July 17, 2014

Three Colors: Red (1994)
Grade: 50/100

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Iréne Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Lorit

What it's about. The final chapter in Polish director Kieslowski's acclaimed trilogy. A French language drama set in Geneva, Switzerland. Iré Jacobs, the hot young brunette from Kieslowski's break-through film The Double Life of Veronique, plays the lead, Valentine, a humorless but sweet model in a long-distance relationship with a jerk boyfriend currently in London.

Via the world's nicest German Shepherd, Valentine develops an unlikely close friendship with creepy senior citizen Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant). He is an all-knowing retired judge who enjoys illegally tapping other folk's phone calls and listening in. Valentine isn't pleased with this but it hardly stops her from rewarding him with visits.

Joseph recalls significant moments of his life, which seem to parallel the current travails of schmuck student Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), who is in a failing relationship with Karin (Frédérique Feder).

Valentine and Auguste separately book passage on a ferry headed to England. An unexpected storm kills all aboard except for Valentine, Auguste, and the leads from the previous two Colors films, even though Dominique should still be imprisoned for murder.

How others will see it. Three Colors: Red met with massive critical acclaim. At the Oscars, it was nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, a rarity for a foreign language non-Hollywood product. BAFTA added a Best Actress nod for the comely Jacob despite a deadpan performance. At the French César Awards, the movie racked up seven nominations, including all major categories, but won only for Best Music. Kieslowski did not live long to enjoy his triumph, as he died prematurely from cancer at age 54.

At imdb.com, Red is the slight favorite of the colors trilogy. It has an impressive 50K votes and a very high user rating of 8.1. The only sour note comes from women over 45, 16% of whom grade the film just 1 out of 10. A minority of older women are likely creeped out by Joseph and probably wonder why Valentine spends time with him.

How I felt about it. Red is unquestionably a critical success, but one wonders how folks would feel about it if the female lead was an overweight and brusque fifty-something instead of a gorgeous and overwhelmingly nice brunette in her twenties. Likely, the same viewers who currently regard it is a "masterpiece" would instead complain about how slow-moving and boring it is.

As is the case with White, although to a lesser degree, the plot is difficult to believe. Valentine continues to pay visits to Joseph, and he even becomes her best friend, despite his gloomy disposition, advanced age, and unseemly acts of espionage. Meanwhile, the audience would like to give her advice regarding her suspicious phone tag boyfriend: break up with him already.

It is curious how much Joseph seems to know about his neighbors and Valentine, when he hardly ever leaves his house and has no friends other than Valentine. We suspect an eventual romantic encounter between the pouting Auguste and the sensual Valentine, but instead nothing happens. There is also a strange scene in which a fashion photograph s-l-o-w-l-y attempts to seduce Valentine, but she waits until he is completely committed before giving him the cold shower.

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