After a classical string quartet's 25 years of success, Peter, the cellist and oldest member, decides that he must retire when he learns he has Parkinson's Disease. For the others, that announcement proves a catalyst for letting their hidden resentments come to the surface while the married members' daughter has disruptive desires of her own. All this threatens to tear the group apart even as they are famous for playing Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, opus 131, a piece that is played non-stop no matter how life interferes. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The concert scene in the film is played at the Grace Rainey Hall at the Metropolitan Museum - the same stage where the legendary Guarneri String Quartet played their farewell concert after 45 years of playing together. See more »
Daniel discusses with Alexandra how the smallest difference in horse hair can change the timbre of the violin and he pronounces it as tim-ber instead of the correct pronunciation as tam-ber. See more »
Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable. Or say that the end precedes the beginning, and the end and the beginning were always there before the beginning and after the end. And all is always now.
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Harmonies and Dissonances: The Essence of a String Quartet
The moments when and idea for a story, the intelligence of a script to tell it, the sensitivity of the director to make it work, and the cast of extraordinary actors to make it visual come all too infrequently these days in the films that cross our theater screens. A LATE QUARTET is such a complete success on so many levels that it should be considered a standard for filmmaking excellence. It is cerebral, yes, it is best appreciated by people who are involved in some way with classical music even if that be solely as an audience, but the dynamics of this little 'community' of people drawn together by a lasting contract to rehearse and perform for the better part of their time and the effect of physical proximity and the risks of intellectual/artistic distances have rarely been so exquisitely painted.
The honored Fugue Quartet has been living and performing together for 25 years: first violin Daniel Lerner (Ukrainian American actor Mark Ivanir), second violin Robert Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman), cellist Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), and violist Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener) make such perfect music together that we would never guess their lives are askew. Peter is diagnosed as having Parkinson's Disease and understands that his performing days are now severely limited; the Gelbart's marriage is at risk because of the tatters of time and the dealing with daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots) who reacts to her history of being an alone child by entering into a physical affair with obsessive Daniel and Robert's ill-advised one night stand with the young beautiful Pilar (Liraz Charhi); Robert's surfacing jealousy of wanting to be first violin: the struggle with whether the quartet should disband due to Peter's illness or continue with a new cellist. All of this complex interplay of human relationships is underlined by the quartet's rehearing of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, opus 131 - a long quartet of seven movements played without interval. It is a sensitively drawn allegory that takes us all the way to the end of the film.
In addition to the bravura acting of the four lead actors there are side stories that are enormously touching: the affair between Alexandra and Daniel, the conflict between Alexandra and her absentee mother (a brilliant scene), the schism between Robert and Juliette as the foundation of their marriage begins to crumble, and the extraordinarily sensitive moment when Peter longs for his deceased wife Miriam - first while listening to a recording of Miriam singing Marietta's Lied from Korngold's opera 'Die Tote Stadt' and then as the image of Miriam (Anne Sofie von Otter) is seen and heard in is mind.
Each of the actors in this masterfully crafted film is astonishingly fine. If there were an Oscar for Ensemble this would have won hands down, but the performances by Christopher Walken (the finest of his career) and Philip Seymour Hoffman are exemplary and the characters Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Poots create are utterly unforgettable. The highest recommendation for this work - it is a film every sensitive person should see.
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