What To Rent

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In which Blue and White house cineaste Iggy Cortez advises you on how to impress the discerning Kim’s clerks. Also look for Iggy’s thoughts on a newly updated biography of Italian great Federico Fellini in the Spring Books issue of The Blue and White, forthcoming imminently. This week’s selection is Red.


Walter Reade Theater is screening an almost complete retrospective of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s cinema. And while it would be a shame not to catch these films on the big screen, most of us lack the student budget to see all three installments of the “Three Colors” trilogy, much as we don’t possess the spare time to watch each “commandment” from his “Decalogue” during the heart of seminar-paper season.

So, if you can only choose one film to see – go watch The Double Life of Veronique, which to my knowledge is unavailable on DVD (in Kim’s at least), and rent the three color trilogy. While it would make most sense to start at the beginning with Blue, Red is frequently the one that surfaces on those films-you-must-see-before-you-die lists.

Kieslowski’s final film, Red is the last installment of the trilogy, in which each film engages loosely with a color of the French flag and the ideal it represents. Red – symbolic of fraternity – was instantly acclaimed as a masterpiece, and provided one of 90s cinema’s most iconic images: Irene Jacob blowing bubble gum as crimson drapery billows behind her.

Despite its relative recentness, Red has been highly influential thematically to countless movies that base themselves on missed opportunities, failed connections, and the cataclysmic effect chance occurrences can have on our destinies. Kieslowski explores these issues through the story of Valentine, a Swiss model who runs over the German Shepard of a misanthropic former judge (Jean-Louis Tritignant). Upon returning the dog to his owner, she discovers that the judge taps the conversations of his neighbors – one of whom is a married father leading an affair with another man.

Disgusted at first by his hobby, Valentine gradually empathizes with the judge’s poignant and pathetic last resort to some semblance of human connection. Gradually, they establish a relationship of mutual confession, their inner traumas unfolding and binding them in a complex, indefinable love. Also, a parallel narrative is established, in which a young law student, who lives in front of Valentine, strangely experiences the same events that lead the judge to his state of bitterness.

The two story threads finally intersect in the film’s finale, which gathers the protagonists of the trilogy together. It’s an ending whose details are best left undisclosed, a wonderfully overblown metaphor for unsentimental optimism, and a conclusion of unrivaled power.


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