Noseland: Film Review

Noseland film still
SL Film
Uneven spoof-documentary on the foibles of classical musicians occasionally orchestrates mirth.

Writer-director Aleksey Igudesman's haphazard, improv-heavy film is a classical music mock-documentary, with prominently-billed John Malkovich and Roger Moore both gamely 'playing' themselves.

CLUJ, ROMANIA - While it hits some droll comic notes, classical-music mock-doc Noseland's humor plays in too minor a key to justify a feature-length running-time. Its ideal audience comprises those discerning aficionados who recognize real-life virtuosos such as Julian Rachlin, Mischa Maisky, Nicola Benedetti and Pavel Vernikov, and can thus appreciate the stream of gamely self-mocking in-jokes which comprise the bulk of writer-director Aleksey Igudesman's haphazard, improv-heavy script.

But such talents aren't exactly hardly household names among the wider public, for whom the main selling-point will be the presence of the prominently-billed John Malkovich and Roger Moore - both gamely 'playing' themselves, the ex-007 in a small handful of fleeting appearances. Low-level festival play may follow from the Cluj world-premiere, though upscale TV arts-channels will likely prove more receptive to what's essentially an overstretched DVD extra.

The conceit is that prominent violinist Rachlin - his youth, blond locks and buff physique making him something of a pin-up in a sphere more usually dominated by dowdier types - has asked his (secretly jealous) "oldest friend," aspiring filmmaker and fellow violinist Igudesman, to profile both himself and his annual music-festival in Croatia's coastal jewel Dubrovnik. The resulting footage is viewed in a studio by the pair, who we see from time to time - Rachlin voicing increasing concern about Igudesman's boorish tactics, seemingly learned from Sacha Baron Cohen's faux-naif alter egos, which quickly stretch the smiling courtesy of his interviewees.

These include Rachlin's celebrity chum Malkovich, whom we glimpse in extracts from 'The Malkovich Torment' - a deliciously over-the-top piece written by Igudesman himself. On a stone-walled stage illuminated in hellish red, the thespian declaims aloud a review in a Turkish publication - eviscerating one of his theatrical performances - to jagged accompaniment from Igudesman, Rachlin and company. "These people should not be let into Istanbul!" he bellows, resplendent in what looks very much like a flamboyantly frilly shirt from his own Mr Mudd line.

Though second-billed - his name sloppily mis-spelled 'Malkovic' in the closing credits - Malkovich effectively exits the scene at the 27-minute mark, and JM completists should note that the entirety of his magnificent 'Torment' is already available for free via YouTube. The remaining hour of Noseland - the title a typically daft reference to Rachlin's supposed fondness for tweaking his pals' proboscises - is unfortunately a long diminuendo in terms of gag hit-rate, as Igudesman obtains dwindling returns from repeated displays of his own supposed ineptitude and gaucherie.

The nadir is an especially silly 'rap video' spoof - featuring a frantically mugging Igudesman - that any TV producer would have rejected as laughably dated more than 20 years ago. Many of the skits peter out anemically, suggesting the need for a stronger editing hand from Sebastian Leitner - who also serves as cinematographer, and whose company SL Film is responsible for what's officially an Austrian production. The entirety of the filming appears to have been filmed entirely in sun-dappled Croatia, however, with many sequences looking like travelogue footage of or slick advertisements for the charms of historic Dubrovnik.

Rachlin's festivals are evidently jovial, collegiate affairs in which world-class performers unwind in beautiful surroundings and end up having just as much fun as their adoring public. But this excitement is only intermittently transmitted to Noseland's viewers, and though Igudesman and company's evidently hoped to froth up a freewheeling Spinal Tap for the Victor Borge crowd, this inside-baseball lark won't elicit too many calls of 'bravi!'

Bottom line: Uneven spoof-documentary on the foibles of classical musicians occasionally orchestrates mirth.

Venue: Transilvania International Film Festival, Jun.8, 2012.
Production company: SL Film
Cast: Julian Rachlin, Aleksey Igudesman, John Malkovich, Mischa Maisky, Roger Moore
Director / Screenwriter: Aleksey Igudesman
Producers: Aleksey Igudesman, Julian Rachlin
Executive producer: George Votis
Director of photography: Sebastian Leitner
Editor: Sebastian Leitner
Sales Agent: Sebastian Leitner Filmproduktion, Vienna
No rating, 82 minutes