Movie Project #16: Three Colors: Blue [1993]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Three Colors: Blue [1993]

Three Colors: Blue [1993]
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland, Edward Żebrowski
Country: France/Poland/Switzerland
Genre: Drama
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Emmanuelle Riva
Running Time: 94 minutes

Reason for inclusion: The Three Colors trilogy is widely considered to be among the best trilogies in history, and it has been a major blind spot for me. I had also never seen a Krzysztof Kieslowski film.

Accolades: Won three awards (Best Film, Best Actress, Best Cinematography) at Venice Film Festival, three César Awards (Best Actress, Best Sound, Best Film Editing), nominated for Golden Globe, Best European Film at Goya Awards

When I started working on my list for this year’s project, I created a basic rule of allowing just one film per director. However, I made one exception: Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, which I had heard so much about over the years.

The Three Colors trilogy — Blue, White, Red — shares the same colors as the French flag, and each film is loosely based on that country’s political ideals. With Blue, the common theme is liberty, but not in the way you might expect.

Juliette Binoche stars as Julie, the wife of a famous composer, who is dealing with an unbelievable amount of grief. Her husband and young daughter have perished in a horrific car accident. Only she survived.

In the aftermath of the accident, Julie begins liberating herself from anything and everything related to her family in an attempt to find emotional freedom. She gets rid of all of their belongings, puts their majestic mansion on the market and finds herself a one-bedroom apartment in Paris. Her goal is to shut herself off from the past and start her life over again.

Of course, it’s never that easy.

Three Colors: Blue [1993]

Since her husband was a beloved composer, his face is all over the news. Certain bits of information about him are revealed — things Julie was completely unaware of. It seems everywhere she goes she is painfully reminded about her past. It’s downright amazing that Julie is able to keep herself together through all this.

To top it off, she’s actually being *nice* to people. She goes out of her way to help those who she has no obligation to, including some who could easily have ruined her life. Julie is an incredibly complex character, and she tackles grief in unanticipated ways.

Three Colors: Blue

This is very much a one-woman show, and Binoche delivers a heartbreakingly beautiful performance. There are others in the film, such as Olivier (Benoît Régent), an acquaintance who has always had feelings for Julie, but the focus is always very much on Julie.

The color blue comes into play quite often. There are glimpses of the color everywhere, from the water in Julie’s favorite swimming pool to the chandelier of blue beads that once belonged to her daughter. Music is also a vital part of the film, and Zbigniew Presiner’s emphatic score is a perfect fit for the emotions on screen.

Blue is a tragic, complicated film. Its subject matter does not make for an easy watch, but there is something mesmerizing about the film, especially Binoche’s performance. If there is a better depiction of grief, I have yet to see it.

9/10

Movie Project #47: The Nightmare Before Christmas [1993]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Nightmare Before Christmas [1993]

The Nightmare Before Christmas [1993]
Director: Henry Selick
Genre: Animation/Family/Fantasy
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara
Running Time: 76 minutes

Although this is only the second movies project I have put together, I am noticing a trend. There is one film from each that garners the biggest “how have you not seen this?!?” reaction. With last year’s project, hands down it was Back to the Future. This year it’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (with apologies to Rocky and The Bourne Identity).

Set in the spookily morbid world of Halloween Town, the film follows the plight of one Jack Skellington, a thin skeleton who wears a snazzy black pin-striped suit. Every year the monsters and mutants that make up the town’s population rely on Jack to lead their Halloween celebrations. This year, however, Jack has become disillusioned with their proceedings. While wandering about, he stumbles upon a portal into a new world — Christmas Town — and becomes enchanted with what he sees there. Seeking to bring that Christmas spirit into his hometown, Jack decides he wants to be Santa Claus and hires a group of residents to kidnap the jolly fat man.

The Nightmare Before Christmas [1993]

Clearly this is a bad idea, but it sets the precedence for some of the film’s greatest moments. As a trio of kids — dubbed Lock, Shock and Barrel — chase down Santa, a ridiculously inappropriate (but wildly amusing) song starts playing that discusses how they want to “chop Santa into bits.” I don’t know how appropriate that is for children, but I got a kick out of it. It was also a lot of fun watching Jack masquerade as Santa Claus, delivering frightful gifts to little kids.

Outside of these comical bits, however, I felt little attachment to the film. Most of Danny Elfman’s musical numbers, outside of the opening tune, are forgettable, and the film’s emotional development rests its weight on the skinny little shoulders of Jack Skellington. Most of the supporting characters fall flat, and I did not feel connected to any of them.

The Nightmare Before Christmas [1993]

On the flip side, I did find it amazing that Burton’s stop-motion animation still holds up remarkably well nearly 20 years later. I can’t use the word “beautiful” because of the grotesque subject matter, but this is one slick-looking film. The character designs are especially imaginative, and there’s always something new to catch the eye.

I can’t help but feel that a lot of The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ appeal rides heavily on nostalgia from those who saw it in their youth. It’s a solid film, but is it truly worthy of its near-unanimous praise (IMDB Top 250, 96% on Rotten Tomatoes)?

7/10