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The "Three Colours" Trilogy (BFI Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Geoff Andrew
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 1998 BFI Modern Classics
"The Three Colours Trilogy" by Krzysztof Kieslowski (1941-1996) is generally regarded as a major triumph of European cinema. An examination of how the ideals of the French Revolution - liberty, equality and fraternity - have meaning in modern life, the trilogy combines visual elegance, narrative complexity, and virtuoso performances to extraordinary effect. In this highly personal appreciation of the trilogy, Geoff Andrew analyzes how Kieslowski used his command of the cinema to open up the inner lives of his characters and to chart the way in which these lives are ruled by unseen forces. For Andrew, the trilogy is a poignant, thrilling hymn to the resilience of compassion in the face of adversity. Tracing the links between the trilogy and Kieslowski's earlier work, he argues that "Blue" (1993), "White, and Red" (both 1994) are the summation of Kieslowski's art. This book, which concludes with one of the last interviews Kieslowski ever gave, is a tribute to an exceptional filmmaker.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: BFI Publishing (1 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851705693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851705699
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 0.9 x 16.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Kieslowksi books. 28 Jan 2003
By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Geoff Andrews contributes one of the strongest BFI books on films that they have produced- which is some feat considering the majority of these books are excellent (though I have found the BFI books on Blue Velvet & Titanic lacking...).
Andrews admits in the opening that the book was partly a reaction to Kieslowski's early death in 1996, and inserts an interview that he had with the Polish director around the release of Three Colours.
The book offers a brief overview of Kieslowki's achievments prior to the final trilogy: the documentaries, Camera Buff, Blind Chance (stated to be the influence for Sliding Doors), No End, The Dekalog & The Double Life of Veronique. The book then focuses on the 1993/1994 trilogy based around the principles of the French flag: liberty, equality, fraternity: Blue, White, Red.
The book then explores facets of each work, what they may mean & how they relate to each other (supported by stunning photographs from the films). For anyone who is an admirer of these films or is studying these works, this book is an invaluable resource & one that manages to connect personally to the work, in addition to the usual focus on style & technique. This book is a brilliant response to a major work of cinema & is an example of how good film-writing can be...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slight but informative 3 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
BFI Modern Classics: The Three Colours Trilogy by Geoff Andrew Andrew gives a passionate and surprisingly personal analysis of Krzysztof Kieslowski's modern masterpiece trilogy, there were some genuine insights to be found here and in particularly for Red, which is the film I have the least experience of in the trilogy. The book made me want to watch all three films again which is the highest praise I can offer really. BFI companions are often very slight (I read this from cover to cover in less than a day) and the quality depends on the writer in question, this is one of the good ones but not quite as good as Kermode's one on The Exorcist.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Kieslowksi books. 28 Jan 2003
By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Geoff Andrews contributes one of the strongest BFI books on films that they have produced- which is some feat considering the majority of these books are excellent (though I have found the BFI books on Blue Velvet & Titanic lacking...).
Andrews admits in the opening that the book was partly a reaction to Kieslowski's early death in 1996, and inserts an interview that he had with the Polish director around the release of Three Colours.
The book offers a brief overview of Kieslowki's achievments prior to the final trilogy: the documentaries, Camera Buff, Blind Chance (stated to be the influence for Sliding Doors), No End, The Dekalog & The Double Life of Veronique. The book then focuses on the 1993/1994 trilogy based around the principles of the French flag: liberty, equality, fraternity: Blue, White, Red.
The book then explores facets of each work, what they may mean & how they relate to each other (supported by stunning photographs from the films). For anyone who is an admirer of these films or is studying these works, this book is an invaluable resource & one that manages to connect personally to the work, in addition to the usual focus on style & technique. This book is a brilliant response to a major work of cinema & is an example of how good film-writing can be...
