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Three Colours: White [DVD] [1994]
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2003
Krzysztof Kieslowski's second entry in his "Three Colors" trilogy is filled with less dread than its predecessor "Blue," but that is not to say that "White" is a totally whimsical film. "White" is actually a revenge-tale that has an underlying mean streak in addition to its more comical elements. It is a film that revels in the idea that a man scorned can be just as dangerous as a woman scorned.
"White" traces the journey of Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a hairdresser from Poland. Karol is a simple man who has become despondent over his upcoming divorce in France. Unable to reconcile with his former wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), Karol returns home curled up in a suitcase and sets into motion a series of events that culminates with him becoming a successful businessman. He uses his newfound wealth and power to reignite Dominique's interest in him, but when she arrives in Poland, Karol exacts his revenge when she unwittingly falls into his trap.
Zamachowski's performance in "White" is a treasure. His Karol is a lovable character whose darkness comes as a bit of a shock when it emerges because of the disarming effect of his more charming side. Yet, this does not mean Karol is sinister. Calling him complicated would be more accurate as the film makes clear that he has mixed feelings over his actions. While he wants to get even with Dominique, he is still deeply in love with her as she continuously fills his thoughts long after they are separated. Such a complicated characterization is a welcome sight amongst the one-dimensional stock figures that inhabit many current films. "White" doesn't have the dramatic impact of "Blue" but is still a worthy continuation of the "Three Colors" trilogy. If anything, it will make you realize that not all people that project a jovial exterior are truly completely jovial inside.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2000
for a film named "white" the humour is very dark indeed. this film is an ideal riposte to blue, and whilst the majority of the film is slightly comic in nature there is a heart-rending twist at the ending. the characters are wonderfully constructed and you can understand why karol loves the cruel but beautiful dominque. the theme of inequality is dealt with skillfully, and you are left considering the merits of seeking revenge for a love taken away.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2005
Blue was the first... It was bleak, it was moody, and held a lot of weighty issues dealing with loss, grief and personal liberation. Red was the final... It was rich in colour, deep with emotion and, had a multi-layered plot that drew comparisons with Kieslowski's earlier hit, the Double Life of Veronique. It was also his final film.
Somewhere in between those deep, thoughtful meditations on the nature of life and love came the second film in the trilogy... White. Maybe because this film - which for all intensive purposes is about gaining equality - is less emotionally rigid than the two films that act as bookends - or perhaps because the issues analysed here are less weighty - White has always been somewhat overlooked and undervalued by the majority of fans and critics. I think this is a bit of a shame really, because for me, the film represents something of a pleasant change of pace for the director, allowing him to create characters that are much more lucid and three-dimensional (away from the anguished, metaphysical ciphers in Red and Blue), as well as offering him the chance to use moments of comedy and kind pathos to undercut the more thoughtful or reflective moments of drama. The characters here are wonderfully rendered, with our central protagonist Karol Karol - the most perfect example of a tragi-comic hero this side of the silent age - trying to find his place in the world after a bitter divorce and an embarrassing court procedure leave him uncertain of who he really is.
The rest of the film charts his journey from nobody, to somebody, right back to nobody (with some devilish twists along the way), whilst also touching on notions of power, personal equality and the all consuming power of love. The relationship between Karol and his wife/ex-wife Dominique is one filled with paradox and contradiction, which to me seems a lot more realistic and believable than some critics at the time would suggest. Both characters profess a love for one another, but then go on to do absolutely vile things to try and subvert the power and equality between themselves. Ultimately, the film comes down to a simple equation... would you destroy yourself and sacrifice everything in the name of true love? Although filled with dark humour and a number of actions and rationalisations that seem to be brimming with bitterness, White is really an inspirational film... one that fills you with a sense of hope and makes you believe that anything is possible.
The ending of the film, like the endings to almost all of Kieslowski's works, is a one that transcends everything that went before and subverts every nuance of the characters and their relationship throughout the film (making you want to go back and experience the whole thing again. As final scenes go, the closing moments of this film are amongst the most sublime and beautifully melancholic depictions of enduring love and hope that I've ever seen, managing to be both touching and emotionally moving, without relying on cloying sentimentality.
