Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Judge Red

Trois Couleurs: Rouge
1994 Poland/France/Switzerland
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2

Trilogy spoilers ensue!

Red, the third part of Kieslowski’s colour trilogy, is another masterpiece from a highly skilled director at the height of his creative powers.

Again, unlike most of the work I have seen by this director, the pacing in this part is much less leisurely and the movie is generally less voyeuristic than Blue, the first part of the trilogy. Although it’s certainly not as pacey as White. And as you can imagine from the first two... there is an abundance of red surfaces and lighting within the movie. In fact, the colours in this movie, to my mind, seem to be much richly and more densely saturated than in the first two movies... and I’m not just talking about the reds here... it’s everything. This really does come close in certain shots to a Mario Bava or Dario Argento movie - you may have noticed if you read this blog regularly the these two are my great “lighters of movies” who I use in comparison with everyone else... if you want to see colours on film then these are your "go to" guys.

Red tells the story of model Valentine who is worried about her brother because he is suffering with mental health issues. While driving her car she accidentally runs over an escaped dog. The dog isn’t dead but it’s in a bad way and she drives and carries it to it’s owner through the tag on the collar and finds herself talking to a miserable and depressed retired judge who has no interest in the state of the dog and, in fact, seems to have a complete lack of interest in life in general (seriously, this guy is almost as miserable as me... and that’s saying something).

Valentine takes the dog to a vet and it quickly recovers but soon escapes and leads her back to the retired judge, played by legendary actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (Silence himself from The Great Silence). After learning his hobby is to electronically eavesdrop on his neighbours phone calls, her initial disgust leads to a blossoming relationship and eventual friendship with him as she hears the tragedy’s of his life.

There are minor subplots with various neighbours but that’s pretty much the set-up in a crimson lit nutshell. All the actors in this film are superb, the music is superb (and this film became a bit famous for some of the music presented in a bolero form at the time although, on rewatching the film 16 years after I first saw it, I can’t think why as it’s doesn’t seem as prominent as I remember), the cinematography phenomenal... and yet it still manages to catch the subtleties of an intimate, non-sexual relationship between the two main characters. That’s one thing which doesn’t change with Kieslowski from film to film - the implications of a scene and the perceived intent of his characters is subtly revealed but never really highlighted within a shot... an intelligent movie-maker pitching at a half intelligent audience... or at least not dumbing everything down. And it’s this kind of strategy that I think keeps you hooked on a Kieslowski movie the first time around... you want to see where he’s going to lead you because it’s almost impossible to know.

There are some great moments in this film... I laughed out loud when Valentina went to buy a Van den Budenmayer CD only to have found it sold out... one of director Kieslowski and composer Preisner’s little references to a fictional composer they created for use in Kieslowski’s films (you’ll find this guy turns up in some way in a lot of them). Also there’s a brilliant overlap from the first two films with the character of the old lady slowly trying to recycle her bottles again... the difference being that in this one Valentine actually rushes to her aid, unlike the main protagonists of the first two movies.

The film has a neat ending too. Early in the film Valentina has been at a photoshoot where her hair is wet and dishevelled and she is looking perplexed against a large red background for a big series of billboard banner adverts (the image itself became the main poster campaign for this film). At the end of the movie she takes a ferry to her brother but there is a storm and a terrible tragedy as the ferry sinks. As the judge watches a television fearing the worst for his new friend, it is revealed in a newsflash that there are 7 survivors. Two of these are Juliette Binoche and Benoît Régent... their characters have obviously gone off and ended up together after the end of Blue. Two more are Julie Delpy and Zbigniew Zamachowski who played the divorced husband and wife in the second film... this is an interesting punchline to White since the newsreader identifies their characters which means they’ll both be in a lot of trouble with the law subsequent to the events in this film... Julie Delpy has presumably been sprung from jail and Zbigniew Zamachowski is obviously not wanting to publicize that he has faked his own death.

And then you have Irene Jacob’s Valentine... her hair is wet, she looks bewildered and in shock, and there is a red background behind her... an exact replica of the poster campaign she shot earlier in the film.

Trois Couleurs: Rouge is a satisfying ending to the trilogy and as usual I can’t recommend Kieslowski enough. If you’re a fan of cinema then you can’t afford to miss these movies, which only get richer with the passing of time.


  1. Van den Budenmayer also turns up in Decalogue 9. It was quite an early idea of Kieslowski and Preisner! More information on the story behind Van den Budenmayer can be found at Musicolog. While I'm on the subject, I have a lot of the filming locations for Three Colours Red on my website, Kieslowski's World. Feel free to visit and leave your name and blog details in the Guestbook. Also, I am trying to get the Forum on Kieslowski going, so if you have a question to pose, please post it under one of the headings and I'm sure either myself, or another Kieslowski enthusiast, will try to answer it.

    A bientot!

  2. Hey there! Thanks for the comment.

    I'll try to claw back some free time, hopefully this weekend, and check out your website. Just had a quick glance a the hompage... that's from Double Life of Veronique isn't it?

    I'll go on there as soon as I'v done a few things I'd promised myself I'd get done. Again, thanks for the comment. It's much appreciated.

  3. You're very welcome!

    I have some latest news on what Irene is up to from my friend in Paris which I shall write up in my Diary tonight (30 Sep 2010).

    Have a very good week.