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 Review: Rabbit Hole [2010]

Rabbit Hole [2010]

Rabbit Hole [2010]
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

Feeling down in the dumps? Then you may want to steer clear of Rabbit Hole, an extremely depressing film that follows the lives of a grieving couple eight months after their 4-year-old son was tragically killed. The parents, Becca and Howie (played by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), are desperately trying to get their lives back on track. They try going to support groups, but Becca has issues with how other couples turn to religion for healing. They entertain thoughts of selling the house, getting rid of their child’s belongings and thinking of everything they can to distance themselves from the situation. Nothing seems to work.

It doesn’t help that there are signs of their child everywhere. Becca’s sister (Tammy Blanchard) announces that she’s pregnant, which brings out natural feelings of jealousy. The family’s dog brings back memories; after all, it was this dog that their son was chasing after when he was tragically hit by a car. Even seeing mothers with their children in a grocery store raises signs of grief in Becca. She is considerably worse off than Howie, who deals with his issues in more subdued ways.

Rabbit Hole [2010]

As you can expect, this is all pretty brutal stuff. Watching the parents fight with each other while trying to obtain some resemblance of the life they used to have can be really hard to watch. This is because of incredibly powerful performances from Kidman and Eckhart, who together have fantastic chemistry. Their roles in Rabbit Hole rank among their career best, and they take a seemingly basic plot and push it to another level. The movie seems like something that has been seen and heard before, but it rises a step above others thanks to its magnificent acting.

Thankfully, director John Cameron Mitchell found a way to squeeze in some bits of humor to try to occasionally lighten the mood. One scene in particular had me busting up when Howie and an acquaintance (Sandra Oh) at the support group enter the meeting while stoned out of their minds. These moments of laughter are few and far in between, but they are very welcome when they appear.

Rabbit Hole requires one to be in the right mood upon watching, and tissues should definitely be on hand while doing so. This is a movie that is oftentimes uncomfortable, but it is a very well told story aided by great performances. It’s a shame that this slipped under the radar last year, as it is one of the better 2010 releases I have seen.

8/10