When the beloved cellist of a world-renowned string quartet is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, the group’s future suddenly hangs in the balance as suppressed emotions, competing egos and uncontrollable passions threaten to derail years of friendship and collaboration. As they are about to play their 25th anniversary concert — quite possibly their last — only their intimate bond and the power of music can preserve their legacy.
Never, is one reminded more, that life is a series of transitions, than in Yaron Zilberman's "A Late Quartet"; four supremely talented musicians, after twenty-five years of performing together have reached a nadir in their professional and personal lives. Every actor brilliantly imbues their character with profound dignity. Philip Seymour Hoffman (2012 is his year) is second violinist, "Robert Gelbart", married to "Juliette" (group's violist), Catherine Keener; his life and love revolve around music and wife, but Juliette has kept her feelings in an impenetrable fortress throughout their marriage, even affecting their daughter "Alexandra" (simmering, sensual, Imogene Poots).
The primary focus of "A Late Quartet" is Beethoven's Quartet No.14, Opus 131 in C sharp minor (actors playing parts themselves; Brentano Quartet, the major portions), a challenging forty -minute composition, seven movements, performed without a break; herculean stamina is required to execute this masterpiece. Hence, the metaphor for the disintegration of this ageing quartet. Christopher Walken gives a divine, poignant portrayal as the senior member of the group, cellist "Peter Mitchell", diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, grieving the death of his operatic wife "Miriam" (mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter); the complexity of one of Beethoven's last creations is reminiscent of the vicissitudes facing the quartet.
The youngest and stratospherically gifted first violinist "Daniel Lerner" is depicted by smoky, explosive Mark Ivanir; he is wound as tightly as the hairs on his bow; controlled but possessing combustible emotions; the slimmest trigger could ignite a conflagration of the highest, destructive order.
Hoffman's performance is on par with Beethoven's Quartet; he is maimed, bleeds, his heart is torn but with instrument in hand, the world and all its glories, vices disappear; affirming the magnitude, awe, power, genius of the second violinist.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!!