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The Red Violin (Remastered) (Meridian Collection) (2008) Amazon
Director: François Girard

Another of my all-time favorite movies. I must have seen it 40 times! The story about Red Mendelssohn in this movie although fictional is really fascinating. The production value is superb. I really like the cinematography and lighting in this film. Samuel L. Jackson is perfection as Charles Morrtiz, the late Ireneusz Bogajewicz as Mr. Ruselsky is a real treat (sadly we lost Ireneusz last year) and Sylvia Chang as Xiang Pei is totally believable. And all of the cast gave the performances of their lives.

I love the violin. I have one myself!

    • Audio Commentary by Director/Co-Writer François Girard and Co-Writer/Actor
      Don McKellar
    • The Auction Block Featurette
    • The Oscar Winning Chaconne
    • Theatrical Trailer

The running commentary by François Girard and Don McKellar is quite good. Thankfully they allow subtitles during the commentary. Both men are together in the same screening room as they talk about the film (which is nice as many commentators are recorded separately and mixed in post).

They talk about the child playing the role of Kaspar Weiss is Christoph Koncz (and what a choice did they make). No special effects were used for his performances. He really did play the violin. It was difficult to find a child actor who could play the violin at the level required. I think they lucked out.

Not only do they talk about the performances, characters, and character motivations  but they explain the ins and outs of the effects too. One of the many very interesting effects in this move was the violin performances with Jason Flemyng as Fredrick Pope. To show him playing they had two virtuoso violinists on either side of Jason each using one arm and hand (tied to Jason’s arms) standing out of camera view. Think about it. One with the bow, one fingering the strings, and Jason in the middle! Joshua Bell not only was one of these violinists (fingering) but he also played the violin in the sound tracks. His role was instrumental in the making of this movie.

The Auction Block features Kerry Keane (Head of Musical Instruments for Christie’s N.Y.)  and Elizabeth Pitcairn (Current owner of the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius violin) in this fascinating 18 minute extra. She talks about her musical history and how she came to become the latest owner of this instrument. She, BTW, is a SoCal girl! So, I hope I get to hear her play the Red Mendelssohn in person someday. She describes what defines a Stradivarius: “Beauty of sound, tremendous power, and ease of execution.” Kerry talks about the history of the Red Mendelssohn and of Stradivarius. Did you know that Stradivarius made over 1100 instruments in the 1700’s. And that some 600 of his violins still exist today!

The Oscar Winning Chaconne is a 15 minute piece featuring John Corigliano who did the film score. Very nice piece where you really get a sense of the working life of a film composer. So much thought went into the music for the film. Remember that this story covers over 300 years in time and 5 different sub stories and 4 different countries. How does one provide the musical “glue” to bind them all together?

John talks about that glue:

“The on-camera etudes either came from the chordal progression or Anna’s melody so they were all related to the same set of chords. In that way you can go through all 300 years and yet when the music comes back at the end you realize you heard it many different ways which gave the film a sense of oneness.”

The theatrical trailer is . . . well, a trailer.

So, I’d say you have to check out the extras on this DVD. It has something for everyone, directors, composers, and production designers should get something valuable from this DVD and anyone who loves the violin.

I give it ★★★★☆