The music too is appreciably authentic, as Vargas (who spent five years producing radio shows featuring traditional Mexican melodies) uses Tavira's wobbly pitch to seam together his loose narrative.
All of this lyricism can have a flattening effect, as scenes of torture and vignettes of tacos hold the same smoky finesse. Innumerable close-ups of Tavira's cracked hands aside, there is nothing gritty about the film, which is a problem insofar as it can give The Violin's realism a bitter aftertaste of simplistic moralism. And yet, in the film's refined emotional palette (the final shot seals it), Vargos achieves something that the recent tongue-tied American pictures don't. Wordless in long stretches, The Violin demonstrates a visual command of faces and editing on par with those of D.W. Griffith's expert melodramas minor masterpieces that recognize cinema's strange ability to summon reality without being beholden to it.
Roxie Film Center
3117 16th St., SF
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