Like a blending of great symphony and great cinema, "The Red Violin" is a magnum opus of musical-visual composition for French-Canadian director Francois Girard ("Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould").

The biography of a masterpiece musical instrument and its globetrotting passage through centuries of owners, this is a film overflowing with fervent movements of pathos, seductive tempos of passion, tragic refrains of sorrow and a riveting, recurring chorus that ties every measure beautifully together.

The resourcefully framed story of a violin set adrift in time begins in modern Montreal where the tattered yet still magnificent instrument is being sold at auction, with emotional bids ardently exchanged by several interested parties.

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