Video Picks Archive

December 15, 1999
This Week's Video Picks
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This week my picks are The Red Violin (1998 - ) and The Maltese Falcon (1941 - ).

The first film this week also stars Samuel L. Jackson, but couldn't be more different than last week's pick: Deep Blue Sea. In The Red Violin, he plays an antique appraiser who comes across "The Red Violin", an infamous instrument made by Italian Renaissance master Nicolo Bussotti. The film shows the incredible history of the violin, as it passed through an Austrian orphanage, a Gypsy clan, and even a Chinese pawn shop. Director François Girard (Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould) has put together a massive international cast including Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Jean-Luc Bideau, Sylvia Chang, and Carlo Cecchi as Bussotti. Equally impressive is the scale of the production, spanning the globe with period costumes from the last 400 years, and all on a budget of just $10 million. Girard plays around with time, breaking free of a linear narrative, like other notable films this year (see Run Lola Run, The Limey). A beautiful film that is sure to please.

The story of the violin reminded me of the statuette in the second film. However, John Huston's The Maltese Falcon wasn't about the history of the ancient bird, but the intriguing conflict over its ownership. Humphrey Bogart stars as a private investigator who finds himself entwined in the plot of a gangster (Sydney Greenstreet) who is looking for the relic. This was the seminal work in film noir, which took the style of German expressionism and applied it to an urban American context. It has inspired countless other films, but still stands out as a true classic. It was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1942, including Best Picture (which it lost to How Green Was My Valley, joining a prestigious list of "losers": Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Suspicion, and even Citizen Kane, among others). The National Film Registry admitted it in 1989 (their first year of entries) and was #23 in the AFI Top 100 list.

For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Le violon rouge (1998) (French title)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
The Red Violin (1998) -- VHS
The Red Violin (1998) -- DVD
The Red Violin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack -- Compact Disc
The Maltese Falcon (1941) -- VHS
The Maltese Falcon (1941) -- DVD
The Maltese Falcon, a novel by Dashiell Hammett -- Hardcover
The Maltese Falcon, a novel by Dashiell Hammett -- Paperback
The Maltese Falcon, a novel by Dashiell Hammett -- Audio Cassette (read by William Dufris)

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