Last month filmmakers and fans enjoyed another successful go round of the Toronto International Film Festivall (tiff). My sister Maureen aka Twitter's @missmccrocodile is a veteran Festival attendee. Her photographs of the annual event impart some of the excitement and her enthusiasm is contagious. I can't help but get caught up in the fun and usually head out to one or two pictures. This year, by design or luck, I saw a real winner in Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut Quartet.
Producer/director Hoffman introduced the film with two of his stars Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly. Their stooges act had the matinee audience in stitches and in a welcoming frame of mind for the movie to come. Mr. Hoffman won me over with his praise of the venue, Toronto's historic Elgin/Winter Garden Theatre. I never enter the theatre without feeling a thrill and recommend the tour when you visit our city.
Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay
Quartet is the filmization of Ronald Harwood's 1999 play with the screenplay by the author. The story is set in a retirement home for musicians named for Sir Thomas Beecham. Plans are underway for the annual concert fundraiser to coincide with Verdi's birthday. Heading the gala committee is Cedric played by Michael Gambon. Kudos to Mr. Gambon for rocking the caftan like no one since George Zucco in Tarzan and the Mermaids. One of Cedric's committee members is soprano Cissy played by the delightful Pauline Collins. Cissy is a "getting worse" in that her memory is failing. Her old stage partner Wilfred is the resident naughty man of the home played by Billy Connolly in his usual raucous and welcome manner. Wilfred delights in flirting outrageously with all the women and needling Cedric. The more sedate Reg played by Tom Courtenay came to the home to check on Wilf who had been admitted after a slight stroke. Here Reg found his niche in caring for his friends and holding music classes for young people.
Into this garden spot comes a new resident - a genuine opera star - played by Maggie Smith. Jean is known by all, but her appearance is less than appreciated by her former husband Reg. Her arrival shakes up his whole existence. There is also another "star" in resident brilliantly cast with Dame Gweneth Jones. The dagger-like looks that flash between the two divas, when the term meant more than demanding behavior, is worth the price of admission.
Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins
Jean's adjustment to the retirement home and a crisis with the annual gala are the concerns of the present. Reg's torment over the presence of his old love makes old wounds fresh. Life is definitely not retiring in this home because, as Cissy is fond of quoting Bette Davis' remark, "old age is not for sissies".
Director Hoffman gives us many quiet moments to observe the entire ensemble as life swirls around the preparations for the all-important concert. We get to know the patient piano teacher/accompanist, the old song and dance men, the lifelong choristers, the pit musicians and the staff of the home, along with our "quartet". I laughed, I cried, I laughed again, and I cared. Highly recommended.
"Hollywood, Calif., Oct. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The 16th Annual Hollywood Film Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Times, is pleased to announce that Dustin Hoffman will be the recipient of this year's "Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award," at this year's awards gala.
"It is a great honor to recognize Dustin Hoffman for his directorial debut for the movie 'Quartet.' His exquisite work and directorial skills are remarkable," said Carlos de Abreu , Founder and Executive Director of the Hollywood Film Awards."
Pictures of Hoffman, Connolly and Courtenay courtesy of Maureen Nolan.