The visualisation of the film is stunning with Kieslowski - as he had done with Blue and Red - utilising the colour of the title to give us a film that is both cold and neutral. His depiction of Poland in the later scenes of the film - replete with icy lakes, towering buildings and roads caked in snow - owes more to his defining Decalogue than the autumnal setting of Veronique, with the locations really going against the obvious actions of the film to give us the internal realisation of Karol and Dominique's true feelings (cold and emotionally barren). Kieslowski has just as firm a grip on his actors, with both Zbigniew Zamachowski (no, I can't pronounce it either!) and Julie Delpy giving great, multi-layered performances that manage to convey the loving, internal warmth, hidden beneath the cold, icy exteriors. Equally as impressive is Janusz Gajos as Karol's Polish confidant Mikolaj, who here plays an important part in much of the plot.
Although this is a film rich in visual poetry and dense in symbolism, it is by no means a heavy film. In fact, it's the lightest and most enjoyable of the three, with Kieslowski and his co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz crafting a witty and anarchic film filled with moments of dark comedy and interesting drama. I even think it's a better film than the gloomy, though no less critically acclaimed Blue... but that could just be a matter of personal taste. At any rate, White is an enjoyable, interesting and greatly rewarding film that deserves to be seen in it's own right (as opposed to being evaluated alongside Blue and Red)... Get the box set and enjoy all three.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 February 2013
This was the second film in Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterful Three Colours Trilogy, and (loosely) matches up to 'equality' in the French national motif. Unlike the other films in the trilogy, Kieaelowski sets up White as (on the surface) a quirky black comedy and sets much of the film in his Polish homeland, allowing him to introduce themes around Poland's relationship with the rest of Europe (and, in particular, its entry into the EU). The film's comedic content, whilst at times hilarious in its own right, acts as a mask for White's underlying messages of love, humiliation, ambition, vengeance and regret, whose portrayal here is (for me) as poignant and effective as anything this director ever did (certainly placing the film at least on a par with the generally more highly rated Blue and Red).

At the heart of the film is Zbigniew Zamachowski's brilliant portrayal of shy, (temporarily) impotent, Polish hairdresser Karol Karol, whose marriage to Julie Delpy's ravishing Dominique is on the verge of dissolution on the grounds of non-consummation. The way Kieslowski sets up this (failed) central relationship is superbly done, as Karol's nervous loser shuffles along the Parisian street, is dive-bombed by an unwelcome pigeon (a scene of humiliation which, according to Kieslowski, can be seen as a microcosm of the entire film), (in court) stares longingly into Dominique's eyes, before failing once again in his husband's duty (and last chance). Thereafter, down-and-out and penniless, Karol, whilst busking with comb and paper in the metro, happens upon fellow Pole Mikolaj (played with great understatement by Janusz Gajos) whose promise of cash in return for a 'hit' on one of Mikolaj's suicidal 'friends', leads to the two returning home to Poland, disillusioned with 'the west' (and with Karol hell-bent on seeking revenge on his ex). Of course, Karol's mode of transport is less than conventional - revealing to the audience the meaning of the shots at the start of the film of the large trunk on the baggage carousel - whilst Karol's arrival, post-mugging, to the snowy desolate Polish landscape ('Home at last') carries on the film's tone of dark hilarity. In fact, these early sequences remind me very much of early Polanski films, with Zamachowski's performance as Karol particularly reminiscent of Polanski's acting turn as Trelkovsky in The Tenant.

Back in Poland, Karol's time is split between exploiting the country's burgeoning black market economy (which transforms him from bumbling loser to 'new kid on the block' entrepreneur) and (still) yearning for Dominique, as he kisses his Paris-purloined Marianne figurine in remembrance. Karol's dichotomy of his (apparently) doomed love for his ex-wife and his need to mete out revenge is brought into sharp focus by his intricate entrapment plan for her - and the film's closing close-up of Karol's tear-streaked face is simply devastating.

A final mention should go to Zbigniew Preisner who composed the film's (and indeed, the trilogy's) soundtrack, which provides a brilliant mix of sweeping and haunting classical themes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 May 2012
There is so much to admire in this second film in Kieslowski`s trilogy, not least an uncharacteristic element of near-farce, and a gallery of offbeat types more often to be found in one of Aki Kaurismaki`s mordantly droll films, that its shortcomings may seem less important.
