Four Last Songs (2007) Poster

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A Bittersweet, Gentle Comedy and Love Story
gradyharp6 July 2007
FOUR LAST SONGS is one of those little films that quietly turns a little comedy about seemingly incongruous situations into a finely spun series of love stories: father and daughter, man and woman, disparate brothers, lonely widows, and a village that loves its heritage. Writer/Director Francesca Joseph understands her craft and blends a well-paced story with a fine cast. The result is a heartwarming evening of entertainment.

On a small Mediterranean island (Mallorca/Balearic Islands) lives an odd group of expatriates. Larry (Stanley Tucci) is pianist from classical training who makes his living playing piano bar while he pines for the purity of classical music such as that of a deceased composer who lived on the island once wrote. His long term girlfriend Miranda (Jessica Stevenson) practices yoga and supports Larry's dreams. Sebastian (Hugh Bonneville) is a well to do, would be impresario who lives with his perpetually drunk and miscreant brother Dickie (Rhys Ifans). Larry develops a plan to have a concert of the deceased composer's music there on the island but has to contend with the composer's widow Veronica (Marisa Paredes) as well as the composer's beautiful 'muse' Helena (Emmanuelle Seigner): the two women are bitter enemies. Larry obtains Veronica's permission to stage the concert of her husband's music, has the composer's grand piano brought in by helicopter, and hires the infamous pianist Narcisco Ortega (Virgile Bramly) to perform. And while Sebastian vies for the rights to have the concert take place, the obstacles encountered are beyond his intrusion. All goes well until the surprise arrival of Larry's 'unknown daughter' from an old weekend affair arrives: Frankie (Jena Malone) has been tracking down her birth father for apparent and occult reasons. Narcisco arrives with entourage, seduces Frankie, and in an act of fatherly protection Larry injures the pianist's hands and the whole project falls apart. In a final ploy to make the concert work Helena gives Larry the composer's final songs - dedicated with love to his wife Veronica - and Larry agrees to perform the music in the small concert of his dreams, and the concert serves as a moment of healing between each of the paired and unpaired characters.

Not only are the characters well played by this very fine cast, but also the scenery of the island is exotic and romantic as captured by cinematographer Javier Salmones. The original music score by Dan Jones includes a truly lovely 'last song' and is enhanced by the fact that excerpts from Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs" as sung by Sylvia Sass are an integral part of the soundtrack. This is a tender little story with equal amounts of sensitive humor and warmth, a film that deserves a much wider audience. Grady Harp
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Sublime comedy for mature minds
intelearts20 June 2007
Without a doubt one of the best and most refreshing films we have seen in a very long time.

Definitely fun and very funny Four Last Songs is a work of real love. I have no truck with one of the other critics here who wrote that the filming was bad - every shot is framed exquisitely, and the lighting, sound, and settings are way above average. The script sparkles with wit, farce, and poignancy - a real surprising feast.

A great set of characters living in their beautifully estranged world in the mountains of Mallorca, a wonderful set of ex-pats and a countess, a muse, a love, two pianists, two brothers - all really well written and showing top performances - honestly, my wife and I really laughed and were really moved by this - just excellent entertainment throughout.

This is not film as beer; rather it is film as wine: to be savored and enjoyed.

It is a time since we have seen a film that is geared at the over 30s that is so refreshingly funny, and so much about life.

Warmly recommended!
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Liked this movie
jinty-reid21 January 2008
Actually, I really liked this movie. It was funny and sad and it kept me hooked right to the end. It made one wonder what if we were all put on an island and had to live close together with all our quirks and idiosyncrases exposed. Many of the characters had chosen this Spanish island to either hide or work out their pain or unresolved issues except perhaps the wife of the composer who it appeared was Spanish. I agree with the other commenter, no one in the movie was worried about the priceless piano getting wet except me and the commenter! I feel that the characters were quirky enough to keep one's interest and lots of subplots to make it more interesting. All in all I think this was a good movie.
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I Loved Four Last Songs - and Sylvia Sass Singing
Mystral18 January 2009
A glorious evening. The film was televised very late (gone midnight our time) - and had been somewhat slated by the Radio Times critic ("...let down by dreary script"). I was fascinated by the title but from the synopsis could not make out what on earth the Four Last Songs had to do with the film, and was it 'THE' Four Last Songs? but had forgotten to check when it was to be televised. Was asleep in front of the TV, woke up, 'time for bed' then suddenly, up came the titles. OK. Let's watch for a few mins. WOW. Very glad that I did so. Sat back and enjoyed the best TV in a very long time - and as for the sound track - glorious. The voice of Sylvia Sass echoing in my mind ever since last night. Now to purchase the CD.

