A Late Quartet

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A Late Quartet
Poster for the film, featuring four musicians on a stage; the title: "A Late Quartet"; and a byline, "No arrangement is more beautiful… or more complicated."
Theatrical release poster
Directed byYaron Zilberman
Written byYaron Zilberman
Seth Grossman
Produced byYaron Zilberman
Mandy Tagger
Vanessa Coifman
David Faigenblum
Emanuel Michael
Tamar Sela
CinematographyFrederick Elmes
Edited byYuval Shar
Music byAngelo Badalamenti
Opening Night Productions
RKO Pictures
Distributed byEntertainment One
Release dates
  • September 10, 2012 (2012-09-10) (TIFF)
  • November 2, 2012 (2012-11-02)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$8 million[2]

A Late Quartet (released in Australia as Performance) is a 2012 American drama film directed by Yaron Zilberman and co-written by Zilberman and Seth Grossman. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Poots.[3]

Inspired by and structured around Beethoven's Op. 131, the film follows the world-renowned Fugue String Quartet after its cellist Peter Mitchell (Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Frederick Elmes served as cinematographer and Angelo Badalamenti composed the score. The Brentano String Quartet played the quartet music for the soundtrack and Anne Sofie von Otter appears as the cellist's late wife, singing Korngold's "Marietta's Song" from Die tote Stadt.

The film premiered in the Special Presentation program at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and was theatrically released in over 30 countries. It received generally positive reviews.


As the Fugue String quartet approaches its 25th anniversary, the onset of a debilitating illness to cellist Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), forces its members to reevaluate their relationships. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Peter announces his decision to play one final concert before he retires. Meanwhile, the second violinist, Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), voices his desire to alternate the first violinist role, long held by Daniel (Mark Ivanir). Robert is married to Juliette (Catherine Keener), the viola player of the group. Upon discovering Juliette does not support him in this matter, Robert has a one-night stand. Juliette tells him to leave the house. Further complicating matters, their daughter, Alexandra (Imogen Poots), begins an affair with Daniel, whom her mother once pined for. When Juliette tells Robert of this affair, Robert punches Daniel, and Peter threatens to cancel the concert.

Their final concert is a performance of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14. Midway through, Peter withdraws to be replaced by Nina, another cellist.




To learn how to play the string instruments, the actors had individual coaches who specialized in their respective instruments. Zilberman filmed the Brentano String Quartet perform Op. 131 with five cameras capturing five separate angles, which he then edited into "video-boards" that the actors studied. The aide helped them simulate their individual shots during production.[4]


The film features members of the Brooklyn Parkinson's Group in the scene where Peter is in a physical therapy class.[5] For the scenes where Peter's Parkinson's becomes apparent, there were two coaches on set, Pamela Quinn and Joy Esterberg.[5] Nina Lee, cellist of the Brentano String Quartet, plays herself in the film. David Redden, legendary auctioneer and Vice-Chairman of Sotheby's, also plays himself in the film. Members of the Attacca String Quartet play student musicians in the Juilliard class scenes.


The film's stage performances were filmed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the same stage where the Guarneri Quartet gave its farewell concert in 2009. A Late Quartet was the first production for which the Frick Collection allowed producers to shoot inside its building.


The scene in which Peter Mitchell tells his music class an anecdote about meeting Pablo Casals is adapted from an anecdote found in Cellist, the autobiography of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky; the circumstances of the encounter and the pieces played are changed in the film, but Casals's words are essentially identical to those recounted by Piatigorsky.[6]

The subway poetry the Little Girl reads from when Juliette visits Peter is from Ogden Nash's poem "Old Men". T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which Peter reads from at the beginning of the film, itself was inspired by Beethoven's late quartets.



A Late Quartet received generally positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 76% based on reviews from 113 critics.[7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 67 out of 100 based on reviews from 31 critics.[8]

It was a New York Times Critics' Pick which Stephen Holden called a magnificently acted, "deeply felt, musically savvy film".[9] Rolling Stone's Peter Travers called it "a shining gem of a movie".[10] Roger Ebert said "it does one of the most interesting things any film can do. It shows how skilled professionals work."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Late Quartet (15)". British Board of Film Classification. March 6, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  2. ^ "A Late Quartet (2012) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ "A Late Quartet (2012)" Archived 2014-02-19 at the Wayback Machine. ComingSoon.net. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  4. ^ "A Late Quartet Press Kit" (PDF). mongrelmedia.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-24.
  5. ^ a b Zilberman, Yaron (2012-11-23). "A Late Quartet". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  6. ^ Piatigorsky, Gregor (1965). Cellist (1st ed.). Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2013. The greater was my shame and delight when, a few years later, I met Casals in Paris. We had dinner together and played duets for two cellos, and I played for him until late at night. Spurred by his great warmth, and happy, I confessed what I had thought of his praising me in Berlin. He reacted with sudden anger. He rushed to the cello. 'Listen!' He played a phrase from the Beethoven sonata. 'Didn't you play this fingering? Ah, you did! It was novel to me... it was good... and here, didn't you attack that passage with up-bow, like this?' He demonstrated. He went through Schumann and Bach, always emphasizing all he liked that I had done. 'And for the rest,' he said passionately, 'leave it to the ignorant and stupid who judge by counting only the faults. I can be grateful, and so must you be, for even one note, one wonderful phrase.' I left with the feeling of having been with a great artist and a friend.
  7. ^ "A Late Quartet". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  8. ^ "A Late Quartet". Metacritic.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (2012-11-01). "A Late Quartet, Directed by Yaron Zilberman". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  10. ^ Travers, Peter (November 1, 2012). "A Late Quartet". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 31, 2012). "A Late Quartet (2012)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.

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