A Late Quartet is the surprise gem of 2012 featuring four great performances, one of which from Walken deserving of more recognition, and a story which is rich with great drama, even when certain scenes get on the melodramatic side.
Fox | R – 106 min. – $29.99 | February 5, 2013
Directed by: Yaron Zilberman
Writer(s): Yaron Zilberman (story), Yaron Zilberman & Seth Grossman (screenplay)
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Imogen Poots, Liraz Charri, Wallace Shawn
Theatrical Release Date: November 2, 2012 (limited)
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 22.3 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Writer/Director Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet is, despite a few minor issues with the story, one of the better and surprising dramas released in 2012. The film had a minimal theatrical release appearing only on 100 screens at its widest (nabbing a respectable $1.5M), but what was most impressive is despite its niche subject, classical music, is relatively accessible to the general audience.
The story centers on members of a world-renowned string quartet — Daniel Lerner (MARK IVANIR) on first violin, Robert Gelbart (PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN) on second violin, Juliette Gelbart (CATHERINE KEENER) on the viola and cellist Peter Mitchell (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN) — are celebrating their 25th anniversary and more than 3000 performances. Their core is shaken when Peter announces his intentions to retire after being diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Peter’s revelation certainly causes a shake-up with the group, though it’s apparently something that has been fermenting for some time. Robert for instance has been wanting to do something different rather than the same old, same old; the marriage between him and Juliette is holding on by a thread especially when she doesn’t support his dream of playing first violin; Daniel is stubborn and takes a stern tone with the process but receives liberation in the unlikeliest place: from Robert and Juliette’s college-aged daughter, Alexandra (IMOGEN POOTS), also a violinist, as the pair grow closer after a few private lessons.
A Late Quartet is perhaps the most fascinating movie I’ve seen come out of 2012. No, it’s not the best and there are a couple melodramatic moments that occur especially between Juliette and Alexandra, but setting those aside, it’s a quiet, unassuming movie with performances which are amazing but at the same time understated.
Unfortunately none of them received very much attention when it comes to the Golden Globes or Academy Awards with Christopher Walken specifically deserving a Supporting Actor nod for his heartfelt and emotional appearance, something that of late has been missing as, from my perspective, he’s become mostly a caricature of himself (save for Seven Psychopaths which he also was quite good in).
Philip Seymour Hoffman once again does a fine job, something I expect nothing less from the veteran; Catherine Keener works wonderfully with a strong character who shows a real weakness as she deals with her marriage; Mark Ivanir is the unknown of the group, and doesn’t even get his name on the poster, but provides the obdurate passion of the quartet; and Imogen Poots is wonderful as the young person, though I think some might find her attempt at an American accent distracting.
A Late Quartet was skillfully co-written, with Seth Grossman and directed by Yaron Zilberman marking his feature-length debut following a 2004 documentary entitled Watermarks about two Jewish swimmers in the 1930s. It’s quite an accomplishment to tell a story about classical music performance keeping it both interesting and open for a general audience who may no little to nothing at all about the subject. I loved the fact it is a character-oriented drama and although it does delve into the music, it never gets lost in the weeds and instead the story was able to use the quartet in a metaphorical sense.
Hardly a masterpiece, A Late Quartet is still well worth checking out for an involving story and well developed characters. Christopher Walken in particular deserves praise for his performance which should’ve received an Oscar nomination, but even without Award-recognition, which in recent years has become vastly overrated, the film should be seen for him.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
Discord and Harmony (7:46; HD) is a simple behind-the-scenes featurette with cast/crew interviews as the filmmakers discuss the plot and the characters. It’s not a bad feature but you won’t learn anything new about the production.
Previews – The Oranges, Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Twentieth Century Fox releases A Late Quartet on Blu-ray with a decent if not unspectacular looking 1080p high-definition transfer. Presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio, the back cover erroneously states it is 1.78, I didn’t feel this was a great transfer as the colors are relatively muted but during the daylight scenes, the detail levels do look good, though and the darker levels have a nice starkness to them not showing artifacting or pixilation.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for a movie that is mostly dialogue-driven was impressive especially during the musical moments where, even though it is classical, you can really sense the depth with each note. Dialogue levels, though, do sound nice and clear primarily coming from the center channel while Angelo Badalamenti’s score sounds wonderful to go along with the classic music as well.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, A Late Quartet is the surprise gem of 2012 featuring four great performances, one of which from Walken deserving of more recognition, and a story which is rich with great drama, even when certain scenes get on the melodramatic side. Co-Writer/Director Yaron Zilberman delivers a great drama that hopefully will get more notice over the years.