DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

A Late Quartet, Blu-ray (2012/2013)

A very moving feature that ties in beautifully with this publication.

Published on February 10, 2013

A Late Quartet, Blu-ray (2012/2013)

Cast: Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir, Wally Shawn, Anne Sofie von Otter
Director: Yaron Zilberman
Studio: 20th-Century Fox [2/5/13]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extra: “Discord and Harmony: Creating A Late Quartet”
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: *****

A world-famous string quartet “The Fugue,” who have been together for 25 years, is threatened by the announcement by their beloved older cellist (Walken) that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and will have to retire from the quartet. This news brings up many levels of emotion, resentment, parent-child relationships, competing egos, and lust which nearly destroy the quartet. Their previous arguments over nearly every note broaden out into other very wide areas. They struggle, each in their own way, to somehow return to the same harmony in their lives as in their music.

The settings of the concerts are very realistic, and all four actors took lessons on their instruments, though a professional string quartet (the Brentano String Quartet) provides all the actual music. (The extras documentary is worth watching.) One of the several challenging elements is the struggle of two of the quartet members to bid successfully on a violin that has become available, when they are out-bid by buyer in the audience. The main first violinist of the quartet is a perfectionist who makes his own bows using special horsehair that he purchases at a stable. The second violinist (Hoffman) envies the position the leader holds and wants to play first violin some of the time, causing further problems.

The cinematography, with its many voices of New York City in winter, is excellent and the Blu-ray transfer is perfect. The composition strongly featured in the film is the Beethoven Op. 131 String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, and many viewers will be moved to listen to it more closely following viewing the film. Other portions of the film score come surprisingly from Angelo Baldalamenti (Twin Peaks).

—John Sunier

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