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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 September 2011
Time was when the phrase "international cast and movie" would have likely left you feeling you were going to see a patchwork major budget movie with actors from several countries and shot in many different locations. Thankfully this movie as a joint Canadian/Italian production shot in different parts of the world (Austria, China, UK, Italy and Canada) with a cast reflecting that diversity proves that great films can result.

The unifying element in this film is the red violin of the title, with its unique origins and perfect acoustics. It is used as the object to drive the story and travel the years and the world to see how the music it was used to play and create has been used and inspired all those who came into contact with it, often with painful results. The culmination is the unravelling of its origins for a Canadian auction of several classical violins. Enter Samuel Jackson in a slightly different role for him as the very well acted driven researcher/music detective who unravels and confirms the violin's true origin.

I am not a classical music lover so that this film kept my interest throughout is a testament to its power. I first saw it as an in flight movie and how having watched it again on HD dvd still find it a very well crafted and pieced together story encompassing the politics of classical instruments and music in 17th century Italy and 18th century Vienna; the crazy and destructive mindsets of creative and wealthy Victorians; but especially, the mood of the 1960s Cultural Revolution in China and how painful that period was for many Chinese people who were not devout party members and could not erase the past.

At times the film does test your credibility (especially the closing sequences as to the discovery of the violin in China and the final scene in the Montreal auction room) which is why I finally could not bring myself to award 5 stars.
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on 2 November 2008
"Cinque carte" - five tarot cards servant Cesca (Anita Laurenzi) makes her mistress Anna Busotti (Irene Grazioli) draw in 17th century Cremona when Anna, wife of the legendary violin maker Niccolò Busotti (Carlo Cecchi), asks her servant to tell her and her unborn child's future. And those five cards, along with an auction in 20th century Montreal, provide the framework for the tale that is about to unfold: The Moon - a long life, full and rich, and a long voyage. But there is a curse over her, Cesca tells her mistress as she turns the second card; there is danger to all who are under her thrall, and there will be many ... indeed, the Hanged Man is a powerful card! Then there will be a time of lust and energy, her Lazarus soul will travel across mountains, oceans and time, and she will meet a handsome and intelligent man who will seduce her with his talents "and worse" - in short, the Devil. The fourth card Anna has drawn is Justice: There will be a big trial before a powerful magistrate, Cesca tells her; she will be found guilty ... "beware the heat of the fire!" And indeed, the last card that Anna turns, much to her alarm, is Death - but the card is upside down and Cesca tells her not to worry because at this point this might be good news: She will be carried by the air and furious wind, but then her voyage will come to an end, "one way or another." There is "trouble" in this, Cesca says, "but you are strong now, like a tree in a forest." She will also not be alone; the servant sees a crowd of faces ... friends, family, enemies, lovers and a lot of admirers fighting to win her hand (lots of money, too) - and ultimately, a rebirth.

Each card symbolizes one of the stories told about the travels through time and space made by the Red Violin, Niccolò Busotti's last masterpiece, over the course of the centuries. And each of the violin's owners we meet symbolizes a stage of life: birth, childhood, coming of age, political awakening and maturity. In that, it is not so much the violin's voyage that links the five vignettes dealing with its owners' lives, such as Glenn Gould's life provided the links between the individual parts of writer-director Francois Girard's first film, "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould." Rather, the humans' stories provide snapshots of various stages of the instrument's existence, brought to life by John Corigliano's magnificent and Oscar-winning score and Joshua Bell's virtuoso performance - and of course, it is also obvious throughout that a link exists between Anna Busotti and the violin created by her husband.

"The Red Violin" is feast for the eyes and ears - luscious and true to detail in its costume design and cinematography, it not only faithfully uses the original languages of its various locations but also actors who are native speakers (to the point of having Suisse-born actor Jean Luc Bideau portray the French teacher of Austrian wunderkind Kaspar Weiss [Christopher Koncz], thus choosing an actor who is on the one hand fluent in German but on the other hand speaks it with a "genuine" French accent ... and although I don't speak any Chinese/Mandarin, I wouldn't be surprised if the scenes taking place in China were linguistically as faithful to their location as those set in Vienna and elsewhere).

Unfortunately, the movie's plot lines fall somewhat short of its visual and acoustic splendor. Granted, there was only limited possibility to develop meaningful stories for each of the vignettes. But given the highly symbolic nature of the movie's five parts, too many gaping holes remain. Although we know the violin's story doesn't end with Kaspar, for example, we can only guess as to how it falls into the hands of gypsies. And the following sequence, involving British composer and virtuoso Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng) and his mistress Victoria Byrd, has rightfully been criticized for the shallow waters it treads: Even if you don't have a whole movie to develop the relationship between a sensual, gifted and somewhat eccentric composer and his novelist lover (such as 1991's magnificent and in the U.S. sadly overlooked "Impromptu"), and even if Greta Scacchi's Victoria is far from being another George Sand, her talent seems ... well, maybe not wasted, but reduced to another "blonde bombshell" role unworthy of her Old Vic training. And don't even get me started on the final scene in Montreal and the "conflict" faced by violin appraiser Charles Morritz ... (although Samuel L. Jackson, at least, gives a finely tuned and sensitive performance which almost manages to smooth out the edges of the script's sometimes scratchy composition.)

