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Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
In the 1990s, Polish-born filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski directed a series of three interrelated movies individually titled "Blue" (1993), "White" (1994), and "Red" (1994), but collectively known as the "Three Colors" trilogy. Miramax has released these three films on DVD in a boxed set that I think every lover of art-house cinema will want to own. The three-disc DVD set comes loaded with special features, and I have listed these below.
"Blue" and "Red" are French-language films, while "White" is mostly in Polish. The best-known performers in the trilogy are French actors Juliette Binoche, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Julie Delpy, and Irène Jacob, but the star of "White" is Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski. "Blue" is set in Paris, "White" in Warsaw, and "Red" in Geneva. I don't think the trilogy feels especially French-the sensibilities seem to me to be those common to most 1990s Continental Europeans.
Kieslowski's approach to filmmaking was subtle and intellectual, and he cleverly named the movies in the trilogy after the three colors in the French flag. He used blue, white, and red to give him the predominant color and mood for each of the films. He also used the French Revolution notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity that correspond to these three colors as themes for each of the movies. But Kieslowski dealt with individuals rather than with groups, and the films comprising the trilogy aren't particularly political. Instead, they are deeply personal and fable-like, and for me they represent humanistic filmmaking at its very best.
"Blue" is a somber film whose theme is liberty. The story begins with a car crash that badly injures a 33-year-old woman and kills her husband and their five-year-old daughter. The woman, whose name is Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche), recovers physically, and she must decide how to deal with her grief and get on with her life. Although she had not sought freedom, it has come to her, and she must make some difficult choices.
Julie's husband was a famous composer who was working on a concerto commissioned by the European Council at the time of his death, and the unfinished piece of music haunts her and gives rise to issues she must deal with. Also, Julie discovers that her late husband had had a mistress for years, and she must come to terms with the aftermath of his long-term affair. Most importantly, Julie's husband's assistant, Olivier, has been in love with her for a long time, and she must decide whether she is ready to risk emotional intimacy.
"White" is a predominantly lighthearted movie, and its theme is equality. The central character is a Chaplinesque figure with the comic name Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski). A hairdresser from Poland, Karol marries a Frenchwoman named Dominique (Julie Delpy) and relocates to Paris, where everything is structured in her favor. Karol is so overwhelmed that he is unable to consummate the marriage, and the movie begins with Dominique divorcing him.
After Dominique throws him out, Karol makes his way back to snowy Warsaw, where most of the story takes place. There Karol gets involved with some sleazy capitalists, and he gradually becomes very wealthy. Eventually, he fakes his own death, making it appear as though his ex-wife has murdered him for his money. But Karol and Dominique still love each other, and as the film winds down, the stage is set for them to begin a relationship in which they will be equals.
The theme of "Red" is fraternity, in the sense of community. The film is a drama that tells a tale about an unusual friendship that develops between a man in his sixties and a woman in her twenties. The man is a lonely retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant), betrayed by a lover years earlier, and at the beginning of the film wallowing in alienation. But things begin to change for the judge when he encounters Valentine (Irène Jacob), an outgoing model and university student.
Somehow just knowing Valentine makes the judge want to reestablish connections with the outside world. As for Valentine, her boyfriend Michel is souring their relationship, and the judge plays a role in setting the stage for her to be thrown together with a promising young man named Auguste. I think it's wonderful the way the film suggests that there are mysterious links between the judge's past and Valentine's destiny.
In the last few minutes of "Red," all the main threads of the trilogy are brought together. The judge happily watches a television report that Julie and Olivier from "Blue," Karol and Dominique from "White," and Valentine and Auguste from "Red" were rescued when a ferry crossing the English Channel capsized during a storm. I found this to be a deeply satisfying ending to a series of marvelous films.
I think Krzysztof Kieslowski, who died in 1996 at the age of 54, was a genius of the order of Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini. He brilliantly combined inventive stories, quirky characters, interesting images, and timeless music in films that give insight into the human condition. I give the "Three Colors" trilogy my highest possible recommendation.
Special Features of the DVDs:
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