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars amidst a slew of details, nothing really new 19 Dec 1999
By S. Park - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, beware the cybershopper: this is an *extremely* slim volume. The contents make up a scant 80 pages. Thick, glossy paper quality, which showcases film stills extremely well, and a six-page interview with Kieslowski at the end, but the writing is less than satisfying. Andrew tends to run to extremes - most of the time his "analysis" consists of painstakingly assembled narrative details from the three films (expounded at length over individual synopses of the three films), and when he does take a shot at analysis, he tends to draw grand and general conclusions for which the evidence is found wanting. The author prefers to rhapsodize about the role of chance and destiny in the Trilogy, when an introductory discussion regarding the precise meaning of the *title* and how it is expressed in the film might have seemed more proper. In a sense he can't be blamed for this, since this is his own take on the trilogy and he is free to think whatever he thinks - in fact, he apologizes early on that this tome represents a non-definitive (meaning personal) take on the trilogy from the viewpoint of an "unrepentant admirer". However, in this sense each and every passionate viewer of Kieslowski could have written his or her own book, with no more and no less merit for publication than Andrew's. In sum, if you are already initiated into Kieslowski, there is nothing in this book that a good second (or third or fourth) viewing of the films will not give you (but to be on par with this author be prepared to hit the"pause" button every five minutes - gotta spot that portrait of Van Den Budenmayer's on the judge's desk!), and if you are a novice, this is not the book to start with. Watch the films again, carefully, and let your mind draw its own conclusions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Concise Guide to One of the Greatest Films 1 Aug 2006
By Julia Shuvalova - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
To comprehend Kieslowski the film-maker is an intellectually arduous task, and those who are interested in how his Polish identity manifested itself in his non-Polish films might make better use of Emma Wilson's 'Memory and Survival: the French Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski' (Oxford, 2000). It is fairly correct to say that Geoff Andrew was not interested in that. Publishing his book for the first time in 1998, only two years after Kieslowski's death, Andrew's main purpose was to offer his insight, as a film critic, to Kieslowski's tour-de-force, especially in the light of uneven critical reception of the trilogy.

Andrew's fascination with `Three Colours' definitely makes his book an engaging and illuminating reading. At the same time, this book cannot be passed for yet another summary of the films' plots, simply because it goes well beyond that. It is probably useful to remind oneself of the difference between a plot and a story and of the fact that the story (i.e. what happens) tells relatively little about its author's potential; it is the plot ('how' the story is happening), together with authorial structure and style that does. Taking `Three Colours: Blue' for example, its story is very simple: a woman who lost her husband and child in a car crash, is trying to rebuild her life. The work begins when we ask, who the woman is, who her husband was, how she may rebuild her life, how she is actually rebuilding it, etc. The fact that all this is told in connection with ideas of liberation and freedom (because the French 'liberte' carries both meanings) adds further complexity to the story.

As one knows, most films reviews seldom answer questions like these, simply because they require attention to detail that 500 words do not allow for. This, however, is possible in a book. Andrew painstakingly collects scattered details, to tell us, what sort of character Julie is. He also studies the dead husband, whose character is easy to ignore altogether. We are told early on that Julie's husband was a famous composer, but when I was watching the film I noticed the same point, upon which Andrew remarks in his study: it looks kind of strange that a classical composer so effortlessly produces a marketable piece of music, commemorating the unification of Europe. If anything, it does raise questions as to how serious a composer he is; and a suggestion that he could have been helped in writing his music seems therefore all the more valid. Andrew pays attention to this episode, which in a way is pivotal for Julie's `awakening'. This very detail, however, continues to elude some critics, despite its overall importance. Without it, Julie's own musical talent is hugely underplayed, whereas the theme of love as liberation and a creative source (but also as a realm of delusion) does not resonate as much, as Kieslowski certainly intended.

What Andrew is doing therefore is plucking out these `elusive' details, in order to show us, how truly genuine were Kieslowski's last films. One may say, of course, that such purpose did not require a book, but one should also admit that most viewers will only pick upon the majority of details, if they sit through the films at least three times. And since we are discussing a film, then the story evidently unravels not only in words, but in frames, colours and sounds, which further complicate its grasping. In the chapter on `White', Andrew studies the different and often ambiguous use of the white colour, to illustrate how it corresponds with different ideas that Kieslowski communicated in this film. The use of music is central for `Blue', while `Red' is visually and intellectually impressive for its camerawork and direction of photography, which does require a viewer to check on their attention. Andrew rightly suggests that `Red' is the sum total of all three films, which is why it is both so remarkable and so complex.

