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Le violon rouge
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Red Violin More at IMDbPro »Le violon rouge (original title)

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72 out of 86 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely wonderful

10/10
Author: Bruce Jones (bl.jones@charter.net) from Southern California
6 July 1999

I thought this might be one of those films that would be "good for me" to see. I was mildly intrigued by descriptions of the story I had read and with the trailer, so I thought to take a chance. I took someone very close to me, an actual violin prodigy. Coincidently, her and I have recently been searching for a decent violin for her that is affordable by actual humans, so we could relate to parts of the plot first-hand. We arrived to a very thin theater in one of those mega-complex theaters, and while everyone was queuing up next-door to see the latest blockbuster from Hollywood I settled into an amazingly comfortable seat with an excellent view and prepared for whatever might come.

I was shocked. This film turned out to be clearly one of the best movie going experiences I have had in ages. We see this as the story unfolds and is creatively told through the reading of the violin makers wife's fortune with a deck of Tarot cards. It is the story of a part of the life of a violin; of the humans who would dare to possess her beauty. A masterpiece of a craftsman's art, it is desired by many for it's acoustic perfection. But, as Tolstoy said, "how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness." Or more interestingly, from Saint Augustine: "Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked." There seems to be a curse on this instrument as it brings ill to those who manage to possess it. This makes the ending especially eerie.

An original, imaginative and thought provoking story that engaged one's mind as American films almost never do. I will not describe more of the plot, it's far too good to ruin. The memory of this film will be one long treasured.

Oh, as for my guest, the honest-to-God prodigy: she said the music was magnificent (it was) even though a real musician could tell the actors weren't playing, it was well done.

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57 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Wow.

Author: Sandman-40 from California, U.S.A.
19 June 1999



I saw this film the same day it came highly recommended to me by a coffee shop friend who couldn't stop gushing about it. While this guy is also a member of the Academy and has steered me to some pretty good picks in the past, I walked into the theater fearing the usual letdown that invariably follows going into a film with overly high expectations (i.e. The English Patient, The Truman Show, etc.) This film not only managed to exceed my expectations, it restored my faith in the magic and mystery of cinema altogether.

We start with a rather simple but cleverly structured story about a very unique red violin that emblematically (and quite literally for that matter) takes on the heart and fate of a 16th century Italian woman as it passes across several centuries and continents on its way to the auction block in present day Montreal. The unfolding vignettes reveal more and more about the nature of this instrument and, when strung together in the bigger picture, play out like finely orchestrated movements of a great sonata; each movement plucking out its own stirring and poignant variation on theme. I was so swept up in the majesty and spectacle of this film that it didn't even occur to me until much later that the violin is nothing less than a personification of beauty itself (okay, okay, maybe I'm starting to overly deconstruct things here in retrospect, but the parallels are too perfect to remain unexplored). It's fascinating to watch both the transformative and destructive power of this beauty as it's placed into the hands of a sensitive young boy, a self absorbed musical protege, and a remorseful ring leader of a totalitarian regime. Much praise goes to director Francois Girard in how he refrained from overplaying the social and moral commentary, repeating this theme at mostly an emotional level rather than an intellectual one -- much in the same way that beauty itself, to some degree anyway, defies analytical discussion and belongs in the realm of pure and simple experience. You obviously can't dissect it, as co-writer Don McKellar¹s onscreen character thought to do, and so it remains as it was in it's original form: timeless, magical, elusive. The stuff that pompous nobility and rich collectors the world over will offer a king's ransom for and still never manage to posses in the end.

Performances were good to great all around. It's hard to go wrong with Samuel L. Jackson in a leading role and I appreciated the fact that the actors actually appeared to be playing the violin on camera, as opposed to watching the typical hokey cutaways and cheat shots often associated with onscreen musical performances; nauseating contrivances that always tear down the wall of suspended disbelief with a resounding crash. The costuming, set design and cinematography were absolutely stunning (Oscar nominations soon to follow I'm sure) without taking center stage from the story. I especially loved the amazing period recreations of China and Austria. I felt like I was fully transported in both space and time to these places and walking among people who really belonged there.

Overall I would rate this one as a true film classic on the level of masterpiece. Perhaps this is in part due to my love for music and the undeniable fact that, being the sentimental guy that I am, I'm always a sucker for haunting open-ended films like this where you leave the theater in a half daze, pondering all the implications, mesmerized by the lingering imagery. I'm still speculating about the future of Mr. Moritz and what will ultimately happen when beauty is placed into the hands of our modern world.

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54 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Unforgettable experience

Author: rudat from vancouver
4 February 2001

After watching too many would-be "great pieces" lately that are enticing you from TV commercials, leaving you (or me, I should say) disappointed most of the time, "The Red Violin" is a gem among all these fleeting flicks or time-wasters. Recommended by a good friend I went to see this piece and frankly, I came out of the theater speechless! I was overwhelmed, enriched as well as happy that I finally, in years, got to see something that's well worth while.

