Thu August 1, 2013
Beethoven Makes Great Chamber Music, Great Screenplay
At the center of "A Late Quartet" is Beethoven's String Quartet #14, Opus 131. Throughout the drama, the sublime sounds of the work are played by the Brentano String Quartet. Onscreen are Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Mark Ivanir as the "Fugue String Quartet."
"A Late Quartet" is now available on DVD and Netflix. While there are goofy and sometimes abrupt shifts in the tone, director Yaron Zilberman has done wonders with this movie. The storyline is plausible for the classical world; this could easily be the Guarneri or Emerson Quartet facing the loss of a member.
I thoroughly enjoyed the acting, and while I play the violin, thought the instrument faking was alright - certainly there was some good coaching, but sometimes I couldn't help but laugh seeing a still left hand and numerous notes played. But that's not why I watched "A Late Quartet."
I wanted to see Walken as a cellist - and what great delivery of T.S. Elliot, and a story about Pablo Casals to a class of music students. I wanted to see Hoffman walking with a violin case in New York. In fact, the scenery, acting, and soundtrack are to die for.
OK, maybe a stereotypical European first violinist is cheesy, a second violinist having misgivings is cheap, as well as tawdry escapades being a little over the top. But overall, it suits the film fine. Even a Latin dancer falling for an older, heavier Hoffman wasn't too far field.
While prime time is filled with competitions for singing and dancing, bachelors and weight loss, "A Late Quartet" is a great way to be entertained and hear some awesome Beethoven to boot!