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Three Colours: Red

July 5, 2015

Three Colours: Red (1994)
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Actors: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Lorit

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Synopsis: Young Swiss student, dancer and model, Valentine (Irène Jacob), runs over a dog, and traces it to its owner – a reclusive, retired Geneva judge, Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Valentine is initially put off by Joseph’s surliness and his side hobby in eavesdropping on neighbours’ telephone calls, but slowly Valentine and Joseph develop a special bond, seemingly related to the travails of young lawyer, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), whose girlfriend is cheating on him.

Review: The set-up of this film’s ‘odd couple’ hook about the growing bond between a gamine, proto-Amèlie innocent (Valentine) and a gruff retired judge (Joseph) is actually quite familiar, but, in the hands of master filmmaker, Krzysztof Kieslowski, it transcends the formula of its scenario to become something altogether more powerful and resonant.

Not only is it masterful in terms of look and tone, with Kieslowski once again making the conceptual in his remit of basing a film around the sentiment of a colour (in this case, red) tenable, but it’s also sage dramatically. We never know more than the characters do, and the transcendent, ambiguous unfolding of the narrative works a treat – hinting at an almost cosmic link between Valentine and Joseph: maybe they’re lovers across a temporal divide, or is Joseph a harbinger of Valentine’s love-life to come? Perhaps, in retrospect, with contemporary cinema’s sophisticated honing of intertextual, portmanteau narratives, the conclusion to Kieslowski’s trilogy appears a tad tame and dated (huge spoiler alert – all the main couplings from the trio of Three Colours films survive a ferry accident in the English Channel of all places), but that’s not to overlook the mesmerising craft Kieslowski has exacted over his ambitious trilogy to get us to this moment of epiphany. (July 2015)

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