THE RED VIOLIN
The Red Violin is lavishly mounted and photographed. What is doubly impressive about this is that the film was made on a budget of only $10 million, usually around half of what the average Hollywood film spends on its promotional budget alone. The fact that on this meagre budget Francois Girard has managed to bring in names like Samuel L. Jackson and Greta Scacchi, not to mention shoot in five different countries, is a major miracle.
One hates to decry such effort but for all that The Red Violin seems a nice film, rather than a good film. It is one aimed squarely at the upper-class, Academy Awards type arthouse crowds it trades in a cravat and tie version of art with a capital A. However, beyond its locations, its lovely compositions and wonderful score, the film rarely comes to life. For all that it is a film centred around visionary inspiration that verges on madness, it is a film severely lacking in any of that passion itself. One brief part it does is the romance between Jason Flemyng and Greta Scacchi in the Oxford sequences but even that seems muted. As is always the problem with portmanteau stories, the stories without longer treatment seem slight. And these, did they not come with the trappings of Art invested upon them, would only be fairly ordinary stories.
The most interesting story is the Montreal one with Samuel L. Jackson. Here Francois Girard makes it appear that Jackson is up to nefarious things but then lets the story wash out in a big anticlimax. The auction sequence, which is repeated throughout between episodes, is led up to hang on whether Jackson is going to steal the violin or not and the big, suspense-fraught lame climax is simply ... that he walks out of the building. Iin the final coda with him talking on to his daughter on his cellphone, we are still not certain if he did or didnt steal the violin. One might also note that despite being set around music, the film is clearly directed by a non-musician as the violin bowing enacted on screen by the actors often does not match the music on the soundtrack that the characters are supposedly playing.
(Winner for Best Musical Score at this sites Best of 1998 Awards).