Krzysztof Kieslowski Masterclass
'Making of' documentary
'Red' in Cannes featurette
Interview with Irene Jacob
Interview with Jacques Witta (editor)
Interview with Marin Karmitz (producer)
Theatrical trailer Extracts from the original soundtrack composed by Zbigniew Preisner
Dolby Digital 5.1
French with English subtitles
16:9 anamorphic picture
On her way home from a modelling session, Valentine (Irene Jacob) accidently runs over and injures a pregnant dog. The owner is Joseph Kern, (Jean-Louis Trintignant) an embittered, cynical ex-judge whose years of condemnation and acquittal have left him spiritually adrift. He now spends his time alone in his house, wiretapping the phones of his neighbors and predicting what will happen in their lives.
After Valentine expresses disgust at Joseph's activities, he turns himself in to the authorities. Their friendship grows into a bond of differing values and unhappy histories. As Valentine prepares to leave for England, the judge reveals the tragic circumstances of his early life -- a tragedy mirrored by some of the people he has been spying on.
Where "Blue" was cool and sensual and "White" was sharp and sexy, "Red" has a sweetness and richness to its story. Valentine's name suggests love, and that love -- a platonic friendship that teeters on romantic love -- brings Joseph back from his unhealthy cynicism. Her kindness and unhappiness appeal to him, reassuring him that people are not intrinsically bad. His spiritual transformation is subtle, but convincing; it's mirrored by the sun shining down on him near the film's end.
Few filmmakers could pull off the symbolism that springs up in any of the "Colors" movies. In this one, red springs up everywhere -- walls, glasses, jeeps, lipstick, clothing, phones, bowling balls, little lights lining a model runway. The most obvious example is the enormous red picture of Valentine that's put up over the city.
The writing is simple but profound, with immense weight on simple statements like "Why don't you do anything?" or "You deserve to die!" Perhaps the only questionable part of the movie is the way it draws together characters from "White" and "Blue." It's either strained or genius -- hard to tell which.
Jacob does an excellent job with the difficult character of Valentine. She's almost too nice and innocent to be real, the incarnation of all that is good, but Jacob makes her come to life; without a word, she can convey a wealth of emotion with her face. Trintignant has a harder job: he has to bring across the weary, existentialist judge without making him unsympathetic. And he does so astoundingly.
In the French flag, red stands for fraternity. Not necessarily in the sense of brothers or college pals, but rather a love for one's fellow man. And that sense of fraternity is what drives "Red."
The film has many similarities with Kieslowski's earlier film, The Double Life of Veronique. Here, as in that film, we have Irene Jacob portraying a deeply sad young woman, searching for a sense of meaning within the confusion of everyday life. Now, this brief assessment is in no way an accurate retelling of the events of the film, with Kieslowski once again drawing on his favourites themes and motifs, including cultural and chronological dislocation - in which two seemingly disparate storylines come together alongside a different story which could very easily be seen as a retelling of the actual film - and the prevailing notion of chance, which was a major component in much of Kieslowski's work, not least, the Three Colours Trilogy as a whole. However, what really makes this film work, is the attention to narrative detail, story development and character depth... with Kieslowski and his co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz making sure that for every sublime image, or poetic moment of transcendence, the film still offers the viewer an emotionally engaging story, and characters we can believe in.
Like much of the director's work, particularly films like Blind Chance, No End and certain moments of his classic TV series The Decalogue, the seeming simplicity of the story actually goes deeper than we first believe, with Kieslowski and Piesiewicz's script taking many labyrinthine twists and turns, suggesting actions through symbolism (the crumpled cigarette carton and the broken beer glass at the bowling alley), prefiguring actions through images (the poster of Jacob's character, Valentine, and how it relates to the final image of the film), and suggesting character history through conversation and subplots (the back story of the judge so central to the film, and the way that it mirrors the story of the young law-student who's life could very well be seen as a flashback to previous events).
There's much more to the film that that, though, with Kieslowski also working with the theme of fraternity (or brotherhood) and the sense of sight and sound, as well as the continual use of the colour red (and the various connotations that this colour would suggest) in the production design, costuming and photographic composition. We also have the inter-weaving strands from the previous films all connecting in a gloriously metaphysical and entrancing final scene that should leave most viewers completely satisfied. These various layers always work alongside the story and the characters, so the film never seems pretentious (as some viewers have criticised) or distancing, but rather, interesting, intelligent and, for me, completely life-affirming. The real hook to the film, for me, was the relationship between Valentine and the mysterious old-judge (who some might argue plays an almost god-like role in the proceedings here... although you don't have to view it like that), which is layered with sadness and pathos but ultimately seems quite beautiful.
Despite all the clever narrative framing devises, the use of chance and coincidence within the story and the always beautiful design, music and photography, the film was never better than in those few scenes between Valentine and the Judge (both perfectly performed by Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant) in which their characters dither around their attraction for one another, and manage to find solace in their shared sense of heartache. The particular highlight of these scenes is the final meeting between the two characters after Valentine's triumphant fashion show, in which she finally, after an hour and a half of the film, is able to tease out the root of his twenty-year anguish... only to find that it refers to a situation, which, surprisingly, mirrors that of her own. Other strong performances in the film come from Frédérique Feder and Jean-Pierre Lorit (as the young law-student/judge-incarnation), whilst the aforementioned climax brings together Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Julie Delpy and Zbigniew Zamachowski... the respective stars of Three Colours Blue and White.
For me, each of the Three Colours Trilogy are absolutely essential viewing for anyone mildly interested in the art of filmmaking. Whilst both Blue and White are great films, this is my personal favourite... it remains a testament to the creative genius of Krzysztof Kieslowski and stands as a beautiful, tragic, though ultimately hopeful film, which could, quite easily in my opinion, be proclaimed the greatest film of the 1990's.
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