admin On gennaio - 20 - 2013

the movie
review by Chiara Spagnoli

We are accustomed to seeing Mr Dustin Hoffman in front of the camera ever since he played the young Benjamin Braddock seduced by the sensuous Anne Bancroft-Mrs Robinson in ‘The Graduate’. Today at age 75, Hoffman has decided to step behind the camera for his directorial debut in the feature film ‘Quartet.’

The movie is a British comedy-drama based on the play of the same title by Ronald Harwood, which ran on London’s West End from 1999 to 2000. The film was shot entirely in the Georgian Mansion in Buckinghamshire, Hedsor House, which dates back to 1166 and that in the 18th Century was a royal residence of Princess Augusta, The Dowager Princess of Wales, mother to George III and the founder of Kew Gardens.














The story is set in a retirement home for musicians in the English countryside, Beecham House, where all the elderly talents are preparing themselves for the concert to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday. Cissy (Pauline Collins), Wilf (Billy Connolly), and Reg (Tom Courtenay) are all retired members of an operatic quartet and the arrival of the fourth member, and Reg’s ex-wife, Jean (Maggie Smith), gives rise to old rivalries and theatrical temperaments as it becomes unclear if the show will go on or not.

Quartet’ gives a great humanity and depth to what William Shakespeare would define as the sixth age of man when one shifts “Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide, For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes, And whistles in his sound,” just before the last stage of life takes over with “second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” These great musicians, away from the theatrical spotlight, are as any other human beings dealing with dotage. The lolloping storytelling and the British humour, that downplays this wicked stage of life, has the charming ability to tangle sweet melancholia to blissful amusement. Not to mention the treat of the outstanding cameos of true opera legends, on top of all Dame Gwyneth Jones, who supplies a spot of proper singing with a snatch of ‘Vissi d’arte’ from ‘Tosca.’

Curiously enough the entire story, starting from Harwood’s play, finds its inspiration in Italy, not just as the homeland of opera: in 1984 the documentary ‘Il Bacio di Tosca’, shot at the Milan retirement home founded by Verdi, portrayed the lives of retired musicians.


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