The Red Violin is a gimmick movie. It ties together five stories by following a single violin from its creation to its acquisition by its modern, current owner.
As far as gimmick movies go, it’s handled with a good dose of taste and subtlety. The five linked stories are all interesting and engrossing, but none of them lasts very long, which is my first complaint. Just when you get interested in a particular character, the movie is forced to shift time, place, and language. A single story does emerge — that of the violin — but the emotional investment in the middle stories never really pay off.
Did You Notice?
Samuel L. Jackson is the main character in the modern section of the film, and it’s nice to see him branching out into nontraditional roles. I would even say that I liked him in this movie, and that he did a good job acting in it. But on reflection I would also have to say that I don’t think he’s a particularly versatile actor. He didn’t become another person to fill this role. He was still Samuel L. Jackson, but instead of being born a gangster, he happened to be born a violin appraiser.
But I shouldn’t focus on the complaints. The Red Violin is actually a well-crafted film. The earliest and latest stories define the movie’s shape and themes. Throughout the film, those themes are echoed and varied, like a carefully composed piece of music. Although the film’s structure is not as good or as interesting as it seems like it should be, its execution is near-flawless. It’s still a good movie, but I don’t think it’s a masterpiece.