So glad that so many people have enjoyed this film - and sorry for the few who didn't. I was intriegued by the dialogue and how it was woven, seamlessly, without art. The acting was excellent, costuming superb - and as for the location. Full marks. I must get the DVD of this film as it is one of the very, very few films that I could watch a second or even a third time.

Addendum: spent a leisurely morning checking out Sylvia Sass. Now have a (long) checklist of CD titles to order up (thanks to the poster who posted the name of the soloist.)

Mystral (France)
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wonderful movie
rgcliff19 June 2007
I have to disagree with the previous reviewer stating the this movie was poorly cast,directed etc.I am not a movie critic,just a member of the British public who loves movies. I thought this quirky British comedy drama was wonderful.Excellent acting particularly from actress Jessica Hynes(mostly known from UK's Royale Family sitcom).I thought the cinematography was gorgeous,truly capturing the splendour of one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean,Majorca(we have rented a villa on the island for many a year,it is a truly lovely island).Add to this a fabulous soundtrack,makes this one of my favourite movies of the year. 10 out of 10
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Lovely setting, Great Idea, But a Bit Weak Nonetheless
JPMDatIMDB9 August 2008
Disclaimer: I know most of the people on whom the characters are (loosely) based, and the area of the production (the village of Deia on the island of Mallorca), and the house in which it's set. I even happened to meet the director as they were getting ready to shoot the film, so I should have a natural tendency to praise this piece.

On the flip side, I've been a writer and, as a young pup, a movie theater manager, so I see a lot of film and video, which perhaps makes me a bit more, um, particular about film making.

The good stuff: The scenery is glorious, with or without the "homesick factor." The opening shot of the little church atop the mountain, with the several-hundred-year-old terraces of olives and fruit below, makes you want to call Iberia and book the next flight to Spain. The restaurant at the Cala, where you first see Miranda and Larry playing music together, is beautiful (great food, by the way) but looks more glamorous than in real life.

The idea of bringing unheard classical music out of the past into modern ears is a good premise, with plenty of subplots going on to keep things interesting, while the idea of my sister popping up in the middle of all these other complications just adds another layer to the stack of amusing plot devices.

On the flip side: I felt that the story didn't flow quite as well as I'd expected, perhaps because the dialog didn't strike me as quite sharp enough. It seems like the actors weren't quite sure where to go or what to say at times, so some of the story got a little lost. (I learned later they were instructed to ad lib most of their lines.)

Nonetheless, I'd give it good marks for a light comedy, set in an idyllic location, with interesting characters, and a different premise from the usual "two strangers meet and fall in love, with laughs for all" that appears to mark the genre these days.
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Not by Strauss!
jotix10020 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Veronica, the widow of famous composer Valentin Lucinsky is a bitter woman. She is haunted by the memory of what she thinks was a betrayal by her husband getting inspiration from his muse, Helena, a French woman. All this takes place in the gorgeous Mallorca, an island in the Baleares. Into this conflict comes Larry, an American pianist, who with his girlfriend Miranda run a small pension.

Larry wants to pay tribute to the great man, so he must obtain Veronica's permission to play his music in a small amphitheater the great Lucinsky created, using his own grand piano, played by genius Narciso Ortega. Unfortunately, Larry takes on much more than he can deliver. Unfortunately, everything backfires on his good intentions. To make matters worse, his own daughter arrives from America, a girl whom he doesn't really know.

There is also another story involving a rich Englishman, Sebastian, who loves music. His brother Dickie, who is always drunk, arrives for a visit. Sebastian, loves to listen to a recording of Strauss' Four Last Songs, something that he repeats over and over. As Dickie begins to get into Sebastian's nerves, a shattering revelation shakes both their lives.