From the word go, White is a film that mixes the emotional with the humorous. The central character played by Zbigniew Zamachowski is a ferrety, pasty-faced Pole who is in the process of being divorced by his beautiful young wife - the suitably ravishing Julie Delpy radiant in an early role - on the grounds that the marriage is unconsummated. Here the problems begin.
I found it hard to believe that a woman so obviously gorgeous, and so apparently self-possessed - though in truth we find out little about her, this being a very `male` film - would look twice at such a seemingly insignificant man. His lack of libido appears, the more the story gets under way, to be connected with his physical displacement (a Pole in Paris) as well as, one guesses, his sense of powerlessness, of not having achieved much on his own terms. His vaunted prowess as a prize-winning hairdresser is just one detail that is never quite explored in this highly entertaining if frustrating film.
His unorthodox, and literally unbelievable, relocation to his snow-laden homeland is the cue for more drollery, as he gradually becomes a hotshot (these scenes also require a hefty suspension of disbelief) and plots a darkly devious revenge on his ex-wife, whose mock-funeral she is duped into attending. What happens in the rest of the film is not only lacking in credibility but left a bad taste in at least one viewer`s mouth.
A big problem I had is that (unlike some of my fellow reviewers) I did not find the main character at all lovable, or even particularly likeable. He starts the film as a self-pitying washout and ends it as a preening cock-of-the-walk - until the final scene, in which we are led to believe the two leads are both in prisons of their own. Well, possibly...
There is a performance which stands out for me, and made me wish the film had been about him rather than our petulant Pole. The fellow countryman named Mikolaj whom the latter meets in Paris, who effects his "removal" back to Poland, and who shares with him two telling scenes underground, is played with doleful restraint by Janusz Gajos (who looks like a more crumpled cross between Engelbert Humperdinck and comedian Dave Allen!) and lends a gravitas to proceedings which the film`s unsteady mix of Mr Bean knockabout and emotional frailty sorely needs.
There are visual echoes of the previous film in the trilogy, Blue, including early on a brief glimpse of Juliette Binoche as her character from that film, in a
"mirror image" of a scene we saw in Blue, one reason these three films are best seen in sequence.
Despite all its arguable faults, its bracing dark humour, the excellent performances, and the director`s mastery of the form, all make the film well worth seeing. I still find aspects of it less than credible, and Delpy is to my mind ill-used, but there is enough in this odd little film to keep one watching.
7 out of 10.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 26 October 2005
Having watched Kieslowski's "Three Colours Blue" and now this film , I must admit to finding the whole Liberty and Equality , Blue and White theme to be particularly vague and tenuous and "Three Colours White" bears no significant resemblance to the first film in terms of plot and atmosphere with 80% of the film being set in Poland and most of the dialogue being in Polish. That said, these observations don't prevent "White" from being as good a film, possibly even better, than "Blue".
The characterisation and acting is first class as the film's location shifts from Paris to Warsaw, following the plight of scorned husband Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) , thrown out by his beautiful but callous French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) and being forced to use a somewhat unorthodox method of returning to his native Poland. Rather than resume his hairdressing duties in Warsaw, Karol tries his hand successfully at property speculation, opens his own business and concocts a very cunning plan to avenge his Parisian humiliations at the hands of Dominique.
Memorable characters abound; Karol the lovelorn crimper turned streetwise schemer, his gorgeous but icy cold ex-wife Dominique, Karol's mysterious depressive friend Mikolaj and his whispering landlord Jurek. The cinematography is typically stylish and the storyline is intriguing and cleverly constructed. An excellent film.
