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A Late Quartet

Directed by Yaron Zilberman

USA, 2012

Cornerhouse, 13 April 2013

A Late Quartet

After a few scares and swerves, order (albeit a new order) is restored: one of those films where nothing seemingly changes yet much is revealed.

The Fugue, a celebrated string quartet, is put under threat.  Peter, the cellist, experiences the onset of Parkinson’s; Robert, the second violin, becomes uppity and has designs on playing first violin, at least some of the time; Daniel, the first violin, resists this notion despite his affection for Robert and Juliette (viola) and, by the by, their daughter Alexandra; whilst Juliette’s affections are divided also: she loves Peter above all, and Peter loves the quartet.

When all is said and done, it is a contrived but effective and ultimately moving film, the contrivance undercut and the emotional punch raised a few notches due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s nuanced, classy performance.  His art, or rather its effect, is to make you doubt whether Robert has made the right decisions, by sticking with the quartet through all the years, in staying by his wife’s side, if she’ll have him back.  As Peter (Christopher Walken) basks in his triumph at the end, (they play the quartet, and without sight of the score, for him) you cannot help feeling that Robert has paid too high a price.  Loyalty to the quartet has swallowed him up, fatally stunted his artistic growth, scuppered his prospects of happiness.  And he is still imperiled.

A good film, a great performance.