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Kieslowski's Three Color Trilogy: Blue/White/Red
When Kieslowski died in 1996, the world of film lost one of the great artists of the century. His films combine the uncompromising depth of a Bergman or Tarkovsky with a lush yet disciplined visual sensuality far more celebratory than those director's austere visions. In the French 'Colors' Trilogy Blue/White/Red, Kieslowski explores the colors of the French flag and their associated meanings of Fraternite, Egalite, and Liberte (fraternity, equality, and liberty). In Blue Juliette Binoche plays Julie, a woman who finds her life taken away from her suddenly when her husband and daughter die in an auto accident that she survives. With her former life gone, she finds liberty thrust upon her, and finding her grief overwhelming escapes to Paris to live in anonymity. In White, the tone changes to sardonic irony, even black humor. White as a color represents equality, but it is not the happy equality of justice, but the equality of getting even as Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish hairdresser, gets revenge on his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy). In Red, the color represents fraternity, but also the blood of longing, need, human warmth. Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a model who hits a dog with her car, and anxiously finds his owner, a retired judge named Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who hardly seems to care. Many details of their experience and others are interwoven in a vision of lives that are invisibily connected, with lines of destiny that trace through one another like the vision of crisscrossing phone lines that open the movie. This is a three-DVD box set, for Region 1 players and in NTSC format.
DVD | $59.95  

Kieslowski's Three Color Trilogy: Blue/White/Red

When Kieslowski died in 1996, the world of film lost one of the great artists of the century. His films combine the uncompromising depth of a Bergman or Tarkovsky with a lush yet disciplined visual sensuality far more celebratory than those director's austere visions. Colors on his films ravish the eyes with their poignance, leaving one with a sense of rapture and wonder. The palette of colors is part of a web of symbolism, a visual logic that unfolds as poetic evocation, experienced viscerally and emotionally as much as through the intellect. In Kieslowski's films, you have the feeling that every detail presented is part of a grand plan, yet while watching them there is an experience of flow, an absorption in the pleasure of the moment. Films like these can be viewed with satisfaction over and over again, the pleasure increasing rather than ebbing with the passage of time.

In the French 'Colors' Trilogy Blue/White/Red, Kieslowski explores the colors of the French flag and their associated meanings of Fraternite, Egalite, and Liberte (fraternity, equality, and liberty). As with The Decalogue, which explores in one hour episodes each of the Ten Commandments, the exposition is open-ended and humanistic - rather than expounding a tightly held point of view, he follows a human drama that develops from the theme.

In Blue, the opener of the series, Juliette Binoche plays Julie, a woman who finds her life taken away from her suddenly when her husband and daughter die in an auto accident that she survives. With her former life gone, she finds liberty thrust upon her, and finding her grief overwhelming escapes to Paris to live in anonymity. Blue functions here as not only the color of liberty, but the color of grief and longing, and memory, even the blue of off-color sexuality. The color resonates throughout the movie, in scenes with Julie swimming in a pool, bathed in blue light and the moistness of water and tears, the blue crystal mobile of her daughter that is the only memento she takes from her former home, and other more fleeting images. Binoche gives a masterful performance in a film that requires the character to show everything through her face and demeanour, and it is hard to imagine any other actor in this role. Slowly, she confronts the debris of her past and creates a new life, coming to terms with loss, infidelity, forgiveness, creation, and new love.

In White, the tone changes to sardonic irony, even black humor. White as a color represents equality, but it is not the happy equality of justice, but the equality of settling a score, getting even; it also represents the clean slate of starting afresh. Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a Polish hairdresser in Paris on his way to legal proceedings with his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy), with which he hopes to reconcile. Standing on the steps to the court, he looks up with a hopeful smile at the vision of a white dove. Alas, the dove is a pigeon and it summarily drops a white splat on his shabby coat. The rest of the film follows in tone: Dominique does not want reconcilation, but divorce, and humiliates him publicly by using impotence as her grounds; she also manages to trump up charges that get him kicked out of the country, and without a passport or money he manages with the aid of a friend to have himself sent to Poland in a trunk! Karol gets his revenge by getting rich in his own country, recently 'liberated' from communism and afflicted with the equality of a capitalism where everything has its price, but living well will not be enough, and he carries out his own plans, and the story ends with the strangest reconciliation on film.

In Red, the color represents fraternity, but also the blood of longing, need, human warmth. Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a model who hits a dog with her car, and anxiously finds his owner, a retired judge named Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who hardly seems to care. She takes the dog to a vet, saving its life, and when he reimburses her with far too much money, she returns to give back the remainder. There is some kind of intimacy between them, though he is 40 years her senior, world-weary, cynical, and seemingly corrupt (he spies on his neighbors by illegally tapping into phone lines), and she is youthful, sensitive, and open. Many details of their experience and others are interwoven in a vision of lives that are invisibily connected, with lines of destiny that trace through one another like the vision of crisscrossing phone lines that open the movie, making it a cousin of The Double Life of Veronique (also starring Irene Jacob). Our judgement of Joseph relaxes when we find a tragedy of lost love, and Valentine turns out to be troubled by estrangement; another character, Augustine, is something of a double for Joseph's younger self. The ending of the movie brings the theme of destiny and coincidence to a climax with a public tragedy that further tightens those themes. Red is a wonder of cinematic poetry, in my opinion the best film of the last decade of the 20th century.