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A droll.black comedy that talks of the personal and political adjustments of the new Europe."We're European now" Karol's(Zamachowski) brother tells him when he gets back to the post-Soviet capitalist Poland,and sees a flashing sign now outside the hairdresser's.After the uplift of Blue this film is very deadpan,sardonic and edgy with its predominant character Karol's(Charlie after Chaplin)need to overcome impotence,language barriers(Dominique his wife is French,he's Polish) and divorce while still in love with Dominique(Delphy).White stands in the tricolour for personal and political equality.We get flashbacks to the wedding scene with Dominique emerging from Church dressed in white and the pigeons all flying up,we also get some very snowy landscapes in Karol's native Poland,there's also an alabaster figure which reminds him of Dominique,which gets chipped and broken.The couple are estranged and apart and we get to see little of Delphy as a character as this is more about the effects she has on Karol's life.Karol is a hairdresser and gets back to Poland in a suitcase with the help of Mikolaj(Gajos),a man who offers him a job to put an end to a would-be suicide's life.Karol transforms himself from destitute to powerful yet warm-hearted: his aim to get Domique back as in get back together with her and to get even with her.He reawakens Dominique's love through a cunning scheme.Kieslowski lays bare the impoverished ethics of the new money-obsessed Poland and also suggests one can never go back.This is a cruel film whose coolness yet harbours some embers of humanity and a lyrical admission of the power of love.Zamochowski is brilliant.Preisner's score is superb.
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on 31 May 2011
This is the second part in Krystof Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy, looking at the idea of equality. The story focusses on the fall and rise of Karol, a Polish hairdresser whose world is destroyed when his French wife divorces him, leaving him homeless and broke in Paris.

He is given a mote of hope of returning to Poland when a man identifies the tune he was playing on a piece of paper and a comb as being Polish, and offers Karol passage back to Poland, on the proviso that he kill a man who wants to be killed but lacks the courage to commit suicide. Karol, faced the moral dilemma, agrees to the deal, and smuggles himself inside a suitcase.

In a slight swipe at the airline industry, the suitcase gets lost and Karol finds himself home, but isolated. I shan't spoil it by telling you what he ultimately does with regard to the moral dilemma, though the story does progress beyond this. Through some new found-cunning, he engineers a windfall for himself and establishes a good business, though also creates some enemies at the same time. His enduring love for his ex-wife remains and he finds a way of bringing her to Poland so that she can share in his success. But she too is left with a moral dilemma (the details of which I shall not spoil) and she can show that she still loves him by an act of self-sacrifice, or she can leave him in Poland as she previously left him in Paris. The final scene of the film portrays the consequence of her decision in a wordless series of images that speak a thousand words.

At all times, the film is whisper, rather than a shout, and so the experience of watching this compared to a Hollywood blockbuster is like the difference between sitting by a quiet lake and sitting on a roller-coaster. It will not be everyone's taste, though I enjoyed it immensely.
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on 1 January 2012
White seems lightweight when compared to Blue or Red. A black comedy which does not hold much appeal. Neither of the two leading characters is attractive, nor acted particularly well. I will keep it as an example of Kieslowski's (a great director's) work, but it did not grip me or move me as the other two films did. I hope that I will change my opinion in subsequent viewings, but somehow I do not think I will.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2003
First of all, I think people need to get away from the line of thinking that says the Three Colours Trilogy is about liberty equality ansd fraternity. That is a publicity gimmick if ever I saw one. I also think that whichever reviewer said White was the best French film they ever saw needs to have a rethink: the film is almost entirely in Polish and all the actors and crew, with the exception of Julie Delpy, are also Polish.
Red, White and Blue do not hold the exclusive connotations of the French flag's colours. Blue can also be sadness, White can represent innocence or purity or space or snow and red can denote passion...Kieslowski pays with all the many connotations of these colours in his films amd yet very little in them relates to the frenchness people seem to associate with the films. Neither White nor Red take place in France, after all.
Kieslowski's trilogy gets better and better as it progresses, but admittedly, White requires a second or third viewing in order to be fully appreciated. It is the most difficult of the three to understand and yet at the same time it SHOULD be the easiest, since it is an opportunity taken by the director to express himself in his own language, country, culture. And there you have it: a film deciphered with difficulty which expresses to perfection, on one of it's many levels, the position of the foreigner abroad. The easiest parts to decipher are those which take place in french and yet the greater part take place in Polish and the most important in silence. White is the gap or blank space or interlude between Blue and Red. It is also the blank, expressionless language of someone using a language not his own and unable to tap into the wealth of expression contained therein.
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