On Saturday afternoon, I made my way to the Walter Reade Theater so that I could watch as much of the Red Riding trilogy as possible. This trio of feature-length films, each made by a different director, tells the story of the Yorkshire Ripper and his serial violence between 1974 and 1983 in Northern England. However, what starts as the hunt for a serial killer quickly becomes a saga about police corruption in an area where dirty cops remark “We do what we want.” The three films – directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, and Anand Tucker, in that order – screened back-to-back on Saturday, as part of the New York Film Festival. IFC Films acquired the trilogy in May, and is scheduled to release all of them simultaneously in February 2010. The trilogy originally premiered on Channel 4 in the UK earlier this year, and for you UK readers, it’s now available on DVD (though if you’re in the UK you probably know this). This was a major event in England, and I think American audiences should prepare to dive in (there’s now even subtitles for the more difficult Northern England accents).
I was only able to catch the first two installments, “1974” and “1980,” before heading back downtown for dinner with friends. Thankfully, it was a good dinner, because it pained me to leave the trilogy just as it was reaching its payoff. The stage that was set, though, is a gripping and nuanced portrait of crime. Red Riding might feel like the television miniseries it is, but it’s also one of those television projects that exceeds the medium and deserves to be seen on a big screen. The films are self-contained, yet overlap enough to reward those dedicated to stick with it. You can’t really say the same for some great dramatic television (this is why I haven’t been able to penetrate The Wire or Lost). So, now, I wait for the big conclusion in “1983,” wondering where the pieces of “1974” and “1980” fall into place. February never seemed so far away.