Sunday, January 5, 2014

Time Ravishes a Late Quartet

Photo by Tim Evanson
A Late Quartet (directed by Yaron Zilberman) opened in theaters on November 2, 2012 (grossing $1.6 million). I try to see all new releases that focus on midlife and late life issues. Nevertheless, it escaped my attention then and again when it was released on DVD on February 5, 2013.

It finally caught my eye while I was searching for more films starring actors in midlife and late life to add to my list.  I was interested to see how the film would discuss the complexities that form when a group of people work together for a quarter of a century.

This film did not disappoint. Its cast includes Christopher Walken as Peter Mitchell, a cellist who is a bit older than the other three members of The Fuge, a string quartet.  At the start of the film, Peter learns that he has Parkinson's Disease, which has affected his ability to perform.  He announces that their upcoming season will be his last, providing his dopamine medication allows him enough muscle control to perform one last time.

This news sends the rest of the quartet into chaos.  The viola player, Juliette Gelbart,  (played by Catherine Keener) has the strongest emotional attachment to Peter, so the news sends her reeling. Her husband, Robert Gelbart, (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) starts to question nearly every role in his life, including his role as second violin in the quartet.  Daniel Lerner (played by Mark Ivanir) begins to wonder if his uncompromising dedication to his art is really worth the price he's paid in other areas of his life.

Because the lives of these four characters are so enmeshed, changes in one person's attitudes and behaviors has a domino affect on all the others.  Their relationships are further complicated by the Gelbart's only child, a up-and-coming violinist Alexandra, played by Imogen Poots.

As a young woman perfecting her skills, she is a student of both Peter and Daniel, giving  her a connection to all four members of the quartet.  As these four wonder what legacy have made with their art, they look to their relationship to Alexandra and ask, "How does my work relate to the rising generation of artists?"

Although the film at times was a little overwrought emotionally,  it did ask a lot of great questions about age-related issues: the catalysts and indiscretions of midlife crises, end-of-career reflection, intergenerational ties, the conflicts that occur in long-lasting marriages, challenges of parenting young adults, complications that emerge from long-standing work relationships and so on.

But did I hate the film because it was emotionally intense? No. Because the main characters are artists, they feel deeply and think deeply about their emotions and their art.  This scrutiny helps dramatize some of the dynamics of midlife and retirement that other people might sublimate, minimize or ignore.


Films about Aging A-L

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