'A Late Quartet,' Film About NYC String Quartet, Premieres in Toronto

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 05:18 PM

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir in 'A Late Quartet' Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir in 'A Late Quartet' (West End Films)

A film about a New York string quartet got its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday night.

“A Late Quartet,” directed by Yaron Zilberman, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir as an illustrious string quartet which, after having spent 25 years together, is faced with the illness of its beloved cellist, Walken's character.

Early reviews have called the film a love letter to classical music as well as an adoring tribute to scenic Manhattan, with a number of scenes shot on the Upper East Side.  

At the musical heart of the film is Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131, which is performed on the soundtrack by the Brentano Quartet. The fictional quartet was modeled after two ensembles, the Guarneri Quartet and the Quartetto Italiano (the latter comprised of three men and one woman), according to an interview with Zilberman on WeAreMovieGeeks.com. The cast was required to simulate playing about 30 phrases for the camera.

The movie's biggest wild card may be the acting talent. Can Walken convincingly play against type and take on a dramatic role with no hint of danger and menace? Will the cast's ability to portray classical musicians ring true and not fall into clichés?

Early coverage has been largely positive. “The film and the performances retain a quiet, forceful elegance that’s perfectly in keeping with the Beethoven they’re playing,” writes the Globe and Mail. “Walken, playing against type as the warm-hearted leader of the group, is an especial pleasure.”

Variety writes: “This intelligent, minor-key work should find a small, discerning audience in arthouse play." It adds: "The soundtrack (abetted by Angelo Badalamenti's score) is a chamber aficionado's delight, relying somewhat excessively on works by Haydn, Bach and Strauss to smooth transitions between scenes."

The movie will be released in the US on November 2. Watch the trailer and, if you've seen the film, share your reviews below.


More in:

Comments [2]


I'm intrigued by the trailer. Having been a professional quartet player for most of my career, I can see what's coming. The life is as difficult as the music is sublime. I look forward to seeing the film.

Sep. 13 2012 12:05 PM

Haven't seen it, but seems similar to "Opus," a melodramatic play about a string quartet with a cellist facing a serious illness. Nice to see classical music playing a role in a movie, although I hope there are a few moments of joy, rather than just tsuris. Of course, watching Philip Seymour Hoffman, fine actor though he may be, fake playing the violin brought a giggle from just the trailer. There should be special "play along" showings with the string dept. of Julliard, because I except gales of laughter. (Walken fingering the cello like a jazz bass is pretty great too.) If Meryl Streep were in it, she would have taken lessons for a year!

Sep. 12 2012 12:04 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.


About WQXR Blog

Ignite your love of classical music every day with the articles published in the WQXR blog. Here you can find blogs about classical music, playlist selections, curated videos, and other features highlighting the joy of great music.