Three Colours, Three Posts: Red

And so Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS trilogy draws to an end with what is many peoples favourite instalment. I’m torn, having watched each of the 3 films twice, as to which one leaves the biggest dent on my cinematic pleasure receptors. Each film has something completely independent of the other two but at the same time they are strongly linked by the most subtle, yet powerful of methods. This is what, for my mind, makes Kieslowski a Bergman of my generation. His seemingly effortless ability to create a cinema that is artistic without pretension, opinionated without cliché and beautiful without sentiment, elevates him above the vast majority of his peers.

Out of the three films, RED is the more complex in terms of storyline. We have a juxtaposing between 2 very different relationships that is hinged by the character of Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is an ex judge. His post retirement time is spent listening to the phone calls of those around him and from the solitude of his own prison, he is unknowingly involved in the lives of so many (he is never seen interacting with the outside world, other than when he is taken to court by the locals). Although the theme of RED is “fraternity”, and is probably the most easily recognised of the three, there are tangents exploring the effect that luck, or fate has on the existence of everyone.

Irene Jacob is superb as Valentine Dussaut who herself, is trapped in a telephone relationship. Her many conversations with her distant lover displays a connection of relative unrest, there is no tenderness, no affection. It is ironic that Valentine finds companionship with a man spying on others whose relationships are being conducted on the telephone.

The meeting of Valentine and Joseph is again, born of a lucky or more probably unlucky situation, she knocks over his dog. I have to say, the performance of the dog in this scene is superb. The way it lies limply in the road whimpering (granted, the whimpers could have been added in post) is incredibly life like.

The initial interactions between the 2 uncomfortable but they develop an understanding and connection that is deeply touching. Joseph has nothing other than the conversations he can never join in on, and Valentine has an overbearing lover in another country who can offer her nothing in the way of one to one affection. In each other they find a little of what’s missing in their lives. Completely honest performances make this coming together believable and gives the end of the picture a powerful climax.

Running alongside the story of Joseph and Valentine is that of Auguste and Karin. Auguste lives across the street from Valentine and their paths cross without any real personal interaction, Valentine notices he has left the headlights of his jeep on for instance. Karin runs a personal weather reporting call service which is listened to by Joseph. The subtleties of these connections are brought together in the last act of the picture but, never being one to spoil things, I’ll leave that for to find out for yourselves.

Below is the great scene that shows Valentine discovering Joseph’s secret pastime. There is a real uneasiness about this exchange which is a joy to watch…

Three Colours, Three Posts: BLUE

I attended a very nice Krzysztof Kieslowski double bill at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh a while back but there was something about it that bothered me. First up was the 1991 film LA DOUBLE VIE DE VERONIQUE which, as a first taste of Kieslowski was incredibly interesting. The choice for the second half of the afternoon’s programme was quite baffling, they decided to show THREE COLOURS: RED, which of course, is the last film in the THREE COLOURS trilogy. Now maybe it’s just me, but I think showing the last film in a trilogy as an individual piece, within a double bill that doesn’t include the other films is just plain odd. Those of us in the audience who hadn’t been exposed to any of the films before were now in a state of confusion, as if we’d just read the last page of a book, first.
Luckily, the final chapter of this trilogy is a million miles away from the endings of say, the BACK TO THE FUTURE or GODFATHER trilogies in that, with these examples, there is a wrapping up of a common storyline that has developed over 3 films. Although it’s not so much the case with THREE COLOURS There is, however, a conclusion, an intertwining of character fate that would have been better served having seen the first 2 movies.

So back to the start I go…..

THREE COLOURS: BLUE is the first of the trio of films that follows the order of the French flag, Blue White and Red. This is a stunning, contemplative start that sees Juliette Binoche play Julie, a woman of inner strength who is forced to deal with the grief of losing her composer husband and daughter in a car crash that the protagonist herself, survived. Kieslowski crafts the mood of this film so completely that when watching it, you find yourself immersed in the plight of Julie as she rebuilds her life. She is in all but 1 of the scenes which pulls you into her world although when there, you get the feeling she’d rather be alone.

Solitude seems to be a comfort for Julie with many long scenes involving only Binoche, the melancholic score and Kieslowski’s aesthetic lending weight to a state of mind, a raw emotion, a memory or an intention. Her lover, friend and eventual collaborator Olivier (played by the late Benoit Regent) drifts in and out of the story but plays an important part in the journey she embarks on. This journey is beautifully photographed by Slawomir Idziak who has worked on a wide range of stuff including BLACK HAWK DOWN and HARRY POTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHEONIX. The score, which is like another character in this film is provided by Zbigniew Preisner who’s credits include another of my favourite films EUROPA EUROPA.

The following scenes demonstrate perfectly the feeling of the film. Julie looks at a piece of score written by her late husband, look out for camera tracking along the notes, as each note passes, it drifts out of focus and disappears. The note of the moment is important and sharp with the past and future being unclear, very much Julie’s mindset at that time.

The scene below is a good example of the solitude and fragility of Julie’s existence. Within that fragility however is a strength that comes from within. The use of music here is masterful combined with light and an actress giving so much with so very little.