the idea of the seven movements is they are all played without pause. I suppose Opus 131 is the Quartet’s Rachmaninoff we saw in SHINE with Geoffrey Rush.

A Late Quartet
A Late Quartet

 

PERFROMANCE, or A LATE QUARTET is out now and is playing at most art house theatres. It is winning the box office for art house films in Australia and is a well constructed, film that is as tightly structured as the quartet itself. I highly recommend it and award this film 9 out of 10 Stradivarius’s.