Review by Ed Nguyen
Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frederique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Features: Golly, just read below!
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003
I dreamt...I dreamt of you. You
were forty or fifty years old, and you were happy."
your dreams come true?"
been years since I dreamt something nice."
is the final part of a three-part review of Trois
Couleurs that began with Blue
and White. Readers interested in Trois
Couleurs may choose to look over the first two reviews to learn more about
director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his concept for the trilogy.
While the three films of Trois
Couleurs can be enjoyed independently of one another, some of the parallels
between the films are best appreciated through a cumulative knowledge of the
(Red), as the finale for Trois
Couleurs, coalesces the three films together. It is considered Kieslowski's finest film and earned him an
Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
photography for Trois Couleurs started
around September, 1992. Red's
shoot ended in late spring 1993, concluding an arduous nine months of
production. Annette Insdorf, a long-time friend and translator for
Kieslowski, at one point during filming remarked to Kieslowski that he was
killing himself from overwork. Many
nights, he was lucky to get two hours of sleep. His reply was a simple shrug.
The work continued.
on Red initially yielded some twenty
versions of the film. Kieslowski
considered film as a breathing, fluctuating entity and often liked to experiment
with different versions of his films to emphasize different scenes (Kieslowski
once wanted to release seventeen different versions of La
Double vie de Veronique simultaneously!).
At any rate, Red is my personal
favorite. Kieslowski's romantic
direction is leisurely yet masterful as it explores an unusual relationship that
develops between a younger woman, Valentine, and an older, retired man.
Jacob, as Valentine, is beyond beautiful. Anyone
who has seen her mesmerizing performance in La Double vie de Veronique will be equally entranced by her in Red.
Valentine is a young fashion model.
She lives in Geneva, and though she is a kind and warm-hearted person,
she is lonely. Her boyfriend is
away and never seen. His occasional
phone calls reveal him to be a jealous and callous type. One day, as Valentine is driving home, she inadvertently
strikes a runaway dog. She nurses
the injured dog back to health and traces ownership back to an elderly man.
He is retired, having retreated into the darkened shell of his large
home. He lives in solitude, alone
with the memories of past regrets and decisions.
To pass the time, he confesses to eavesdropping on the private telephone
conversations of his neighbors from his radio.
Valentine is at first repulsed by this voyeuristic obsession, but she
gradually learns that the man, beneath his crusted exterior, was once a
good-hearted judge. For his part, the judge is affected by his encounters with
Valentine and begins to change his life, though not without some consequences.
is not a typical romantic tale. For
one, Valentine's relationship with the judge is platonic.
They never embrace or kiss.
Nonetheless, the judge becomes her closest friend and, to some degree,
her emotional guide. His relationship with the young Valentine is closer and
warmer than Valentine's with her unseen boyfriend.
Her conversations with the boyfriend are harsh and abrupt; her
conversations with the judge are quiet and
intimate. She invites the
judge, not her boyfriend, to her latest fashion show.
The judge is the final person she visits before a fateful voyage abroad.
In truth, the judge and Valentine are soulmates.
Perhaps in a different setting or a younger age, they may have fallen in
love, as even the judge recognizes: "Maybe you're the woman I never
final scene together is a melancholy one. The
judge has entered his car, and before driving off, places his palm against the
window. Valentine, standing outside
the car, responds by placing her palm against the window as well.
The glass bars them, a symbol of the barriers that separate them.
They can only exchange smiles before the judge slowly departs.
uses an intensely vivid cinematographic style to reflect the often undeclared
emotions of its characters. The
color red can express many emotions - passion, anger, or warmth, to name a few.
The film has an understated, passionate story, and so the red tonal
quality of the film is diffusely present throughout.
Valentine's very name calls to mind the color; indeed, she has a friendly
personality and quietly desires someone to truly love and who will return her
love. Her scenes are often lit with a soft golden-red glow, as
expressed in the red theater that houses her fashion show or her sunset visits
to the judge's home. The judge's
home, with its dark wood paneling and furniture, has a somber red-brown hue,
symbolic of the judge's suppressed or exhausted passion. In direct contrast, there is a sub-plot that follows Auguste,
a young Swiss citizen. Unlike the
judge, he is full of energy, whisking about in a bright-red jeep while
cultivating a stormy, fluctuating relationship with his girlfriend.
there is the famous profile of Valentine. It
is the same portrait that was used extensively for the film's actual promotion.
Valentine, in the shot, glances sadly off to a side while silhouetted in
the background by a gently blowing red curtain.
It is a mysterious shot, but a poignant one, almost an expression of
Valentine's own internal desires. In
the film, we initially see the expanded portrait on a billboard through
Auguste's eyes as he waits by a red traffic light.
