Sunday, March 17, 2013

the film, "A Late Quartet"

It's unfortunate that two films have come out recently with similar titles. Dustin Hoffman has made his directorial debut in "Quartet," featuring the great Maggie Smith, and this is the one everyone is telling me to see. I will get to it in due time.

But my attention now is on "A Late Quartet," focussing on the trials and tribulations of a string quartet. The film sometimes teeters on the edge of soap opera, but it is for the most part a captivating story on how four intense, opinionated, brilliant musicians spend day-in and day-out together, over the course of 25 years. The film begins near the end of their run, so they have a history. But that's only the beginning, because there are surprises still in store, for the viewer and the members of the ensemble.

There is one moment that caught my attention, when Christopher Walken, the cellist in the quartet, ruminates on thoughts of his late wife (in a beautiful cameo by Anne Sophie von Otter), who has died within the past year. During a master class with his students, he brings his hand to his face and gazes at his wedding ring, thinking of her. Only problem is, it's on the wrong hand.

Most married string players wear their wedding ring (if they where one at all) on their right hand, so that their left hand is free for all of the complex fingering they must do on the fingerboard of their instrument. The right hand holds the bow, so a ring on that hand doesn't present any problems. Not so for the left hand.

But Walken's ring is on his left hand.

It made me wonder, because certainly the director knew this, given that there were so many experts and consultants working with Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir, all non-string playing actors who did a credible job making us believe they really could play. But perhaps a ring on the right hand would have confused most viewers, who don't know this about string players?

And so the ring stayed on the left hand.

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