Updated: Oct 13, 2018
Written and Directed by Xavier Guignard
Starring Anne Ribière, Jean-Loup Horwitz, Jessica Mescall
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
With a sense of effortless warmth and grace, Xavier Guignard's short film The Conductor has a formidable filmmaking pedigree. Combining sumptuous visuals with immersive music from Tim Benjamin, and two great central performances, this is enriched cinema.
Emma (Anne Ribière) opens the movie by performing a marvellous piano piece. However, her musical talent and this seemingly picturesque moment are not enough to convince others that she is not anxious. It becomes clear that she is about to embark on a new career, one as the assistant to a world-famous conductor (Jean-Loup Horwitz). Upon arrival, there is an immediate and palpable tension between the two of them, one which gets explored using dialogue, body language, and indeed music, in order to ascertain the meaning behind the looks, as well as the brooding secret Emma holds.
Another production with Essay Pictures (see our Little Thief film review), Guignard and Ribière team up in another stylistically bold outing, this time less unconventional when it comes to the story. Indeed, it is the plot of The Conductor which is my only grievance. It, regrettably, lacks the heft or daring to match that of Little Thief, and also sadly fails to live up to the incredibly high standards of The Conductor's other aspects. With such a beautiful score, mise en scéne, and atmosphere, it seems a shame that the story did not contain more compelling ideas and build upon the mystery with a more satisfying final third.
That notwithstanding, The Conductor is a phenomenal achievement in terms of short filmmaking. The arresting music is more than enough to immobilise an audience, whilst the longing and uncomfortable chemistry between Ribière and Horwitz is equally as entertaining. Guignard shows brilliant restraint when it comes to depicting their journey, allowing numerous musical pieces to partition the events, creating even more mystery surrounding these two characters. During the performance sequences, an affection and almost loving tenderness is paid to the musicians and the result is a tremendously moving collage, inspiring great sensibility in the viewer.
The performances, as mentioned, had great chemistry. Ribière traverses a complex journey as her character displays numerous emotions and anxieties that seem to swirl around her with the music. Horwitz is more stoic in his approach, but just as interesting to watch, embodying the revered personality well.
Had the story delivered more on its promise of mystery and intrigue, then The Conductor could have been a showstopper of a short film. Instead, it is simply a masterful and opulent piece to be swept away by.
Watch the official movie trailer for The Conductor below...