Auguste, in fact, is perhaps not coincidentally also a young judge, and
as the film progresses, his life experiences seem to mirror those of the older
judge. While Auguste and Valentine
never directly cross paths, we sense a certain connection between the two
characters. Perhaps then, the color
red has another meaning for the film - perhaps it is an indication of destiny,
of the connection and inevitable pairing of two people even across the barrier
of time or circumstances.
theme of second chances echoes in all three films of Trois Couleurs. Coupled
with the theme of death, the suggestion of rebirth is an important one and
creates a sense of renewal in the films. Julie,
in Blue, provides the first signs at
the film's conclusion that she will overcome her grief at her family tragedy.
Blue's concerto is a symbolic celebration of this new beginning, for
it too celebrates a birth - the creation of a new Europe.
Karol, in White, starts out as almost a child - innocent and helpless in face
of his plights, he must slowly learn to live again. Even his changed homeland of Poland is in its infancy, having
only just arisen from the ashes of its communist past.
In this new setting, Karol hopes to re-establish the foundations of his
love for Dominique, his former wife. In
Red, the very name of Valentine itself
is a child's name, personally chosen by Irene Jacob for the memories it evoked
in her of her own childhood. Valentine
has requested from the judge the gift of a young puppy, borne of the dog she
rescued earlier in the film. Equally
as important, the judge's experiences are reflected in Auguste, a symbolic
reflection of the judge himself as a younger man.
Their lives are the same, yet where the judge had failed in love, perhaps
the younger man will succeed. There
is a premonition of fate in Red, of
destiny bridging the gap between ages, beginning life anew for Valentine and a
as well, is often an inciting event for change in the three films.
Death is the critical event that so drastically alters Julie in Blue
and so prevalently haunts her throughout much of the film.
In White, Karol and a friend
both receive a symbolic death that reveals the similarities in their lives and
gradually transforms the paths of their lives for the better.
In Red, death exists in an abstract manner, showing the emptiness of
Valentine's and the judge's lives as well as being the final force that unites
the main characters of Trois Couleurs
in the end. Kieslowski has admitted
that death as a dramatic impulse appealed greatly to him, and he used it
frequently in his films, subtly changing its relevance to the plot in film to
re-occurrence of characters in Trois
Couleurs is a trend from his previous films and also serves to unite Red
with its sister films. Alert
viewers may have caught a glimpse of Juliette Binoche early in White.
Likewise, Julie Delpy appears near the end of Blue. Both characters will re-appear in Red's conclusion. Furthermore,
all three films include a scene with an elderly person struggling to insert a
bottle into a recycling bin. In Blue, Binoche's
Julie is completely indifferent to the woman; her eyes are closed and she is
distant and far away. In White,
the sad sap Karol watches with an amused smile but does nothing to help; perhaps
it comforts him that he has company in his woes.
In Red, Valentine notices the
woman's struggles and walks over to assist her.
The different manners in which all three approach the same situation help
to define their characters.
three films conclude in a similar manner. They
offer a sense of real hope, with the emotional liberation and transformation
that hope brings. We see the face
of a character in close-up. The
camera holds the frame for a long time as slowly, a tear rolls down the
character's face, and the brief hint of a smile appears before the picture fades
to black. In Blue, this character is Julie as she ponders her future.
In White, it is Karol, looking
up with adoration upon his beloved Dominique.
In Red, it is the judge,
looking past a cracked window in the aftermath of a destructive storm.
But the final image of the trilogy belongs to Valentine, profiled against
a deep magenta sky as she gazes into the distance.
The camera focuses in, stopping as a red backdrop suddenly appears behind
her. It is very reminiscent her
portrait from earlier in Red, but now,
it is a vital and living image, not merely a static one. Valentine, like Julie and Karol equally before her, has
weathered life's uncertainties. For
all their differences, these characters are united by their experiences.
Their lives are a continual process - a search for freedom, for
understanding, or for companionship. They
are fundamentally similar. Red,
in revealing their common destiny, is a fitting conclusion to Trois
theatrically in 1994, Red was
Kieslowski's last film. It
completed an extraordinary cinematic legacy the likes of which have rarely been
equaled. With Trois Couleurs, Kieslowski's greatness as a director was forever
established. Sadly, Kieslowski did
not live long after completion of Red.
In 1996, he died from complications of open-heart surgery.
The premature death of Europe's finest modern director was a tragic loss
in the cinematic world. In tribute,
Kieslowski's wake in Warsaw was accompanied by Blue's
was only 54 years old.
transfer is quite good. Colors are
crisp and bright, the picture is clean, and there are no compression artifacts.
While the image is slightly soft with a noticeable grain (deliberate
choices by Kieslowski), I did notice that skin tone is occasionally a bit on the
rosy side. In comparison, the
international DVD of Red has a more
natural skin tone appearance but also a softer and much darker image with
occasional compression artifacts. Regardless,
Irene Jacob's soft, rosy complexion only enhances her incredible beauty and
strengthens the romantic overtones of the entire film.
is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. It
is entirely dialogue-driven. Forget
the .1 channel. It is virtually
ignored until near the film's conclusion. The
sound mix is very clean and audible even in the many softly-spoken passages that
transpire in the film. While Red
is hardly the right reference disc if you want to impress your friends, the
sound quality is perfectly fine for the film.
