Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Quartet": senior comedy, old resentments, but a rousing concert at the end


I recall seeing an outdoor performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto at Carter Barron in Washington DC in the late summer of 1962, when I was a “patient” at NIH (a sequence I’ve widely discussed elsewhere).  I thought it was rather lightweight.

There’s a lot of Verdi in the new film by Dustin Hoffman, “Quartet”.  There’s some Haydn, Bach, Gluck, some pleasant salon music, too.  The setup, however, reminds me more of the “Marigold Hotel” movie last spring.

Beacham House, in rurual England, is a three-story, stone retirement home for retired musicians (or is it retired opera performers).  Now, I would find the excessive socialization in such a place rather oppressive.  All meals are communal.  Elderly people are getting in each other’s way, even when they need the company. One thing is clear: this is not a place where it would be easy for a retired person to continue composing or performing.  There is just too much social distraction. 
     
Yet, they need to bond together to raise enough money to keep the home open (even in “socialist” Britain).  Verdi’s birthday (in October) is approaching, and their concert is their chance. 
  
Enter the diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) who had been married, unsuccessfully, to resident Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay).  Her resentment at being pushed to “work” with him again can lead to some comic situations, indeed.

The setting seems to be in modern times, as we see computers and websites talking about hip-hop (along with tours of teenagers or college students, some of whom return to the concert at the end; one or two faces actually looked familiar to me, in person).  Yet, Jean seems to like to play old vinyl records on an old record player.

There’s one young supporting character, Simon;  Luke Newberry looks spectacular.
The official site (The Weinstein Co.) is here. The film was produced by BBC films and Hanway.

Don’t confuse this film with “A Late Quartet” (Nov. 6, 2012, here) or the 1979 sci-fi doomday mystery by Robert Altman, “Quintet” (Fox), with some rhythmically curious music by Tom Pierson. 

Picture (mine): Strathmore Mansion, Rockville, MD, 2009.  

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