This is a film to watch for the magnificent exteriors of Mallorca. Nothing feels real because of Francesca Joseph's implausible screenplay and her own direction, which doesn't make much sense. Although it is by no means a horrible film, it feels empty. The finished product seems such a waste of talent in a story that tries hard to please, but does not go anywhere. The best thing is Mallorca itself, but alas, we don't get a grand tour of that enchanting place, only glimpses of its beauty.
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Misleading DVD package but very nice movie nonetheless
rooprect20 January 2011
Pay no attention to the sensational marketing on the back of the DVD declaring this to be a "kooky" "romantic comedy" "funnier than Police Academy 17!" (well OK, I made up that last one) I was expecting some big belly laughs, and after the first half hour without even cracking a smile, I started to feel disappointed. But that's when I realized that this is not really a comedy and it shouldn't be approached as such. True, there are some bizarre characters and weird situations like a guy getting accused of infidelity because he happens to be zipping up his fly at an inopportune moment (after taking a pee), but comedy is not the heart of this film; poetry is. The vibe the director achieved here reminds me of Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty", Stillman's "Barcelona" or maybe the more recent "L'auberge espagnole" but with older characters. It's a very European story--and by that I mean the characters are extremely diverse and cosmopolitan, and the scenery plays a key role--about a bunch of people just being normal, or as normal as they can be under the circumstances.

There aren't a lot of wild plot twists, no real action, and no melodramatic romances like you might expect from Hollywood. As best as I can describe it, this is a movie about real life set in an unreal setting (a dreamy island off the coast of Spain).

The story is about a dead composer and how his legacy impacts the people who adored him. Here is where, I believe, we get the title of the film "Four Last Songs". In real life, composer Richard Strauss wrote 4 songs (Spring, September, Sleep, Sunset) in his last year before he died, and these songs prophetically consider the subject of death, yet not with dread & fear but with calm & serenity. The movie has nothing about Strauss but instead invents a fictional composer whose works are to be performed in a tribute concert. The "Four Last Songs" in the movie could relate to the 4 subplots: a young woman discovering her life (Spring), a mature couple dealing with their insecurities (September), a man who seems to be courting death (Sleep) and an unfinished romance left in the wake of the composer's passing (Sunset). The music seems to unify these 4 subplots into a cohesive tale, and that's how we get "Four Last Songs".

This is of course, just my personal interpretation. But the point that I'm trying to make is that this is a film that can be approached at different levels, and its poetic nature lends itself to many possible meanings. In that sense, it ain't no hilarious romantic comedy. If, right from the get-go, you realize that it's a very symbolic & artistic story I think you'll enjoy it so much more.
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Fab Farce...
marksharp196124 June 2007
What a splendid collage of music and life. trouble souls, complicated friendships..

This was not ''American Beauty'' of ''Taxi Driver'' but a nice fussy BBC snapshot into life abroad...I'm not a film director or art critic..just a consumer of film.

I don't understand how this movie is and should be criticised for not being a piece of's a British farce...look it up in the dictionary.

great fun...some nice touches...and glad not to see Hugh Grant popping in.
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Why bother?
birck31 August 2007
This film was a shot in the dark. I figured that with a cast like that (Tucci, Ifans, Malone et al.), how could it go wrong? Well, I'm not obsessive enough-or astute enough-to pick out where the problem lies, but after 45 minutes of the story, I bailed. I wasn't interested enough to care what happened to the characters, even to Rhys Ifans, who definitely had the best lines. The synopses you can read in other comments are accurate, but by the halfway point the story still hadn't picked up enough momentum to hint at an interesting outcome. There was one point that bothered me about the proceedings, too: early in the preparations for the concert the dead composer's grand piano is delivered by helicopter to the stage of a natural-i.e., uncovered- amphitheater halfway up a mountain. The story continues, then, a few days later, there is a horrendous thunderstorm that blows in, serves some plot points, then moves on. No mention is made of the priceless Steinway in the open amphitheater. Perhaps there is some use made of the ruined piano later, after the point at which I stopped watching, but nobody even thinks about it during the storm? That struck me as, at best unrealistic, at worst a lapse of the kind I could expect more of in the film. Why bother?
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farcical farce
elakha-11 February 2007
This film is poorly cast, directed even worse and you would do well to spend your money sitting in the lobby eating popcorn. It should be a romantic farce. Instead attempts to make it sincere, deep and touching are misguided, poorly executed and immature film-making at its worst. The Four Last Songs do not enter into the presented theme if there is an attempt to bring out a theme, and perhaps that is its greatest flaw: what was this about - wife vs muse, father/daughter, ex patriots adrift, brothers in jeopardy? Or just poor cinematography in a beautiful location. It appears to be an American version of an European melodrama by students with more money than talent.
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