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01 November 2005

Three Colors: Red (1994)

Iréne Jacob (Valentine), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Le juge), Jean-Pierre Lorit (Auguste)

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

French title: Trois couleurs: Rouge

From Hollywood Video: "When a woman accidentally hits a dog with her car, she becomes involved with the animal's owner, a retired judge. Despite their lack of common interests, they forge a unique friendship."

The third of Kieslowski's Three Colors series, Red follows Blue and White in this trio of vastly different films, all of which comment on European - and particularly French - society in the mid-1990s.

If you believe the intentional references to liberté, égalité and fraternité, then this is the film about fraternity or brotherhood. Camaraderie. Fair enough. The relationship between Valentine and the judge is the crux of the film's plot, ripe with the elemental tension and the repulsed fascination she feels for him. But with its weird, cyclical take on destiny, I saw another relationship between the judge and Auguste as brothers across time. They are images of the same man with different fates. The fortuitous intervention of the right woman into his life has the potential to save Auguste from the judge's lonely, thick-hearted fate.

But... did Valentine and Auguste change the end of the story and fulfill the judge's vision of Valentine's future? Was their happenstance meeting at the film's conclusion enough to reverse Auguste's obsessive drive to reclaim his former lover? I don't know, but the ending cracked me up and made me wonder how Dominique and Karol wound up swimming for safety so far from Warsaw. Surely he didn't relent and let her out of prison....

I found Iréne Jacob's open-mouthed, wide-eyed gaze alternately wonderful and annoying. I have yet to settle the question as to whether or not I found her attractive, or even appealing. She mixed a potent combination of sexual presence, innocence, and strength, but no facet of her personality held total sway over the rest. With the judge, Valentine was strong and opinionated, still optimistic. During phone conversations with the never-seen Michel, she was weak and passive. Perhaps reconciling these two personas stood as Jacob's most significant challenge, thus becoming the most forceful aspect of Valentine as a character.

Jean-Louis Trintignant portrayed the judge as a fascinating blend of repulsive and disarmingly sexy. His gaze was that of a snake charmer - unavoidable. I cannot think of an American actor of his age who could have presented such a convincing blend of accessible and forbidden, sympathetic and despicable. Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre Lorit played young Auguste with such a charming, boyish earnestness that I just wanted to kiss him all better. I love the brooding, sweet-faced ones.

As for the trilogy overall, I am in love with these films. Blue was, by far, the most difficult and least rewarding of the three, but it was necessary to cover grief and betrayal to balance the effervescent playfulness of White and Red's mystic, full-circle intrigue. As for the films' overall scope and truth, I am at a loss. I have no idea as to the accuracy of Kieslowski's portrayal of French, Polish and European society in the early 1990s. I wouldn't visit England until 1996 and France until 2000, when those nations were already vastly different places on the verge of a much more unified Europe.

However, I do appreciate that liberté, égalité, fraternité still make for such potent, inspiring, idealistic and ironic ideas - so long after the sick and lovely outrage that was the French Revolution. The tricolore still flies and the ideas endure, even if - after six hours of examining each theme in such lush detail - we find them huddled together, shaken and pitiful under blankets in a rescue boat somewhere along the English Channel. The finale, if read in such a grim way, is not flattering to modern France. Where have liberty, equality and fraternity gone? They are in desperate need of salvation after abandoning France for an unknown future in England, of all the Franco-insulting places....

But at least they survived, when everyone else was lost at sea - and as couples, no less, to ensure that those ideas continue into the future, dragged helplessly back to France for some rest and recuperation.

PS - Someone please help me out: who was the seventh person rescued from the ferry? I can't remember and feel obliged to fit that person into my interpretation!

Blogger Big Hat Cowboy said...

I'm a weirdo, I always liked White best. This is where my old friend Trevor would point out that I liked Return of the jedi best and thusly my movie taste has been flawed sense I was five, and thats why I liked the more comercial, approchable, comedy that is White over red and blue. But I still hold onto belief that it's harder to make a good fun movie then a good sad movie.


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