Discourse on Red: Three Colours

1 August 2015
1) The traffic light is red hiatus. Imagery refers your nerves to blood and worry, the universal specialists. Is blood primary? If no one’s heart is opened to beat or stop by moments or edits or from this traffic light in a narrative of head and heart and heartlessness then the film is literal, references to lights and of hearts beating are … Later, the narratives tell on each other: the ex judge’s judgement is a stone smashing his window, glass unseen but heard. His neighbours. Blood and fury. The smash of feel-not-think of show-not-tell. Valentine jerks back. She places the stone on the piano.

2) An 80s phone is a crude device: plasticky, clunky, touch-dialling plink and whirring off as Kieslowski digitises a Kubrick 2001 amphetamine rush downline under the Channel like cliches of phoney voices, traffic, DNA, of lovers once-together now apart, same time, different places. The body unlike the narrative: same place, different times. Electrons! Passions! Cliches! There is melancholy behind each side-face shot.

3) Valentine is Red as Julie in Blue was Blue. The city laid out at night, its neon water on the surfaces is imagery on the story of the film/emulsion. Valentine is a card. She is another Kieslowski beauty of fresh-slate-and-face, of in-taken breath, a flower opening with here-and-now and naivete, her beauty and her angles, her moth to the viewer’s eye!

4) Interference whines up and down on her car radio. The static of the man she will meet after she has run over his dog while adjusting her station. Cause and effect. In stories of meetings in stories, yes to yes; if the dog’s blood seeps against theme as amazingly black she will of course drive it home, from whining wound and source – where red originates.

5) The owner is cursory, alone in his open house, so her creeping-in (and creepy) at night is shadowy but the corridor leads her to the tuner chirruping, and hidden beneath the radio receivers, listening, is the man. Her nervous cough before speaking as endearingly convincing as the dog called Rita she is bearing back to him (that he has no interest in). This Trintignant indifferent. But the innocent are so expectant.

6) When she returns his smiling dog, the old dog the ex-judge, lets her in, lets on, his unsmiling secret: it is his radio surveillance she heard: of his neighbours’ how and where as their voices shunt and whisper of adulterous love, and this time between men (but love in Red is innocent, as some is said and less is done) and so begins her judgement of the judge (you do what?), her counter/continuum of the bitter in him, if bitter it is. She worries, she challenges, he answers, we listen. A film about listening-in is an other-voyeuring of film.

7) So, a two-hander. My preferred two-timing. Two-siding. A Pure Formality, Sleuth, my personal bite of The Interview and very much of Hamlet. Dialogic and dialectic, interrogative stretch, both voices like-this and like-that hits for the intellect…

8) Tell the neighbours what I do, he challenges. I spy on them, I know what they do. A judge has heard all the stories. (He doesn’t say but K has let us know he knows and how else than sitting like God and the author on penalty-rates from The Fall. I fell, says Olivier in Blue, I nearly fell, says Valentine leaving the catwalk.) She is another innocent, her face is the sign of goodness, of want, she looks like goodness as the sign of faces. She is a card, she plays herself, her pun: she has none other.

9) The background story unseen by them, comes to us, behind their encounter is their future. Not the judge’s misanthropy, or doom. Her judgement hits through our senses.

10) At the bowling alley the music starts when the camera pans from Valentine, the particular bending and bowling, to the general, humanity bending and straightening. Strike! The camera’s third-person, God, the surveillance system, Our fate and our certain decline. Pointless mortality, he might think, old Trint, feeling barely enough for one … The lovers are different, though none are making love.

11) Her neighbour has passed his law exams. The law book he dropped in the street as she had driven past (before the dog) fell open at a passage set for his exam. As if and then, the author listening in before the scenes begin … Au-guste!

12) Films flatter us. He says, this ex judge: you can’t live other people’s lives for them. He might have said, it’s not a film. He stares at her as if at fate: out-of-time and yet in-place.

13) Good and bad judgments (as alien as babies) are immodest, he says, the ex judge. But audiences enjoy immodesty or we wouldn’t play off intellects of characters who impress us. Life and loss. Such is the nature of listening in, our dark-room selves who think, and feel, and seem to know, and make it seem some part of us is always ex …

14) When the young neighbour (and lawyer) spies on his girlfriend we see the quality of mercy is the quality of his bright-shone shoes as he stands on a bin beneath her balcony. A vantage point to judge… (she is beneath a lover) not crime, or punishment, but change.

15) Later, this late, the young lawyer’s name: Auguste! She calls her spurned Au-guste!

16) At Valentine’s modeling show the old judge stays behind (you came? she says). He tells her that he once dropped a law book over this balcony. It fell open at a passage they used in his exam. No! And he has dreamt of her happy, in love and older. A storm is approaching. His and her voices shift in time-warp rushing back or forwards into itself, the opening scene, the past wired into the future, or vice versa. His wife betrayed him. He never met another woman he could love. He never met – Valentine. This late, soberly, him saying it.

18) And later in the storm as the Channel ferry sinks which Valentine and Au-guste separately have taken the old judge – who now is Love – stares into his flattish television. No crystal ball, it presents the past, as a dream emerging from his pain he sees the rescued: Auguste and his Valentine, wrapped in the pixels of their hair, sodden, calm, their future there… Sharing oxygen and a blanket and the background red.

19) In profile Auguste’s nose is … like Trintignant’s. Valentine is the profile pic of her photo shoot: now poster of the film and the DVD, mouth open as she had posed, imagining the worst that could happen, the sad, or the sign of love between her lips.

20) At his shattered window the old judge looks out into the sunny day. His face is wet.

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