From the story, costumes, cinematography, acting and finally its greatest actor -the superb music- all absolutely flawless! S.L.Jackson acts at his best, his performance is unforgettable and I am sure one of his own most favourite; I can tell. I was estatic to see J.Corigliano win the Oscar for the best score, and saddened at the fact that the whole movie wasn't nominated for even more Oscars - are they blind in that Academy or what?! Now that's a shame but you know what I don't care what the Academy has to say, important is my subjective feeling and this movie made my day, and days to come.

I couldn't wait to get hold of both, the video and the sound track, and I never seem to get tired watching or hearing that beauty all over again. And believe it or not, that ingenious soundtrack can be so erotic at times that if I may give a little advice to all these men out there seeking to entice and seduce their partners - hey, this might be the way to go - worked for me (and her!)!!!

Anyways, I'd like to recommend this movie to everybody with an open heart and mind, I guarantee satisfaction and enrichment in every possible way. And lastly let me bestow my gratitude and thanks to the very director F.Girard for enlightening my spirit, my heart and my soul with his vision of a truly quality story that I can never forget.

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52 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

Take the journey

Author: mhmslm (mhmslm@pacifier.com) from Vancouver, WA
4 March 2000

The Red Violin is the saga of spirit and soul as they press onward through time. The adventure begins with Anna, a young woman whose only child brings about her untimely death. A gift of a violin to be given to the babe becomes host to Anna's spirit. The Red Violin narrowly escapes the grips of greed, ignorance, and vengeful lust as she is passed from hand to hand of those who would have her. She wanders about the globe until at last she is exonerated by the one man who knows the truth that she holds within her wooden belly.

In spite of the death and despair, the film is truly positive. It teaches us to appreciate people from all walks of life. From the violin maker of the 16th century who made the Red Violin for the bittersweet arrival of his baby son, we travel through time with the violin to the Chinese Communist Party who spelled out certain death to any instrument that may threaten the ideals of the collective. In our travels, we learn the dark and sordid side to each person, but we also learn that to create a shadow there must be light. That light, or hope, that the people shed is what gives the violin her vitality and will to survive.

A truly magnificent film, The Red Violin inspired me to recollect my own past I shared with my aged upright piano; the certain spiritual vibrations I felt while playing a ragtime melody. Suddenly, memories came rushing back to me tenfold. I recalled the times as a young girl I would listen as my father played his rendition of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. Wiping a tear from my eye, I remembered how long ago that truly was; how my piano shaped and molded me, as I shaped and molded it. I am left wondering where my beloved piano is now. Who is influencing his instrumental life? In the end, what stories will he have to tell, and will they be of me

Take the journey of the Red Violin. Visit other lands and other times. Feel the strings of life against your fingers; the bow of spirit in your palm. Rest your chin against the weathered wood of wisdom. Listen closely and hear the music that is the gentle rhythm of time and change. See the film to learn about music; to learn about history; to learn the boundless raptures of the spirit. Perhaps, as I, you will learn just a little more about yourself.

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30 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful journey

Author: david.farthing (david.farthing@dial.pipex.com)
6 April 2000

I was captivated from the moment the film started. The music flowed effortlessly and the scene was set immediately.

Some people may be put off by the use of foreign language and subtitles early on in the film but I found this served to enhance the story and grab my attention even more. It reminds you of the true beauty of language and music and no matter what your taste you cannot help but to be drawn into the story.

The story follows the journey of the Red Violin from its creation and you really feel that something special is happening from the way the red violin is revered. The different people who come into contact with the instrument all have there own stories and you find yourself trying to guess how the Violin will affect them. Sometimes you are right and sometimes not.

Francois Girard has produced a wonderful film and the original score enhances this. This film is one that I will watch again and again and one that should be highly recommended.

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28 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Measured, thoughtful account of near-mystical instrument

Author: pooch-8 from Fargo, North Dakota
6 August 1999

Literally spanning centuries to unfold its mesmerizing tale, The Red Violin traces the unbelievable history of an acoustically flawless masterpiece crafted in the late 1600s by an Italian master. Co-screenwriters Francois Girard (who directed) and Don McKellar (who acts in the film) structure the movie around a wealth of richly detailed locales, including Vienna, China, and Oxford, and provide a unique modern-day Montreal framework which intertwines with the often tragic history of the instrument to provide the narrative with a rather unique element of mystery. The late-19th century English section shows the film at its most baroque, but each of the finely tuned tales reaches for some truth about music, life, love, and passion -- and that is commendable. Music lovers take note: the sounds that come out of the crimson treasure throughout the course of its journey are utterly thrilling and inspiring.

