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The Red Violin Review

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Once Italian craftsman Nicolo Bussotti gets shot of his "perfect" violin, we follow it through the hands of various owners in various countries throughout the world including Britain, China and Canada

★★★★★

This intermittently diverting saga of a violin, painted red by its maker in grief-stricken circumstances, spans three continents in five languages and features actors of even more nationalities. As it's made by the director of the acclaimed Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, it's no surprise then that it's about music taking on a power of its own.

It also concerns the link between art and suffering. Once Italian craftsman Nicolo Bussotti (Cecchi) gets shot of his "perfect" instrument, it winds up in a monastery where, a century later, it comes alive under the bow of a boy wonder. Inevitably, tragedy strikes and, another century on, the violin is transformed into an erotic stimulus for British wild-child virtuoso Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng), which is where Scacchi comes in.

Its next stop is 1960s China where Mao decrees that all western "vices" shall meet with unmentionable punishment. In the film's most moving segment, Communist Party official Xiang Pei (Sylvia Chang) is forced to hide her beloved old instrument. Thirty years on, the knackered fiddle arrives at a Montreal instrument sale and specialist Charles Morritz (Jackson) sets out to prove that it's Bussotti's "lost" masterpiece.

Girard's narrative unravels by switching to and from the auction until we understand the motives of all the different bidders, and there's a refreshing last-minute sting in the tale. Jackson is oh-so-cool as usual, if not entirely convincing as an antiques expert, and there's enough emotionally involving content to offset the occasional lack of plot clarity.

There's enough emotionally involving content to offset the occasional lack of plot clarity.