Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Surprise Perfection In An Ancient Violin: The Red Violin Is A Subtle, Perfect Film!

The Good: Excellent Acting, Wonderful Cinematography, Extraordinary Plot, Good characters, Amazing Soundtrack, Everything, Cast
The Bad: None, which surprised me.
The Basics: Don't bother reading other reviews of this film; it's a perfectly assembled and executed film that works wonderfully when seen without preconceptions.

I picked up The Red Violin because I've yet to be disappointed by Samuel L. Jackson's acting. This film continued his fine tradition of keeping me happy with his work. I was, however, a bit miffed watching the opening credits of the movie. Why? I kept waiting for Samuel L. Jackson's name to show up. His name was last in the credits. I was surprised.

After watching The Red Violin, I understood. It's not that Samuel L. Jackson wasn't fabulous, because he was, but rather that the movie was one of the most true ensemble pieces ever put together. So while he has a good role, it's certainly not his movie and it's not any one actor's story.

Appropriately entitled The Red Violin, the film essentially focuses around an almost legendary violin, made in the 1600s. Opening with its appearance in our current year, we see the Red Violin up for auction. What follows is the history of the violin interspersed with the major bidders arriving at the auction. Each of the bidders is related to a piece of the violin's history.

The violin travels from its creator to a brilliant child prodigy to gypsies to "the devil himself" (Frederick Pope) to China. Those seeking to bid on the violin range from monks to Pope Society members to nationals from Shanghai. The thing is, while we - the audience - get only about half of the character's names in the film, we know a great deal about them and why they are there. Their motivations, the deeper levels to their characters, are evident through the weaving storylines.

The last third of The Red Violin is the story of Charles Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson's character), an appraiser brought in to evaluate the violins before the auction. Through several inspections, he comes to believe the Red Violin is the sought after, long lost Red Violin that has the rich history we've just seen. Morritz's tale unfolds well and it's a richly written tale. Everything makes sense by the end of the film.

The thing is, I hadn't heard of The Red Violin before I watched it. I liked the freedom that left me to enjoy the movie. There are subtitles through much of the movie. As it happens throughout time and in different countries, that makes a lot of sense. I liked that the title appears in all of the languages that appear in the movie.

I don't know about violins. I know about excellent films, great storytelling, superb acting and acting that is more than just competent. I didn't expect The Red Violin to be so good and if you make the effort to see it, you'll see why I'm floundering now. It's a film hard to describe, easy to enjoy. I only rate things five stars when I think they're perfect. I didn't expect The Red Violin to be perfect, but the truth of it is, it is. It tells an amazing story, with intriguing characters and it's gripping. It's not the fastest paced movie, but it moves at its appropriate pace.

I'm not saying anything more about this movie; the truth is, The Red Violin is riveting and it deserves to be seen and enjoyed for the way it puts everything together, essentially stringing together the collective obsession with perfection that exists in humanity, instead of analyzing the very same.

For other films set primarily in foreign settings, please check out my reviews of:
Memoirs Of A Geisha
Let The Right One In


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2008, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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