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26 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

emotional

9/10
Author: Jess-24 from ontario, canada
6 December 1998

this movie, like a book of short stories, can hook you once and annoy you the next. The segments follow a violin for 3 centuries obviously shooting for a wide range of settings, thus a wide range of stories and characters. But they are all much different. The Red Violin will be rewarding for those who pay attention, and a pain for those who don't, because the transaction of the violin from person to person isn't smooth, whoever is not willing to pay attention should steer clear. I definitely recommend it to all big movie buffs, because those willing to see it, should. I really enjoyed Don Mcellars work before, and this is no different. Some segments, like 'Vienna' are very enjoyable and sad (in a good way, like bambi's mom getting shot) well some like 'Oxford' are dark and depressing. You may not leave thinking it's spectacular, but ya gotta respect it. Thumbs up.

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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

An ambitious story that delivers

9/10
Author: Tom Black (tomtblack@webtv.net) from Boardman, Ohio
6 September 1999

What can you say about a film that covers three centuries, people from all stations of society, and several European countries and Canada. Ambitious is a good start. This film was very well crafted and at about one hundred forty minutes was too short for me. The story follows a red violin, an inanimate object, although at times it seemed alive to me, thru three centuries and the influences good and ill that it has on its possessors. It does ever seem to be owned. Each of its possessors lives a life of passion and turmoil. The violin's birth is during turmoil and during its life it buried, shot, and almost burned. The writing which includes this parallel between the violin and its possessor , five somewhat independent segments that mell and converge in the final scenes, and a story told by tarot cards make for an extremely unique experience. Add to that the musical score, scenery, the varied languages and cultures and you have a great offering. The performances were all strong, but I thought Jason Flemyng as Lord Frederick Pope stood out. To say his character was eccentric and maybe a little over the top is justifiable but I'm sure that was intended. English nobility has always been known for its idiosyncrasies. The ending has incongruous feel with the remainder of the film but is satisfactory and I can not suggest a better one. Great entertainment! Three and a half stars!!!

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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Recognition for an unusual epic

9/10
Author: Patrick Duplessis from Canada
25 May 2005

Just to tease those who have not seen this incredible work of art and to make the others think you should see it again !

Who could think that a movie about a simple violin could turn into such magnificent beauty? «The Red Violin» whole story is based on a piece of wood and strings, which carries a whole story of humanity and social issues. We travel through 400 years of history and music, to end up in what you might think is the end of the story of the «red violin» but in fact, takes you to the next chapter.

If you are a classical and historical music fan, you will love this movie. The Oscar to composer John Corigliano was not an option.

François Girard clearly has something for music, as he did another wonderful movie about pianist Glenn Gould, «Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould», a movie that really drives us through the life of a great piano interpreter. Quite different from «The Red Violin», but quite good too. I can't wait to see his next movie, if he ever plans to do one, but the challenge to surpass «The Red Violin» is quite big.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful ride, a bit thin by the end, but great mise-en-scene meanwhile

7/10
Author: secondtake from United States
9 July 2012

The Red Violin (1998)

A total romantic fiction, rather compelling in its construction over many centuries, and beautifully wrought in each era.

I don't suppose the violin needs romanticizing, nor does it need a kind of obvious group hug view of its history, but that's the feel good, up and down, loving story it takes. First there is the small violin shop where it is made, and the tragedy around this particular model, the maker's last. It's supposed to come from the same era as the Strad and other timeless fiddles. It's a great place to begin a story filled with mysteries (and the mystery of a great violin, it's shape, wood, and varnish, is given high tech reinforcement in the end with an electronic awe). So the violin is born.

And it moves from a Austrian orphanage (with an unbelievable prodigy) to generations of gypsies (some interesting filming with the violin suspended in space as one after another player takes it up) to a crackpot British prodigy (who acts more like a rock star and an indulgent one, if that's not redundant). Finally it winds its way (not so improbably, because life is weird) to China, which of course echoes the modern rise of the Asian virtuosi coming from that part of the world.

So the tale is the history of a violin, a possessed one. The spirit of the instrument seems to inhabit the movie. This is reinforced by an Italian fortune-teller (a kindly witch) who has an early Tarot deck. The Tarot was not used for divination that early--it was introduced a card game in Northern Italy in the late 1400s--but that's okay, because it works into the plot really well. Five cards are chosen by the pregnant wife of the master violin maker. Each is turned over for another twenty minute chapter in the movie. In a key moment, the wife asks the fortune teller, what if I don't like what it says, what if it's evil? And the fortune teller says, "I'll pretend not to notice."

Promptly the moon is the first card, the most ominous card in the deck (I've studied tarot a bit, which is why, weirdly enough, I watched the movie). But the fortune teller doesn't say that doom is facing the pregnant wife. Instead she lies, and the movie takes one turn after another.

You might think this is brilliant stuff, and it has the trappings of that. It could have been, with some slight twist of intentions, artfully transcendent. But it's a hair long at times, and by the last (modern) scenes, a bit cold and unfulfilling. I don't know the solution to what might have worked, but I know it left me interested and curious by the end, not quite bowled over, which is clearly (on the sleeve) the intention.

Still, an engaging, musically rich tapestry of great scenes, great music, and a brimming story. Recommended, with slight reservations.

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