Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red ★★★★★

“Valentine? Valentine? Are you home? Are you there?”


Three Colors: Red manages to do something truly remarkable. It's a culmination of its own finely crafted emotional arc, and it's a culmination of an entirely separate but also intertwined emotional arc that's been building over the course of this whole trilogy. It's hard to explain the scope of this film's accomplishment; it functions both as its own, complete story, a refinement of the kind of power the previous two movies ran on. But it's also the apex of a story that's been happening almost under the radar, bringing together story threads and ideas that you didn't even notice until the very, very end. Now that I've seen the whole picture, it seems complete.

Now that this is done, I've allowed myself to go online and look at what other people think this all means, and also what the filmmakers meant when they made it. That's how I finally figured out, three movies in, that the three colors correspond with the three colors of the French flag! ...this is probably something other, more culturally aware people might've clocked to a bit sooner. But hey.

More than anything else about this, I'm really glad I went into this trilogy blind, completely unsure of what to expect. That made the final revelations of this film, and the emotional journey it took me on, feel earned in a way most other series - most other franchises, full stop, just can't muster (yes, I am thinking of superhero movies as I type this sentence). I'm also glad I saw this in the "correct" order, as while it's not a necessity - the plots of these films aren't exactly affected by non-chronological viewing - I do think there's an emotional build to going from Blue to White to Red. If nothing else, seeing Blue and White before this one attuned me to the general vibe that these films would be working on, which I think made me more receptive to this movie's power.

Like the previous two, Red doesn't spell anything out, and it never, never goes for the easy emotion. For a while, like with the other films, it's unclear as to what the central plot of the movie - the "elevator pitch," a concept that's generally inapplicable to most of these movies - is going to be, or who even the main character is. When Valentine hits a dog, there's no indication that this is going to kick off the "main plot," as it were; it might just be another diversion.

The man Valentine comes across is an enigma. He seems completely unconcerned with the state of his dog, and is completely unreceptive to any of Valentine's offers of friendship. “I want nothing," he says. “Then stop breathing,” she suggests. His response: “Good idea.” What's great is, he's the best kind of enigma, the kind that sort of remains mysterious and unreadable even when we've ostensibly got him figured out. Because that's how it is with real people, you know? Even people I'm related to, I'm always learning new things about them that makes me see them in a different light. In lesser movies, stuff like this would annoy me, and make me write the whole thing off as saggy and unclear characterization. Here, with the vibe these movies have cultivated, it just works.

It staggers me the construction of this trilogy, how each individual movie works on its own, but how it all combines together as an experience that's somehow greater than the sum of its parts. And as has been well documented, those are some damn impressive parts just on their own. Looking back, I might’ve been able to guess the contents of the individual movies by their colors; Blue is the most mournful color, white is the most sterile color, red is the most passionate color. They're each individually distinct, while also working as a piece.

The visual style of this film really took my breath away. Like, I didn't think this dude Krzysztof Kieślowski was exactly slouching for the previous two, but, I mean, holy shit. The filmmaking is, if anything, even more energetic than Blue, which had some pretty elegiac swoops as I recall. It's as if they're trying to make up for White's relative sterility. And I mean relative, because that was a mostly interesting movie to look at, but by comparison...whoof. Let me tell you, I did not expect this to begin with a CGI look into the inner-workings a phone call like we're in a goddamn David Fincher movie.

So when all is said and done, yes this is definitely one of the best trilogies, and one of those impressive instances of a trilogy that doesn't irredeemably shit the bed in its last installment. Yeah, I'm putting myself out there and saying that Red is better than X-3 or Matrix: Revolutions, and, yes, might even be a little bit better than Little Fockers. Just a bit. Though if I'm being honest, a part of me does wonder what it would be like if halfway through this movie, Valentine started doing bullet-time, or Joseph yelled "I'M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!" Might've made this already pretty perfect movie even more perfect, is all I'm saying.

Seriously, though, when your "worst part" is still as good as White was, yeah it's safe to say that your series is in good shape. On the whole, I'd say that I personally still prefer Cornetto trilogy as my favorite color coordinated trilogy; speaking as a basic bitch, it's just more my thing. But this is still fucking aces. This series works on a level of subtleties and real human emotions that you just don't see that much in moviemaking, especially mainstream Hollywood moviemaking, which is so often obsessed with trend-chasing (NEVER trendsetting, they're not smart enough for that over there), and empty pandering. This series, with its beautiful intricacies and lived-in reality, rises above that fare, and becomes something important; something that will go on and live in our collective imaginations, puzzled over, relived and remembered forever. After watching this movie, took a walk, and I thought long and hard about life. It was that kind of ride.

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