Once again movie lovers, I was lucky enough to see the drama/comedy Quartet directed by the actor Dustin Hoffman, his debut in this role.
It was taken from a play by Ronald Harwood and originally the play ran in London’s west end from September 1999 until January 2000. It was filmed in Hedson House, Buckinghamshire and the name of the house was Beecham House, a home for retired gifted musicians. The scenery is so very English and most attractive indeed.
It was patterned after the Casa de Riposo per Musicisti, which was founded by Verdi himself. Each year, these gifted musicians hold a gala to raise funds in honour of Verdi’s birthday and this time, the financial side of things is not looking good. Into this story comes the wonderful actress Maggie Smith, an aging opera singer whose ex-husband, played by Tom Courtenay, is also living at the house. Both were surprised and not too pleased at first to see each other. Billy Connolly, the wonderful Scottish comedian, plays the part of a rather randy Scot, aging quite nicely with wit and humour. Pauline Collins is the fourth member of this quartet, a name given to the four who once sang a wonderful aria from the opera Rigoletto. A plan is hatched to try and sing this aria again at the gala, then the fun begins. The whole point of getting these four very well-known singers to sing this aria is to attract as many people as possible. It is a story of love, rivalry, aging and one thing did emerge for me so clearly. Talent does not die, these musicians could still teach and kept their talent very much alive. At the end, it tells us that real musicians played much of the supporting roles in the film and their pictures were shown to show who they once were. It is quite a slow moving film, a relief from violence and so easy to follow.
I have spoken to several people about this interesting film and I have nothing but very positive feedback. I hope Mr. Hoffman does another film, it seems he has great directing talent as well as his ability to act.
The movie is running a few more times this week at the GEM Theatre (April 10 and 11), so check it out people. It will be well worth it.
– Liz Martin is a film critic for the Grand Forks Gazette, a movie lover, cello player and happy retiree.