A Late Quartet
Winter 2013 Features series
April 21, 2013 at 7:00pm
April 21, 2013 at 4:00pm
Directed by Yaron Zilberman
Screenplay by Yaron Zilberman and Seth Grossman
Starring Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rated 14A ·
A Late Quartet
This film offers a scintillating look into a world of art rarely depicted on screen. First-time feature director Yaron Zilberman assembles a powerhouse cast—Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths, The Affair of the Necklace), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Doubt), Catherine Keener (Please Give, Capote), Mark Ivanir (360), and rising young star Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, Me and Orson Welles)—for this dramatically charged tale of an illustrious string quartet that is set to celebrate their twenty-fifth season as an ensemble with an ambitious recital of Beethoven’s Late String Quartets.
While this milestone would seem to be cause for celebration, it soon becomes a catalyst for the members’ assorted personal traumas and reveals the tangled web of jealousy, envy, ambition and deeply felt affection that binds the group together. Older than his colleagues, Peter (Walken), the group’s founding member, is diagnosed with a degenerative illness that forces him to confront the troubling question of who will succeed him, and what his legacy will be. The marriage between second violinist Robert (Hoffman) and violist Juliette (Keener) goes suddenly south when infidelity rears its head, while brilliant, headstrong and steel-willed first violinist Daniel (Ivanir), already engaged in a battle over first chair with Robert, brings tensions to a boil when he falls into the arms of Robert and Juliette’s beautiful young daughter Alexandra (Poots), who is a talented violinist in her own right.
As the film progresses gracefully through its own “movements,” we see how Peter’s illness brings these discordant elements painfully to the fore, as long-repressed feelings and explosive emotions shatter the delicate harmony that has bound the group together for so long. As the ensemble’s aging patriarch, Walken has never been better, brilliantly etching Peter’s turbulent indecision and, finally, clear-eyed resolve about the right path to take—even as, unbeknownst to him, the four-cornered universe that he has lovingly created begins to fly apart. Not to be outdone, the rest of the cast rise to Walken’s challenge, and director Zilberman (who cowrote the screenplay with Seth Grossman) never missteps, guiding us gracefully through those painful inevitabilities of aging and change that contrast so movingly with the timeless beauty of music.
“A Late Quartet does one of the most interesting things any film can do. It shows how skilled professionals work. How much does one need to know about classical music to appreciate this film? Not very much. Like all masterful films, it contains what is needed to appreciate it. All that is needed is an interest in human nature, which during the quartet’s period of crisis is abundantly revealed. Actors such as Keener, Walken, Hoffman and Ivanir are frequently seen in roles that don’t really test them. That’s the nature of the commercial cinema. What a pleasure to see them sounding their depths.” (Roger Ebert,Chicago Sun-Times)