Wednesday, 23 January 2013
The best film of the year so far is Quartet. I am yet to see Lincoln or the film about the capture of Osama bin Laden by the director who made The Hurt Locker.
Quartet is a lovely film where five major actors front an ensemble cast of former musicians and other stage performers, directors and artists who live in an expensive country house with grounds retirement home facing closure because of its escalating costs. It is managed by a qualified doctor and has a range of activities which add to the challenge of balancing the books.
Residents at the home are three off the former opera singers who performance in the Rigoletto quartet remains highly regarded, Tom Courtney was an outstanding tenor of his day and his performance in the annual concert to raise funds on the anniversary of the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi is regarded as one of the highlights. He also gives talks to local school teenagers on the Opera and this leads to a demonstration that rap is a contemporary form of expressing emotions.
He is also man who never recovered from finding out on his wedding day that his common law wife, an exceptional soprano of the day played by Maggie Smith had been unfaithful with another tenor. He had subsequently refused to appear in productions in which she performed. He is upset and disturbed when he finds that Maggie, the fourth member of the famous quartet is to become the latest resident in the home when she has to give up her independent life in fine surroundings.
Her` arrival is greeted with great enthusiasm particular by Michael Gambon who plays an aging director who experiences giddy spells from his ongoing health condition and who organises the annual concert with a small committee which includes Pauline Collins, She plays someone in the early stages of memory forgetfulness, the fourth member of the Quartet, a kindly soul who admires Maggie as well as the other two. She gives a very fine performance which may well be overlooked against that of Maggie Smith and Tom Courtney. Billy Connolly plays the other member of the Quartet, a close friend and confident of Courtney since the marriage break up.
Maggie attempts to become friends with Tom who finds the situation intolerable at first but becomes reconciled to the need to persuade Maggie to perform with him and the others the Quartet in order to attract the audience and funds to keep the home going for another year or more. The three arrange to take Maggie out to a fine restaurant in order to talk her into the concert but she reacts with dismay and anger having revealed her fear of singing again and the feeling of betrayal that she hoped the others, especially Tom genuinely wanted to become friends again.
She is persuaded to participate and the latter part of the film concentrates on the build up to the great day as old wounds are healed and rivalries set aside. There are cameo performances from the various artists a couple performing in a cross between Naughton Wayne and Basil radford and Flanagan and Allen. Unlike Mama Mia for example there is no attempt by the four non singing actors to pretend they can relying on their original recording and clever cut always from the start and end of the performance as they are greeted and rewarded with applause for their appearance and performance.
This is a tender film which should well reap some rewards at the Bafta’s and Oscars although we none outstanding so far I believe the honours will be shared including Skyfall in the UK and perhaps a special Oscar in USA show with Les Misérables, Lincoln, Pi and the Biggalo film on Bin Laden.
Quartet has been compared to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which also starred Maggie Smith together with Judy Dench, Penelope Wilton, Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel. With the exception of Wilkinson who dies the other have indicated a willingness to return for a sequel where a script is said to have been delivered. I saw the Exotic Marigold Hotel in Theatre and again yesterday evening on the TV and regard the film as superior because of the significant interlocking a number of important stores whereas Quartet concentrates on the saving of the home, the coming back together of the four singes and the relationship between Tom and Maggie, who agree to remarry at the end.