(Le Violon Rouge)
Directed by Francois Girard. 1998.
The film dramatizes five stories about the different owners of the instrument through a period of 400 years. Each seemingly unconnected tale is woven into a tapestry, a theme and variation, that is epic in scope and a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. The central symbol is the last violin made by the fictional Niccolo Bussotti finished with a red varnish partially consisting of the blood of his dead wife. The story is framed by Cesca (Anita Laurenzi) a Tarot card reader foretelling the future and a modern auction in Montreal in which Samuel L. Jackson plays Charles Morritz, an appraiser of antique instruments who is determined to keep the violin out of the hands of crass global investors. The film goes back and forth between Cremona and Montreal and each segment is linked by the Tarot readings.
Rescued from an Austrian
orphanage by arts benefactor Georges Poussin (Jean-Luc Bideau), the violin
is first used by Kaspar Weiss (Christoph Koncz), a gifted child prodigy
with a heart condition. It is then redeemed from a graveyard by a group
of gypsies, travels to England where it becomes a tool of erotica in an
over-the-top Victorian melodrama featuring violin virtuoso Frederick Pope
(Jason Flemyng) and his lover Victoria (Greta Scacchi). After the instrument
is sold at a pawnshop in Shanghai, China, it becomes an object of scorn
by Communist cadres during the 1966-67 Cultural Revolution who see it as
too European. Coming full circle, the violin ends its journey in the hands
of Morritz (Jackson) in Canada who investigates its origins and recognizes
its true value. Along the way, the violin is shot at, buried alive, used
as a tool for political repression, valued only as a commodity, yet the
glorious music remains, a testimony to the enduring power of art. Bravo!
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