Magazine article The New Yorker

Home

Magazine article The New Yorker

Home

Article excerpt

HOME

Few things are more mysterious than someone else's favorite film. To hear it named is to be puzzled. You appreciate its merits but not how it can be preferable to all others. Perhaps your favorite film isn't the one that you like best but the one that likes you best. It confirms you on first encounter, and goes on to shape you in some irreversible way. Often, you first see it when you're young, but not too young, and on each subsequent viewing it is a home to which you return.

I first saw Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Red" in 1996, in the basement of a college library in Michigan. Valentine, a young woman in Geneva, played with austere grace by Irene Jacob, accidentally runs over a dog, loads the bloodied animal into her car, and seeks out its owner, a surly retired judge named Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who seems not to care about the dog, and who, Valentine discovers, passes his days listening in on his neighbors' telephone conversations. They are drawn into a relationship--not a romance but a series of tenderly exchanged confidences. In one scene, the judge, on his birthday, wonders if he made the right decisions during his career. There is another thread: Valentine's neighbor, a law student named Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), whom she doesn't know but often passes in the street, is betrayed by his girlfriend. The three characters move through perfectly average days--unlocking an apartment door in time to catch a ringing phone, stopping at a kiosk to buy a newspaper--but their gestures seem to be part of a larger pattern.

The hushed intensity of the film, the sense of inner workings not fully grasped, stayed with me. I have since seen "Red" more than a dozen times: with my siblings during Thanksgiving in Alabama; alone in a crowd on the Museumsinsel, in Berlin; in the middle of the night in a hotel room in Geneva; on a stalled Amtrak train somewhere near Poughkeepsie. Kieslowski uses the tiniest gestures to illuminate dilemmas: the camera lingering on Valentine's face as she tries to figure out where the dog, which she has adopted, has run off to; the twitch of Auguste's jaw when he realizes that his girlfriend has another lover.

Kieslowski explores the experiences of two people who live in the same city, visit the same places, touch the same doorknobs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.