A LATE QUARTET, from Director Yaron Zilberman, Brilliantly Captures the World of Classical Performing Arts

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A LATE QUARTET, from Opening Night Productions and Westend Films, delivers a magnificent emersion into the world of classical arts in the cultural Mecca of New York City.

Directed and produced by Yaron Zilberman A LATE QUARTET, stars Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Kenner, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Potts, along with Liraz Charhi, Madhur Jaffrey, Anne Sodie von Otter and Wallace Shaw. A LATE QUARTET was produced by Adi Ezroni, Ted Hartley, Peter Pastorelli, and Cassandra Kulukundis and written by Zilberman and Seth Grossman.

A New York centric film A LATE QUARTET, was filmed exclusively in Manhattan and predominately on the Upper West Side, where artistic types from the studying to the acclaimed, walk to Lincoln Center, hobnob in Central Park, spend the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and where chamber music is one of the chosen forms of artistic expression and dedication to the craft is admired. The film pays homage to chamber music and the cultural world of NYC utilizing Beethoven’s Opus 131 String Quartet in C-Sharp minor as the centerpiece.

The film pays great attention to detail and used the cityscape and its famous architecture to add dramatic elements as well as prop placement to build on the authenticity that any person who has spent any time in New York City would recognize as central to the Upper West Sider’s lifestyle, including the Zabar’s Coffee and the convenient but cramped kitchen.

Through the appearance of televised interviews with the members of Fugue String Quartet, the background stories of each member of the Quartet are revealed, three of which are classical royalty, with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character, Robert Gelbart, of more modest beginnings.

Christopher Walken delivers an Oscar worthy performance as Peter Mitchell, a concert cellist, who as the film begins is mourning the loss of his two lifelong loves, the first, his wife, a mezzo soprano opera singer, and second as is shortly revealed, his career. As he is in the early stages of Parkinson’s and with the onset of the debilitating disease and he is unable to maintain the use of his hands and therefore has announced to the Quartet their upcoming concert will be his last.

Hoffman’s character, as brilliant a violinist as his first chair rival, Daniel Lerner portrayed by Mark Ivanir, and never given the opportunity to prove to all, even as all know, or simply as two males pursue a single object of affection, the first chair, the coveted position will never be his even as he begins to jockey for the rights.

Gelbart comes across as someone who married up; basically married into the culture of revered world renowned violinists. His middle class roots, ground him in a particular pattern, hanging onto an old life, even though his twenty odd years of marriage to the only daughter of a world class violinist, and his own gifted and brilliant career have not silenced his inner demons.

While the three other members of the quartet, Mitchell/Walken, Juliette Gelbart portrayed by Catherine Keener and Daniel Lerner/Ivanir, manifest the tony, high brow lifestyle, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character remains true to combining the two lives.  With Mitchell out the entire group dynamics shift and as some recognize change positively others see it as a challenge. The clash as the personalities, ambitions, and desires surface force Gelbart/Hoffman to question the allegiance of his wife. Of course, throughout this time their only daughter, Alexandra, played by Imogen Potts, also a gifted violinist, becomes romantically involved with Lerner whom the film implies carried a silent, and permanent, torch for her mother, Juliette/Keener.

As trouble approaches, his slide begins as he chooses to slum, as one would at his level, he visits his running partner, a substitute friendship who shares with him the things his wife won’t. The two meet in Central Park daily to run the reservoir and even in mid winter when the ice coating would drive most away the two, in pseudo innocence, maintain their daily meetings. When night time falls, figuratively and literally, he ends up in her bar, not The Caryle, slamming shots, not sipping scotch, neat, or wine, and of course, to reinforce his masculinity they have sex.

Christopher Walken gives an OSCAR worthy performance as the elder statesman coping with the loss of his two lifetime loves. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a brilliantly masked performance of a star struck every man never quite comfortable with his own success. He simply gets better and better with each performance.  

A LATE QUARTET, delivers and is thoroughly enjoyable. It is beautifully made and wonderfully acted. With very real and genuine moments filled with hurt, anger, loneliness, despair and uncertainty. It is an excellent film! For those who live in Manhattan, for those who have never visited, the city is as central to the film as each of the characters!

A LATE QUARTET is in theaters. Check your local listings.

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