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Though perhaps a bit on the melodramatic side, The Red Violin is a beautifully photographed period piece. The film traces the journey of a violin, marked with a curse and a cost, from its tragic beginnings in medieval Italy, through an Austrian monastery, to 19th Century England, in Communist China, all the way to the present. Jumping back and forth through time from a modern-day setting, where the violin is being auctioned off after a music appraiser, played by Samuel L. Jackson, has uncovered its past, to the eras mentioned, John Corigliano's Academy-Award-winning score binds it all together.
The historical pieces in the film are much more interesting than Jackson's uninspired work in the present. Every now and then, he raises the decibel level of his voice to the uncontrollable shout that Dave Chapelle lampooned so well, but otherwise his performance is subdued, almost narcotic. His role would have benefited more if he had maintained at least a moderate level of excitement throughout. Jackson's snoozy delivery is balanced by the especially noteworthy Jean-Luc Bideau, who plays Georges Poussin in 18th-century Austria, the benefactor who takes in a young prodigy, Kasper Weiss, and attempts to cultivate his musical talent. This story, as all the others, has a tragic ending, but Bideau's spirited performance injects this portion with a vigor missing from other parts. For its occasional failings, though, this even-paced film holds up fairly well, and on the strength of its score and a few key performances isn't any worse for wear after a decade of being largely forgotten. SEE ALSO: www.lionsgate.com/meridiancollection
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
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