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The Three Colours Trilogy [Blu-ray]
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Available for the first time in the UK on Blu-ray, Krzysztof Kieslowski s multi award-winning trilogy is a landmark of world cinema. Three Colours: Blue, White and Red have been acclaimed as masterpieces by critics and audiences the world over. The films, co-written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with whom he wrote the epic Dekalog cycle, explore the French Revolutionary ideals of freedom, equality and brotherhood and their relevance to the contemporary world. Blue examines liberation through the eyes of a woman (Juliette Binoche) who loses her husband and son in an auto accident, and solemnly starts anew. White is an ironic comedy about a befuddled Polish husband (Zbigniew Zamachowski) who takes an odd path of revenge against his ex-wife (Julie Delpy). A Swiss model (Irène Jacob) strikes up a friendship with a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who eavesdrops on his neighbours in Red. The trilogy is a snapshot of European life at a time of reconstruction after the Cold War, reflected through Kieslowski's moralist view of human nature and illumined by each title's palate colour.
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Despite its themes of liberty, equality, brotherhood & destiny; its the basic necessities of the films that should make a film worth watching, and fortunately the great, and sadly late, Krzysztof Kieślowski, has taken each film and given a hand crafted collage of cinematic beauty, and emotion.
Blue deals in tragedy and reaching a sense of liberty through the duldrums of said tragedy. Julliette Binoche plays Julie a survivor, who tries to mourn the death of her daughter and husband, and instead decides to breakaway from everything which she held dear from her married life and start afresh. It is only through the journey of her liberation and the discovery of facts from her previous life that finally allows her character to be free, and mourn. The film is both a visual and narrative treat, Slawomir Idziak's cinematography is lush with beauty that constantly refers to its title. The blue and dark filters is brilliantly used to convery the sense of Julie's character. Binoche gives a powerhouse performance, easily the best of her career. Her interactions with the world and her spontaneity drags the audience with her on her journey of liberation. A beautiful and thought provoking film and my own personal favourite of the trilogy.
White: My own personal second favourite doesn't have the compelling nature and power of its predecessor, but like all great 'sequels', if its a tad different, then its mostly always a treat, and while White is different than Blue, it is no less inferior, its simply different. Dealing with themes of equality, the film is a darkly comedic tale of a down on his luck Polish immigrant, Karol, who is dumped by his French wife, Dominique, and left to rot on the streets of Paris. Only when he meets a fellow Pole, Mikołaj, and gets back to Poland (in a very hillarious way) does his luck begin to change. I find it hard to this day why some have chosen White to be the worst of the trilogy. Sure it gets kudos when mentioned, but the film clearly deserves a better reputation then it has received. Another factor I champion in this entry is the overtly political tone, the majority of White is set in 90s Warsaw, when Poland was still letting go of its socialistic soul and on the brink of becoming a free market economy, with Karol representing the shift in the political and economic structure by starting off as a sweet natured man, only for him to become a cool, ruthless and vengeful capitalist. The film is superb viewing, with sensational performances from both Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol and Janusz Gajos (who gives the best performance of the film) as Mikołaj
And now we come to Red, claimed by many to be the best in the trilogy, but for me its the weakest entry. A masterpiece it is, but its no where near as good as the previous two entries. This time dealing with themes of brotherhood and destiny, Red tells the story of a young, naive and heartfelt model, and a bitter reclusive retired judge who form a touching and beautiful friendship. The film is certainly far more uplifting and less cynical than the previous two entries (although it doesn't have any of the dark comedy of White) And even though its great that this film again goes on a different route than the others; it just doesn't have the same impact like the previous entries; and, I think, its all down to one element, and that's Irene Jacob. Jacob's performance in Red is very similar to her last collaboration with Kieslowski, the slow and overrated The Double Life of Veronique. Jacob is simply too sweet and whilst her wide eyed innocence and naivety may seem beautiful, it does become saccharine and becomes infuriating. However Jacob receives strong support from Jean Louis Trintignant who is phenomenal as the bitter judge who finds happiness and closure through his freindship with Jacob's model. Where the film scores very well is in its themes of destiny, as told by the film's sub plot involving a law gradudate and his romantic relationship.
Ever since its release two decades ago, Kiewslowski's Three Colours Trilogy have left a mark on the history of cinema and has provided more debate amongst critics, film fans and even dinner party guests (who try and impress their peers) then some. Even though its undeniable to avoid the themes and tones the films convey, its great to just simply sit back and revel in the craftsmanship, writing and performances of these three wonderful movies.
One for the ages, and one to proudly own.
***LOTS OF SPOILERS***
Three Colours Blue (1993)
It was more enjoyable than I expected. The pace was quick. It started with arty close ups on details - I found that to be slightly off-putting. Then about four minutes into the movie, when Juliette Binoche tries to take the pills, it became properly dramatic and affecting with an emotional punch to it. It dragged me into its world and I took to the film and got on its wavelength. Even the opening close ups paid off as there was a moment about twenty minutes in when she finds a sweet wrapper that echoes one we saw at the start. As we know what sort of memories it triggers the scene has an impact out of proportion to what we are seeing.
Not a lot happens in the film but there are a string of minor, low-key incidents to keep the film going. The pace is brisk, with abrupt scene endings and no meandering, and there are no pointless arty touches (with the exception of two close ups concerning her coffee).
The film isn't really about much, which makes the exaggerated heavyweight critical reputation seem more than a little over the top. It's a minor little film about a woman dealing with grief. There really isn't much more to it. A lot of the story elements don't amount to much and the movie tails off into nothing much towards the end. I dislike the last minutes with opera over images of various characters. It seems overblown and self-consciously arty were the rest of the movie is small and low-key.
