Three Colors: Red
Red represents the culmination of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, and the conclusion of his magnificent career. (One final script, Heaven, credited in part to him was made several years after his death by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer.) My placement of Red on the Top 100 List should not be viewed as a slight to the other pictures in the series. Blue is a powerful meditation upon grief and White is a darkly comedic story of revenge. But, as good as those films are, Red is the transcendent one. In a way, this film's themes of love and fate summarize all of Kieslowski's career. Domestically, the three movies were released six months apart (Blue in December 1993, White in June 1994, and Red in December 1994), and I can recall awaiting the final chapter will ill-suppressed excitement. Unlike too many highly anticipated films, it did not disappoint. The moment I saw it, I knew Red would have a spot in my Top 10 for the year. Since then, my opinion of it has only grown. I suppose I could have cheated and grouped the three films into one entry, but, since Blue, White, and Red are distinct movies, it didn't feel right to do so. While there are certain thematic connections between them, each can stand solidly on its own. It is possible to experience Red to its fullest without having seen Blue or White. (Although, for anyone who does that, my guess is their next action will be to go out and rent to previous two entries.) For the longest time, Miramax Films kept these movies largely out of circulation. Finally, early this year, they arrived on DVD, causing much celebration amongst foreign and art film fans. Now, for those who missed it in the theater, the opportunity has finally arrived to see one of the greatest foreign films of the '90s.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
The protagonists are a young woman named Valentine (Irene Jacob, who starred in Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique) and a crotchety retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Valentine, a fashion model, meets the judge after running down his dog in the street and taking the injured animal to the address listed on the collar. Kern is initially indifferent to his pet's predicament, telling Valentine to keep the dog if that's what she wants. She does; however, the animal eventually runs away and finds its way back to the judge's. When Valentine goes searching, she inadvertently learns Kern's secret - he enjoys spying on people by illegally tapping into their phone conversations. Told in parallel with the chronicle of the unusual friendship between Valentine and the judge is the story of two lovers that Kern spies upon. Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) and Karin (Frederique Feder), seem devoted to each other, but fate has already cast its die against them. For Auguste's life is eerily similar to that of Kern thirty years ago and, like the older man, he is drawn by forces beyond his control towards Valentine.
Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three. Red virtually demands more than one viewing for an appreciation of the picture's ambitious scope. Repeated examination of Red's narrative and thematic structure makes it apparent what Kieslowski has accomplished not only here, but through his entire trilogy.
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