Three Colors: Red

Part of a multi-title set | Three Colors


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Krzysztof Kieślowski closes his Three Colors trilogy in grand fashion, with an incandescent meditation on fate and chance, starring Irène Jacob as a sweet-souled yet somber runway model in Geneva whose life dramatically intersects with that of a bitter retired judge, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. Meanwhile, just down the street, a seemingly unrelated story of jealousy and betrayal unfolds. Red is an intimate look at forged connections and a splendid final statement from a remarkable filmmaker at the height of his powers.

Picture 8/10

The third and final film in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, Red, comes to 4K UHD through The Criterion Collection and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer, BD-66 disc with a 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition encode and Dolby Vision. The master has been sourced from a new 4K restoration taken from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The release also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray that features a 1080p presentation of the film (from an older restoration) and all of the special features. That disc appears to be the same disc available in Criterion’s previous Blu-ray edition.

As with the other films in the set and their respective presentations, Red also sports a different look compared to previous home video incarnations, including Criterion’s own Blu-ray. The image here ends up leaning significantly warmer while also appearing considerably darker. It’s an astonishingly different look than what one may be used to, but, as with the other titles in the set, I do think this more than likely comes closer to how the film was shot or how it was intended to look, with prior releases having adjusted the image’s various levels (color, contrast, brightness, etc.) to make the film appear more palatable on monitors of the time. In turn, those adjustments ended up flattening and dulling out the image, something that can’t be said about this new presentation.

Ultimately, the 4K image delivers a richer-looking presentation compared to the older one, and it all starts with how the film’s shadows are rendered. Those shadows appear quite a bit heavier, particularly in the judge’s house. However, the wider dynamic range and deeper blacks afforded here (further enhanced by HDR and Dolby Vision) aid in cleanly rendering the gradients and leading to better depth. The lighting in this film looks extraordinary now, and the older presentations never really evoked the same look due to the shadows being smeared from the adjusted contrast. Yes, you could make out more in the image, but it looked flat since the light is kept at similar levels within each scene. The lighting and the way it now reflects off of objects here is far more natural in appearance.

As to colors, as hinted, they do lean significantly warmer, but like the other films, a lot of it appears to come down to the lighting or even filters much of the time. The color scheme in the movie is minimal, but of the three films, I’d say this is the one to really push its title color. Red is everywhere, and there isn’t much else, and this look seems to enhance those reds even further. Interiors can look predominantly yellow, but most of the time, it does seem to be intentional due to how the lighting was composed, maybe to replicate incandescent lights. The warmness of the light can also shift within the scene, and natural light can eat through it as well. Some nighttime scenes can look a little green, but it’s not all that out of place and doesn’t impact the blacks or shadows. Yes, this looks yellower, but as with the other presentations in the set, it’s nothing like what Ritrovata or other restoration houses have done. It’s not a blanket application.

It looks gorgeous in the end, though sadly, the image does falter in at least one area. When it comes to encoding, it’s better than what the Blu-ray delivered. Still, simultaneously, the 4K encode—somewhat shockingly—comes out looking the weakest of the three films in the set, and it’s also possibly Criterion’s weakest 4K encode to date. The good news is that Dolby Vision ends up hiding it, but in SDR or standard HDR, the picture can come off a bit noisy, and the SDR screen grabs provided here do show that. It’s not too distracting in motion on a television screen, but it’s noticeable enough at times. I thought the other two films looked solid in this department, so it was a genuine surprise to see it was more of an issue here.

That aside, I’m still far happier with this new restoration and think it bests the old high-def one by a wide margin. The improved range, deeper blacks, and bolder colors create a stunning end presentation.

Audio 8/10

Red also receives a 5.1 surround upgrade, presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 (the Blu-ray still features the 2.0 surround soundtrack), though as with the other films, it feels “5.1” in name only. I still found most of the activity centralized to the front speakers with music and some background effects sneaking to the rears. At least the lower frequency receives notable work, handling the rumbles in the music during the fashion show sequences. But even if the mix isn’t overly imaginative in direction and such, the overall quality is sharp and clear, with wide range between the lows and highs. No damage to speak of, either.

Extras 9/10

Criterion includes all of the features on the accompanying Blu-ray (that also holds the high-def presentation), with the disc being the same one found in their previous Blu-ray edition. Supplements start again with a video essay by Dennis Lim titled On Red. Even though it’s possibly the driest of the video essays found in this set, he thoroughly examines the film, reviewing its theme of fraternity and the many common elements presented throughout, including the heavy use of phones. He also, of course, looks at the service of red in the film and is the only one in the essays (that I can recall) who points out the older woman and the recycling bin that is used in all of the films, mentioning how her appearances work in the context of each film's respective theme. It may be my least favorite of the essays Criterion has included, but it’s still a worthwhile addition.

