It's almost impossible for me to sit down and write a conscientious review of THREE COLORS: RED without letting people in on some of the ideas that Krysztoff Kieszlowski has explored in the previous two entries to this fascinating trilogy. The more I see them and think of them, and imagine myself in their world, the more I get its theme: that we are more linked to each other than we would want to think ourselves, and all it takes is a little hand of fate to set some events in motion. In BLUE, Juliette Binoche played a grieving widow whose plan to live her life without connections to the past had her meet someone unexpected. In WHITE, an act of cruelty spawns an unlikely friendship between two men who will, against the odds, conspire to bring the perpetrator to justice and full circle. And now, in RED, all the elements of fate and apparent coincidence apply themselves into the meeting of a young Genevese model and a retired judge who has a habit of prying into other people's lives.
This young girl is appropriately named: Valentine (a luminous Irene Jacob), who has this radiance about her and even smiles openly while working the runway. Not that she is without some baggage: she has a boyfriend, unseen, who also demands to know what she is doing at all times, she has a brother who troubles her, and she rejects the advances of a photographer who is working on her image for a huge billboard. She strikes a dog while driving and nurses her back to health, but when she takes her to the owner, a retired judge (Jean Louis Trintingnant), he does not want her. "I want nothing," he coldly says, and elements of BLUE suddenly reveal themselves as this arrogant man, who also lives in anonymity and apparent, free-floating freedom, conducts surveillance on unsuspecting people. This male version of Juliette Binoche's character at first shocks Valentine -- she states she can only feel pity for him as she walks away in horror, but a chance event has her back at his place, and here is when he begins revealing who he is, and his great loss.
At the same time Kieszlowski is unfolding a parallel story: the story of a young man, Auguste (Jean Pierre Lorit), about to become a judge and who lives right across the street from Valentine -- but they keep missing each other. Chance is the word. Like Valentine winning the jackpot at the grocery story she visits, elements of chance pepper her life and Auguste's. He has a girlfriend who also supplies people with telephoned reports about the weather. One of them happens to be the old judge. He knows more about her than Auguste does, and he's never met her. Like God, or Prospero, he is slowly creating a storm which will crack the walls of this present state of conformity and bring a new meaning to the expression "We meet again." It's this parallelism between the old and young judge that makes RED so beautiful and transcendent, because time is, in reality, a lot more fluid than we would like to deem it. There are people whom we meet in life that if only we had been born in similar time frames, so many things would be different.
Such is the case with Valentine and the old judge. I believe that there is definitely a strong fraternity of souls tying them together in a tight bond: she is that woman whom he did not meet -- by chance or not -- and is, whether he knows it or not, trying to make amends, hence why he goes to the great risk of revealing his surveillance and becoming the social outcast. But it doesn't end there. One of the many links between the three movies is the character of an old woman walking to a large garbage container. Where Julie did not see her (and would not have helped her anyhow), and Karol fresh from his public humiliation sneers at her thinking, "Someone is worse off than I am," Valentine is the one who helps her. Frailty in need can happen anywhere, and Kieszlowski even applies it here in a minor character.
Now, RED is so much more than a story. Valentine, the old judge, Auguste, even Rita the dog: these aren't characters confined by storytelling. An American version would ruin the idea and commercialize chance encounters and even bring forth a dumbed-down ending. RED is so devoid of a linear, defined plot that anything could happen to any of these people and the possibilities that this story could have veered off in so many directions had one crucial element not taken place at the exact moment and place.
Adding to the concept of characters who mirror each other despite time frames or location is the theme of sexual betrayal. This is also an important and character defining element in all of the three films: in BLUE, Julie's husband had a mistress and she also betrays Olivier when it's become clear she's emotionally dead. In WHITE, Dominique has Karol listen to her moan over the phone (which becomes an important device in RED) as she has sex with a man while the billboard of Brigite Bardot's CONTEMPT looks on. In RED, the old judge's tale of love and betrayal gets re-enacted. And all this time, Valentine's billboard image looms over them like a presage of what is to come at the same time that Rita, the dog Valentine's car struck, bears seven pups, life renewed for the six major players in this complex trilogy obviously filmed with care and love. Why do I say six? You'll have to watch the movie and wonder.
Three Colors: Red
Drama / Mystery / Romance
Three Colors: Red
Drama / Mystery / Romance
Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbours' phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism. The film is the story of relationships between some human beings, Valentine and the judge, but also other people who may not be aware of the relationship they have with Valentine or/and the old judge. Redemption, forgiveness and compassion...
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March 05, 2018 at 12:07 PM