Summary: Set in contemporary Manhattan, PERFORMANCE tells the story of four musicians, bound together by their passion for music and a long, faithful collaboration. The celebrated string quartet struggles to stay together as they mark their 25th anniversary.
When their dignified patriarch and cellist, Peter (Walken) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it throws the future of the group into question. His attempt to find a replacement player and organise rehearsals for their upcoming concert bring up unresolved issues and grievances.
Daniel (Ivanir) is the first violin. Robert (Seymour Hoffman) plays second violin, but longs to be the lead. Juliette (Keener) plays viola and is married to Robert, and steadfastly refused to consider the quartet without Peter.
Alliances are forged, egos bruised and passions flare as the dysfunctional family of artists begin to implode. Can they pull together for one final great performance – of Beethoven’s Opus 131 at Carnegie Hall?
Australian Cinema Release Date: 14th March, 2013
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Yaron Zilberman
Screenwriter: Seth Grossman, Yaron Zilberman
Cast: Liraz Charhi (Pilar), Philip Seymour Hoffman (RobertGelbart), Mark Ivanir (Daniel Lerner), Madhur Jaffrey (Dr. Nadir), Catherine Keener (Juliette Gelbert), Nina Lee (Nina Lee), Megan McQuillan (Brenda), Imogen Poots (Alexandra Gerbert), Wallace Shawn (Gideon Rosen), Anne Sofie von Otter (Miriam), Christopher Walken (Peter Mitchell), Andrew Yee (Steve)
Runtime: 106 mins
Dave Griffiths’s ‘A Late Quartet’ Review:
Films such as ‘The Runaways’ and ‘Almost Famous’ work because they are about rock music right? But is it possible that a film about classical music could be just as dramatic and gritty? It seems like the answer should be no but ‘A Late Quartet’ (known as ‘Performance’ in some film markets so it can’t be confused with Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Quartet’) proves that theory very wrong indeed, because this well-written drama is about as tense as you can get.
Robert Gelbert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), Juliette Gelbert (Catherine Keener) and Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir) are at the top of their game. Their successful quartet is highly regarded and sells countless albums while they also get to tour the world packing out concert halls as they do.
But then things start to fall apart for the talented musicians. First of all Peter learns that he is suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease and informs the group that he no longer knows how long he will be able to keep playing for. Then Robert and Juliette’s marriage seem to hit the skids as Robert grows more jealous of Daniel being lead violinist.
As if all of that isn’t already putting stress on the quartet Juliette starts to wonder whether or not she wants to continue in the group if Peter isn’t around while Daniel heads into a taboo relationship with Robert and Juliette’s daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots) who is a budding musician herself.
Director/screenwriter Yaron Zilberman teams up with Seth Grossman to deliver a classy drama that leaves its audience absolutely intrigued. All of the characters are likable and you can’t help but feeling sad when your realize that life is taking dramatic turns for all of them, Zilberman makes the relationship between the four central characters extremely claustrophobic and incestuous which only enhances the suspense and drama of the film. So good is Zilberman’s work on the film that it comes as some surprise when you learn that this is his debut feature film (he only had one documentary to his credit before), this is proof that he is one talented filmmaker who has a rosy future ahead of him.
Sometimes the use of classical music in a film can scare off audience members who expect the film to be pompous and snobby, but that certainly isn’t the case with ‘A Late Quartet’/’Performance’. While the film does rest heavily on the world of classical music you certainly don’t need any knowledge of that world to understand what the characters are going in.
As you would expect from a cast of this caliber the performances are amazing. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his usual best and he is well supported by Mark Ivanir and Catherine Keener. Christopher Walken puts in one of his best performances in years (surprisingly he hasn’t garnished some award nominations for his performance) while young Imogen Poots really announces herself as a star of the future with a standout performance.
‘A Late Quartet’/’Performance’ is a brilliantly written character drama that should alert the cinema world to the fact that Yaron Zilberman is a director to watch.
Other Subculture Media Reviews of ‘A Late Quartet′: Check Episode #24 (available 14th March, 2013) of our The Good The Bad The Ugly Podcast for a more in-depth review of ‘A Late Quartet’.