Criterion then includes another Kieslowski Cinema Lesson, this one running 8 minutes. Like the other segments found on the other discs, Kieslowski breaks down a scene, this time the sequence where the dog runs off. While going through the sequence at an editing suite, he explains how it was put together, trimming off minor moments that didn’t move anything forward. He also talks about how he likes to work backward, so to speak, by showing things initially before referencing them later in the film to force the audience to recall them. Like the other segments, it offers an intriguing look into the filmmaker’s process, and it ends up being one of the more vital features of the set.

Criterion next recorded a 16-minute interview with actress Irene Jacob who talks to great length about the various layers found in the film and in her character, the relationship her character had with the Judge, and then talks quite a bit about the director of photography, Piotr Sobocinski, and his essential contribution to the film. Much more thoughtful and analytical than what I’m usually used to from interviews with the actors and makes another great inclusion.

An older 2001 interview with producer Marin Karmitz is included next. Running 11 minutes, he talks about one of the more intriguing aspects of the production: how they got the apartment used for Valentine’s home, which involved giving the tenant what amounted to a 2-month paid vacation. Then he talks about how Kieslowski could convey so much information within a single image. The most intriguing part of the interview, though, would probably revolve around the Academy Awards and how the film was rejected initially, only to be allowed in after many around Hollywood started petitions to get it in. Though it feels like it’s made up of clips of an extended interview, it’s entertaining.

Even better is an interview with editor Jacques Witta, also taken in 2001, who talks a little about editing the film, even showing us some deleted sequences. The material is referenced as "pointless," and this is more or less true, but a couple of sequences prove of interest, such as an extended bit at the end involving Valentine’s brother. He also talks about and shows how he can “cheat” in editing to hide things the director dislikes and better shape the narrative. The piece runs over 13 minutes.

Behind the Scenes of Red offers behind-the-scene (naturally) footage of specific sequences and then shows the finished sequence afterward, including the conversation between Valentine and the Judge close to the end, an early scene introducing us to Valentine’s apartment, the photo shoot, the scene where Auguste sees his ex at the restaurant, and a few others. It proves reasonably fascinating, but the best sequences involve the more complicated shots, like the apartment scene, which made advanced use of a crane camera.

Kieslowski Cannes 1994 is 15 minutes worth of footage from Cannes, including interviews with Kieslowski, Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintgnant. The two actors talk about working with Kieslowski while Kieslowski covers various topics, but we also get footage where Kieslowski announces his retirement from filmmaking. It’s an acceptable inclusion, though it isn't any better than better-than-average promotional material.

But the real gem to the supplements here, and possibly the essential item in the box set, is the 55-minute documentary Krzysztof Kieslowski: I’m So-So…, which is essentially an interview with the director recorded in 1996. The director's friend Krzysztof Wierzbicki did the interview, and he and the director cover a wide range of subjects on his life and work, with the director being surprisingly open. They go through a selection of his films, including his experimental Talking Heads (which is one of the documentaries found on the White disc), Camera BuffThe DecalogueRed, and The Double Life of Veronique to an extent. Kieslowski isn’t the most animated subject, so the documentary isn’t all that lively, but out of all of the material found in this set, this is the most forward the director gets, feeling comfortable with his interviewer. It’s terrific that Criterion has included it here.

The disc then closes with the theatrical trailer. The set also includes a booklet with essays about the trilogy and each film.

In all a solid collection, despite the lack of a commentary (even though there is one out there.) The supplements cover the film beautifully, and we also get a more in-depth look at the director.


Like the other films in the set, it delivers a far more robust image than the Blu-ray, though disappointingly, it also offers the weaker encoding of the three films. The supplements still prove to be the best batch in the set.

Part of a multi-title set | Three Colors


Year: 1994
Time: 99 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 590
Licensor: MK2
Release Date: February 07 2023
MSRP: $124.95  (Box set exclusive)
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-66
1.85:1 ratio
French 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 Cinema lesson with director Krzysztof Kieslowski   Video essay by film writer Dennis Lim   Interview with actor Irène Jacob, plus interviews with producer Marin Karmitz and editor Jacques Witta   Behind-the-scenes footage   Short documentary on the film’s world premiere at Cannes   Krzysztof Kieslowski: I'm So-So..., a 1995 feature-length documentary in which Kieślowski discusses his life and work   Trailer