A young woman from Paris moves to London hoping for a step up in her career. The catalyst, in this situation, seems to be the opportunity to work with a world-renowned orchestra conductor, whom she had looked up to for a long time. Despite witnessing the maestro’s undeniable talent, the relationship between the two of them is characterized by an illusive coldness, that has a secretive origin.
'The Conductor' establishes its refined atmosphere from the get-go and acts almost like a symphony of emotions in visual form. It takes a while to make its main arguments applicable to the larger context, but it does allude in small and subtle enough hints so that a second viewing can give a wholly different perspective on the story at hand. One clear advantage of the project is that it does not rush things and does not place musical performances on a secondary scale for purely functional reasons. It is quite the opposite: music gives life to the scenes and the characters, weaving a material that glues the scenes together and grants them coherence, while also allowing for respire moments that invite for contemplation and reassessments of emotions.
Both the main actors give a wonderful performance: Anne Ribiere as 'Emma' radiates a distinct kind of energy which is tempered only by her mysterious allure that hides a deep secret, while Jean-Loup Horwitz as 'The Maestro' is equally impressive in the array of emotions that he displays throughout the short film.
Their repeated interactions make up the substance of the project, whose name seems even more inspired after the credits roll. Speaking about one of the final scenes, it reminded us of the final scene in Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece, 'Youth' – through a different kind of conclusion, its thematic contribution to the main character’s worldview is very well evidenced in 'The Conductor', as well.
This is not to say that the film directed by Xavier Guignard is perfect by any means. Some shots are more inspired than others, while the manner in which a number of scenes are set – the initial encounter between the two main characters, for example – raises questions as to why they are exposed this way, but the questions are not answered. Then, content-wise, 'The Conductor' does make the right links between subtle clues and moments of revelation, but these could often be achieved in much more inspired ways.
Key moments are at times either not sufficiently strongly contextualized, or rather differentially, too pushed and rushed. For instance, the most important scene of the film occurs on the streets just outside the academy, but the context and location of characters for this setting feels forced just to facilitate the plot point – it’s not carefully and naturally woven in.
Despite some small blunders both technical and content-based, Xavier Guignard’s short film, 'The Conductor', remains a very enjoyable experience and successfully manages to intermix an emotional storytelling framework with the beauty of music, resulting in a refined melange that we certainly enjoyed!