I can’t be the only one who, after watching this, immediately went to the kitchen for a glass of cherry Kool-Aid.
The Film: The final installment in Kieslowski’s Franco-triptych
The Potable: One bottle of Louis M. Martini cabernet, a classic red
A few months ago, some friends and I were drinking outside of a pizza parlor in New Orleans. Simpler times, we discussed the age-old question: What is the best film trilogy of all time? Toy Story? The Godfather? Indiana Jones? The original Star Wars? Chris Nolan’s Batman? Lord of the Rings? “Let’s not forget about foreign films,” Will, my friend over at Grain & Noise, suggested. He mentioned Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, which, trust me, I plan to get lit and rewatch Pather Panchali soon. But he also said, “What about the Three Colors series?”
What about it? Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s trilogy based on the colors of the French flag? This week, I sighed and sat down to watch them all, but I was only drunk for one, so this review will focus on the finale, Red.
I was originally under the impression that this film starred the phenomenal Juliette Binoche. The Chocolat MILF played the lead in the opening Three Colors: Blue, but I suppose she had contractual obligations that prevented her from appearing in the sequels. Marvel has certainly learned from Kieslowski’s mistake.
Each film makes beautiful use of its titular color pallet while simultaneously depicting a key tenet of modern France. Red, with its deep shades of scarlet, addresses many themes; lust, anger, the political ideal of fraternity, the salted hams of France’s Bayonne region, justice. There’s a red Jeep, but that’s an American car, so, continuity error, I guess.
The protagonist, who really does look a lot like Juliette Binoche, is a model who mistakenly runs over a dog. Tracking down the owner, she meets a retired NSA operative who teachers her the unfortunate necessity of surveillance. A heroin dealer lives next door, an adulterer across the street. If ever there was a time for vigilante justice, it’s now, but not-Binoche refuses to answer the call.
Her and James Clapper throw off some real will-they-or-won’t-they vibes, there’s a bowling scene I’m pretty sure Kieslowski stole from the Coen brothers, and not-Binoche books a solid gig on a neon Red catwalk. Throughout it all, there are no scenes of ham or any other French meats, making me doubt my earlier assessment.
A fresh paycheck under her belt, not-Binoche books a cruise through the English Channel, of all places, during hurricane season, of all times. A storm knocks the ship sideways, and for a brief moment we have no idea who survives. I don’t want to give it away, but we get yet another actress who looks just like Juliette Binoche stumbling off a lifeboat, France being less diverse than a goddamn snowstorm.
If this main storyline isn’t enough, a B plot involves a young man. He’s a bit of a happy doofus until he witnesses male nudity for the first time in his life, at which point he becomes inconsolably glum.
What to make of this unconventional trilogy, connected only loosely by its ironic depictions of the French motto? Sure, one film is set in Poland, another in Switzerland, but are they not linked by a shared interest in France’s liberal ideals? Its libertine attitudes? Connected by a certain je ne sais quoi? Dare I say, a rose, grown in any other soil, just wouldn’t smell as sweet.
In a 1995 interview, Kieslowski said that “The words are French because the money is French. If the money had been of a different nationality we would have titled the films differently, or they might have had a different cultural connotation. But the films would probably have been the same.”
Which is another interpretation, I suppose.
Verdict: not better than Toy Story