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

Email a Friend

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.