Binoche is a princess. Julie Delpy
is an angel. Irene Jacob is a
goddess. That their acting
abilities match their beauty is a rare and wonderful gift indeed.
While Binoche has gone on to win an Academy Award and Delpy and Jacob
have received much international acclaim as well, in the end, they will be
remembered mostly for their artistry collaboration with Kieslowski in Trois
Couleurs. The actresses
recognize as much in their respective Conversation
on Kieslowski interviews that appear on each DVD, in this case, featuring
Irene Jacob. Jacob has many fond
memories of Kieslowski, which she happily shares, including a quaint anecdote
about how Kieslowski decided upon the name for her character in Red.
is Insights into Rouge, a truly
fascinating discussion about Kieslowski's technique. Annette Insdorf, a film historian, points out the many
parallels that exist in the film itself. The
film's sound engineer marvels at Kieslowski's often exceptional usage of sound
and long expanses of silence in his films, keenly observing that while many
directors are afraid of silence in their films, Kieslowski often used it very
expressively. The most revealing
segment, in my opinion, is a re-confirmation of Kieslowski's humility, despite
his obvious talents. Irene Jacob
had been unhappy with aspects of Valentine's character in an early draft of Red's
script, even though Kieslowski had written the role specifically for her.
Instead of expressing indignation, he quietly returned to the script,
introducing new changes to Valentine's nature and her background that ultimately
provided a deeper resonance to the film and improved it immeasurably.
Kieslowski's willingness to listen (indeed, he always
wrote down notes of any suggestion or criticism!) endeared him completely to his
cast and crew.
the next featurette, Kieslowski returns for his third cinema lesson.
The first two lessons were included on the Blue
and White DVDs, respectively. This
time, he discusses scenes involving the Judge's dog and her importance in
bringing Valentine and the Judge together.
As always, it is fascinating to listen to Kieslowski reveal how much care
and planning was involved in even the most innocuous of shots.
Marin Karmitz does a selected scenes commentary. He sometimes forgets about the scenes and talks
enthusiastically about production details, instead.
Fair enough, he was the
trilogy's producer, after all. However,
Karmitz reveals aspects of Red's
initial international reception that may be quite surprising to many fans of the
film. His most enlightening
revelation concerns a bowling sequence in the film as he discusses the meaning
of its final shot. I can't believe
I never figured out such an obvious detail in my multiple viewings of Red!
Nonetheless, the scene is a perfect illustration of Kieslowski's
remarkable efficiency of direction and his expressive, unparalleled ability to
convey complex messages without a word of dialogue. Overall, this is an extraordinarily revealing featurette, one
of my favorites on the DVD, and definitely worth watching!
Jacob appears again for the second selected scenes commentary.
Most of her discussion concerns her scenes with the judge, as played by
Jean-Louis Trintignant. She recalls the emotional difficulty of playing these scenes
but also notes slyly that she found Trintignant to be
Witta, the film's editor, contributes his own thoughts in the final selected
scenes commentary on the DVD. He
talks in depth about the editing process and demonstrates how a few scenes were
significantly altered just through editing.
This segment also showcases a number of deleted scenes, the only time we
see such footage on any of the three DVDs.
actual feature-length commentary is provided by film historian Annette Insdorf,
doing the honors for the third time. In
addition to her detailed discussion of Red,
she relates various themes to show the common linkage between the three films.
Her commentary is at times a little sad, considering her close working
relationship with Kieslowski, but it is nonetheless extremely worthwhile.
Behind the Scenes feature is a
wonderful diamond in the rough. It
is comprised of multiple videos of actual on-location shooting.
The footage is unpolished and raw but provides a grand opportunity to
watch Kieslowski directing the film without intrusive narration or promotional
gimmicks. Also, you have
to see the size of one of the cameras used - at the time, it was one of the
largest of its kind in Europe!
remaining extras include a filmography and some trailers. The
filmography is a fairly complete one, listing even Kieslowski's student films.
It is the same one that appears on all three DVDs.
The sneak peeks shows three trailers, including a dreadful one for White.
If I had seen this trailer, I would have never watched White.
Avoid it! However, a trailer
for Heaven is included.
This film, directed by Tom Tykwer (Run
Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior)
was drawn from Kieslowski's final script, in what would have been the first film
in a new trilogy - Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.
It's worth a look.
Kieslowski at Cannes is a 15-minute
featurette documenting portions of Red's
premiere. It also features the only
interview segments with Trintignant on the DVD as he talks about Kieslowski.
His answers have a weird, circular argument to them and don't seem to
lead anywhere. To be frank, the
reporters pose such ridiculously pseudo-intellectual questions anyways that the
interviews take on a really bizarre tone! One
can almost picture Kieslowski rolling his eyes as he eventually resorts to
answers that essentially break down to "uh huh, sure" and
"whatever you say." In
Polish, of course. The featurette
concludes with Kieslowski's surprising announcement of his retirement from