But this movie's real star and ultimately, its saving grace, is the Red Violin itself - not the six models physically representing the instrument throughout the film of course, but the personality it gains through Corigliano's score and its uniquely beautiful interpretation by Bell, and the idea the violin stands for; that of music's everlasting magic. For bringing this idea to life alone, the movie is well worth seeing.
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on 3 April 2015
A masterpiece of a film. The Red Violin is moving and absorbing. The Violin is a symbol of beauty and love. The music it plays is haunting. But not everyone in the film understands this- especially Lord Frederick, who I find creepy and vain. Little Caspar in Vienna understands the Red Violin- in a touching scene he takes it into his bed, tells it they must sleep, and tenderly tucks it under the covers. The Violin's stay in China during the Cultural Revolution is scary..but at last it finds a home with someone who deserves it...
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on 15 January 2016
Forget the plot.
If you love music you need to see this. Sadly, I couldn't find it anywhere as a digital download, so buy the DVD before it vanishes.
Fabulous fiddle playing from Joshua Bell, fabulous score.
Surprisingly good miming particularly from child actors, not the usual excruciating fakery!
Why isn't this on Amazon Prime Video?
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on 11 January 2012
I loved this film!
beautiful music and a great story with a twist at the end!
very interesting, different eras of history,thought it might be a bit dull when it started,but i was pleasantly suprised! good curl up on the sofa type film. This is a channel4 production and I have to say that I have enjoyed a lot of their films.
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on 28 August 2014
I enjoyed this film. Wide in scope travelling through centuries .... and deep in meaning .... If you like films without car chases or baseball or cliched teenage crushes or gratuitous violence .... films you think about long after they are finished .... then you will like this.
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********CONTAINS SPOILERS********

Definitely one of the more interesting films to come out of the nineties. The film was made in 1997 and directed by Francois Girard. It follows the tragic history of "The Red Violin". The story commences at an auction of the violin in Montreal. The bidding commences and we are transported back in time to witness the instruments bloody past.

The story commences in 1681 in Cremona, Italy the ancestral home of violin makers. A master craftsman Nicolo, is in the process of making a violin when he receives the news that his young wife has just died in childbirth together with the baby. In terrible grief he brings her body back to the workshop where he mixes blood from her body with varnish and uses her hair as a brush to apply the mix to the new violin. This gives the violin its distinctive colour and thus is born the legendary "Red Violin". We then move forward to an orphanage in 1793 Vienna where we follow the progress of a brilliant young violin prodigy who has possession of the instrument. His young life is cut tragically short. We then move forward to 1890s Oxford where a young aristocratic Byronesque character comes into possession of the violin from roving gypsies. He is a virtuoso on the instrument but sadly it does nothing for his love life and he is shot at by his girlfriend who finds him in bed with a gypsy girl. The violin is damaged and his hand badly injured. The violin is then inherited by a Chinese servant and eventally resurfaces in 1960s China during a time of social upheaval. But through it all the violin survives tainting the lives of all who touch it. At the auction is a violin expert played by Samuel L Jackson, who has identified the violin. But he has one final deception to play and the violin will again continue on its bloody journey through time.

It is a fabulous idea for a film and is an extremely ambitious project which could have easily foundered in the wrong hands. That it does not is a testament to the director. The film makes riveting viewing throughout and has a final fascinating twist. It is helped immeasurably by a wonderful musical score by composer John Corigliano, which deservedly won an oscar. The solos were performed by the the extremely gifted Joshua Bell who demonstrates what a truly wonderful instrument the violin is in the right hands. Overall I found this to be one of the better films I have seen in recent years. Highly recommended.
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on 23 September 2015
An amazing film . This is the fourth copy I have bought .I lent my other ones but never got them back ! I have watched it many times and it has become my favourite film .The story is fascinating , the directing superb , the photography beautiful , the acting first class...what more can I say ?
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on 30 September 2013
The poetic journey of a violin from its maker's workshop with a splash the history of civilisation for good measure.
If you love music or if classical music has had an impact on your life, watch this film. Great cast and sets are great. Great to see with the French film Tous les Matins du Monde
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on 1 July 2013
Spoiler alert. The "Red Violin" was made in 1680s - the copy which is switched at the end was made in the mid 19th century. There is no doubt any international expert could detect a 19th century copy from the real thing. So the ending is totally implausible as the Jackson character would have to sweat each night hoping his crime would go undetected. In any case, what parent would allow their child to play a $3M violin. Collectors who pay out big bucks for violins in auctions commission their own authenticty test and do not rely on the auction house. I could forgive the film for this manipulation - what I can't forgive is dull storylines and this picture is full of them. The music also sucks. I was hoping for real music - lots of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini. The Pope episode is in bad taste and frankly - gratuitous drivel.
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