I liked the film but the ending was disappointing as it didn't really lead to anything. Visually it's very nice looking and the acting is good from everyone.
7 out of 10
Three Colours White (1994)
The story is too random and haphazard to convince that it's a proper joined up plot. It lurches from section to section with little connecting the different parts together. Then it becomes rather twee and unbelievable with the lead character becoming rich and building a business empire. Also his friend wanting to be killed didn't feel right.
I hate the ending. It doesn't make any sense to me. He goes to such extremes to win her back and then has her arrested for his murder. It is too stupid and silly and illogical (faking his own death is both difficult and a long term commitment) so the details don't add up, and emotionally it doesn't work. The ending is very bad. I don't swallow any of it. It simply makes no sense to me.
It's supposed to be a comedy. There are a few minor laughs and a sardonic black comic feel to a few scenes, but to call it a comedy is to go way too far. The downside is that the comedy reduces the serious side of the film, so the movie ends up being lightweight without the benefit of actually being funny. We get the worst of both worlds.
Julie Delpy only plays a minor role in a few scenes. Her screen time can't be more than ten minutes, if that. I think of the Colours Trilogy as being about a central female character in each film, but this movie proves that not to be true.
5 out of 10
Three Colours Red (1994)
I thought White had a fairly random story. Red is even more fragmented. I don't think it has a real plot. There is no centre that binds the scenes together. It really is just a random (I assume made up as it goes along) collection of scenes with reoccurring characters.
The long dialogues between the model and the retired judge are the main focus. I never felt a true story, or a substantial relationship, emerged from those scenes.
The film was really pretty pointless. The first hour was more entertaining than it should have been. It was quietly compelling. A lot of this is probably due to the brisk pacing. The pace slacked off and it became slower in the last half hour. The last meeting in the theatre was not much of a climax. It had pointless diversion with a storm and a janitor - the bit when the model has to close the doors seemed particularly random. The dialogue between the two characters started to become a bit pretentious towards the end. Especially her treating his dream of her as a fifty year old as being prophetic.
The film climaxes with the lead characters from the three movies in the trilogy meeting by chance. It's not funny, ironic, meaningful or interesting. They don't talk to each other. They are simply on the same boat together (and it adds a continuity question about the couple from White). It ties nothing up and is a wasted opportunity.
The film does not measure up to its sky high heavyweight reputation. Overall it was too random and unconvincing as a proper story. It's well acted and nicely filmed. I think Red is the weakest of the three movies. It wasn't bad, and it was very watchable, but it didn't add up to much.
5 out of 10
I've just worked out the meaning of the ending on the boat after re-reading my review. I literally wrote it. He is saying they are all in the same boat, as in they all have the same problems. Seems so obvious now.
The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
[Not included in this box set.]
I gave up on this the first time I tried to watch it. It was after half an hour when the first woman had a heart attack. I felt it was about nothing to the extent that it was without any content. I saw a vapid movie that was just a string of random images and scenes with no particular point or reason. Which wouldn't have been so bad if at least it was quite interesting or entertaining on some level. I thought it was just very boring. So for this second viewing I adjusted my expectations to a suitably low-level.
I think I was right first time. It is a serious of random images and scenes with no end destination or point in mind. Nothing much really happens, and what does happen is silly and unconvincing. What really connects these two women? Not much. So what that they look alike?
The puppeteer was a silly character with ludicrous motivations (if he has any) for his actions in the second half. It made no sense and was just very silly. If this wasn't subtitled people would not be buying the whole last half hour.
Visually there was a lot of weird looking green lighting. Whole scenes were bathed in this lime colour for no obvious reason.
The pace was neither quick or slow, more ploddingly average in speed.
I didn't enjoy the movie. I was not convinced by it at all. The weak story, if you can even call it that, had no discernible point to it. Not a good film. It was at least only ninety minutes and it wasn't patience trying. The last scene at her father's house was very puzzling. What was the purpose of that last moment of him making furniture at a saw and her touching a tree at the gate? Was it an obscure comment on how the tree will die and one day be used to make furniture. If so, who cares?
3 out of 10
My old review posted 8/12/06:
I can stand a lack of excitement, but my patience does have a limit.
Blue (2 out of 5 stars)
A bit dull and a bit drab. Not a lot happens, and there really isn't a lot of psychology on display either. The most overtly slow and Europeanly pretentious of the three movies.
It works well enough, but it's very much a high culture thing (classical music composition features as an important part of the movie). People with little patience for art movies should avoid this one.
White (4 out of 5 stars)
An unamusing, unfunny comedy. The plot is quite scattershot and I'm not sure about the lead character's motivation at the end. It seems like an awful lot of trouble to regain her affections, to then happily drop her in it.
It's the most enjoyable of the movies.
Red (3 out of 5 stars)
Has the most conventional traditional story. Still a bit slow and aimless.
They're not the heaviest going art movies around, and White and Red are enjoyable enough. I find all three movies to be overlong and oddly void of any actual meaning or purpose. Which may, or may not be the point. For a director with such a heavy weight reputation you'd at least expect him to have something concrete to say.
Relevant side note about his other critically praised masterpiece: The Double Life of Veronique (1 star).
The film has absolutely no story. A true post-content movie. And I thought Michael Bay would have got there first - probably with added giant robots. Instead Kieslowski got there first - with women with heart problems.
The film has no plot. What it has for a story is a bunch of wispy, pointless incidences that fail to make any impact separately or when combined with the rest of the "narrative". Also it has a bit too much choral singing.
I give up about 40 minutes in.
Many an art house director has been trying to get away from storytelling and into "pure cinema". On this evidence it's clear that "pure cinema" is not a good idea and that we should thank Hollywood for its entertaining, nonsensical blockbusters.
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