The Red Violin

When the long-lost “red violin,” a rare instrument crafted during the Italian Renaissance, shows up at a modern auction, it reveals its mysterious history — and the lives of its previous owners — in a series of flashbacks spanning three centuries. The plot has the flow of a musical piece with the returning chorus of the contemporary auction repeating throughout the film. This amazing story has depth and creative genius woven into each intricate subplot. The pieces harmonize beautifully with the whole ending in a masterful combination of all themes.  The epic, panoramic sweep of history and cultures throughout the centuries is quite an accomplishment. A steady theme throughout the film is passion and obsession. What makes this film so beautiful? The soundtrack is so magnificent that it won an Academy Award. That in addition to 16 other major film awards. How phenomenally wonderful an idea to explain the human ramifications of history as it applies on a human level by telling a story about the lineage of an instrument – a red violin with a profound history of its own. This is one of the most international films I’ve seen in ages. The script is essentially in English but, as we follow the path of this priceless instrument, subtitles will carry us through brief periods of German, French, Mandarin and Italian. But the film is so well made that crossing languages feels intuitive and seamless.   A magnificent, sweeping, rich drama which immerses you in the past cultures of the world and leaves the viewer with a sense of being part of a great painting. The film was inspired by one of the violins of Antonio Stradivari, the 1721 Red Mendelssohn, which features a unique red stripe on its top right side. The Red Mendelssohn is currently owned by Elizabeth Pitcairn, heiress to the PPG fortune, whose grandfather purchased it for her 16th birthday for $1.7 million at auction at Christie’s London. As the final credits passed my wife and I were left with a sense of awe and amazement that this film had been released with very little fanfare and recognition when it hit the theaters. This movie makes Shakespeare in Love look like The Blair Witch Project. I thought it was magnificent. Perfect, no, but still magnificent, and that goes a long way in my book these days. Usually I am disappointed with modern movies. Without exaggeration, this is the best movie I have seen in 10 years! This is a masterpiece. I am absolutely in love with this movie. This is by far my favorite movie of all. I’ll simply suggest you see the film. (Le Violon Rouge) Drama 1998 R 2hr 10m.

(For a documentary presenting a similar but true account of different valuable historical artifacts thought lost but finally rediscovered 70 years later, see also the film The Mexican Suitcase, about photos made during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour.)

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