This book is indeed a summary, but of a kind that many films could only wish to have. It is intelligent, fairly easy to read (especially if the reader has seen the films) and helps to systematise Kieslowski's technique and ideas, as they emerged for the last time in his career. As Andrew indicated in the Preface, his was `an "auteurist" study', and not an investigation into prices and individuals, let alone into the "politics" of `Three Colours'. This is one of the reasons for why he draws continuous parallels between this trilogy and `Decalogue', as there are many recurrent topics, ideas and even techniques that make `Three Colours' belong to the realm of ethics, rather than politics. Andrew also specifies that Kieslowski himself was adamant that his understanding of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity must be seen as personal, and not politically infused. What we have, therefore, is an indispensable systematisation of one the greatest works in film history, a gateway for further research into Kieslowski's work, as well as a good example of an in-depth, yet concise, film study.
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Three colours: grey 27 May 2002
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Even at the time of its release (1993-94), Kieslowski's 'Three Colours' trilogy (in which the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity embodied in the French flag are ironically applied to such dilemmas in modern life as grief, communication in a media-saturated culture and post-communist capitalism) was seen as the last gasp of a 'world cinema' auteur tradition that had flourished in the 1950s and 60s, but had become virtually moribund by the 1980s. At the time, however, reviews were mixed: some critics were in raptures at the rare, spiritual power of these films, treasuring their exploration of inner lives, and holding them as a Fine Art stick with which to beat the commercial inanities of modern Hollywood; others decried Kieslowski's rejection of a political cinema, his retreat into a self-indulgent, decorative, bourgeois-currying aesthetic of the individual.
Geoff Andrew was, from the start, one of Kieslowski's most ardent acolytes, but his study of the trilogy is wholly inadequate as an analysis of Kieslowski's complex art. Film editor for listings rag Time Out, Andrew doesn't progress beyond the insights offered in original newspaper/magazine reviews, and his prose is littered with the kind of quotable hyperbole designed for snipping from articles and pasting on blurbs and posters: 'an extraordinarily affecting triptych', 'deft black comedy', 'Kieslowski's greatest achievement'. The whole point of this BFI Classics/Modern Classics series was surely to go beyond the platitudes of contemporary opinion, and put the works in some kind of context or framework.
Andrew's study is the kind of bland, untheoretical fanzine that used to pass for film criticism in the 60s - the films are treated as simply the poetic inspirations of a great auteur. There is no attempt, for instance, to see how issues such as finance might affect certain aesthetic decisions (casting, location etc.), or what the contributions of other personnel might be. Kieslowski's intellectual and cultural heritage as a Pole, a reader and a film-maker is ignored as if he was a singular genius who emanated from the ether, untouched by environment, circumstance or influence.
After a brief sketch of Kieslowski's pre-'Three Colours' career (which is extraordinarily reduced to the level of films anticipating the trilogy, rather than major works in their own right), the 'analyses' of the 3 movies are actually mere synopses, while the 'critical' chapters, charting thematic and formal connections, and links with Kieslowski's previous features, never gets beyond mere listing, never coheres into anything resembling an interpretation. The density of these playful, ambiguous, deeply ironic films is reduced to the trite, touchy-feely Disneyesque message 'Love conquers all'. Worse, the films themselves are discussed as if they were mere screenplays, in terms of plot and character, as if they were books; anyone who has seen a Kieslowski picture will know that these are the least interesting elements (or, at least, that they are undermined by various formal and narrative procedures), and to properly interpet Kieslowski, a detailed, informed account of his style is needed. On the DVDs of the films there are interviews with his editor Jacques Witta, and masterclasses from Kieslowski. These interviews show how profoundly meaning derived not from plot or character, but from complex decisions about editing, timing, rhythm, colour, texture, framing, sound etc., about how material that was shot but didn't work in the editing suite could be abandoned or rearranged. Anyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of these elusive films would do better to skip this book and get the DVDs instead.
5.0 out of 5 stars BFI books are the best 27 July 2013
By Dnchance - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
BFI books are clearly written and illuminate aspects of the films you may not have noticed, but enrich your viewing now you They produce the greatest film analysis books on the market. Always worth buying it you want to know more about a film, especially if you love it and know it well.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great complement for any Three Colours enthusiast. 22 Aug 1999
By mettic@hotmail.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If anyone has reservations about delving into the "What does it mean...?", this book is a great safety net, or better yet, a guide. There are very thoughtful analyses of the movies on an individual basis as well as a single trilgoy.
The bio on Kieslowski is very brief, and there are few mentions about the actors and actresses themselves. But a small trifle...
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