Movie Project #17: Three Colors: White [1994]

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: White [1994]

Three Colors: White [1994]
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieślowski
Country: France/Poland/Switzerland
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos
Running Time: 92 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 before this project.

Accolades: Silver Bear award for Best Director at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival

On the French flag, the color white is meant to symbolize equality. In Three Colors: White, widely considered the most “playful” of the trilogy, this concept is flipped into an entertaining revenge story.

Zbigniew Zamachowski stars as Karol Karol, a Polish man who is in the midst of a divorce from his stunning wife, Dominique (a very young Julie Delpy). This isn’t his choice, mind you. He brought her to Paris per her wishes and has desperately tried to keep their marriage alive by any means necessary. Yet Dominique will have none of it. During the divorce proceedings, Karol’s problems are highlighted, the biggest being his inability to consummate the marriage.

Three Colors: White [1994]

Karol loses everything in the divorce, including his business, his legal residency in France and all of his money. He begins bussing at subway stations, and a chance encounter with another Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), seems to bring him hope. They conspire on a way to get Karol back to his home country. Their best idea? Stuff Karol in a suitcase.

Surprisingly, this plan works, though it does have its setbacks. The luggage containing Karol is stolen by airport employees, and he is badly beaten when discovered inside. No matter to him — he’s just happy to be home.

Three Colors: White [1994]

Karol goes back to his brother and begins working with him as a hairdresser once again. This quickly grows tiresome, however, so he begins finding other sources of income. Eventually he starts his own business — the exact means of which are unclear — and things start to look up for ol’ Karol. All of this hard work is for one ultra-personal goal: to extract revenge on the woman who hurt him most.

The means that Karol goes to hurt Dominique are nothing short of extraordinary, and the film goes into darkly comic territory in doing so. The tone is noticeably lighter than in Blue, and there are a number of genuinely amusing moments. Karol is a likable character, and it’s easy to root for him to get revenge in his rags-to-riches story. Dominique comes across as a cold-hearted bitch; it isn’t until near the end that we see her in a kinder light. This makes me wish that we did get to know Delpy’s character a bit better, as there seem to be many layers to her personality.

Three Colors: White [1994]

Once again, the titular color is all over the film, especially in the form of Poland’s snowy landscape. There is even a subtle reference to the first film — Juliette Binoche’s character briefly peeks her head into the courtroom during the divorce hearing (in Blue, we only saw her open and shut the door). Music does not play as big of a part, though Zbigniew Preisner once again provides the score.

White seems to be the most overlooked of the trilogy, and that is unfortunate. This film doesn’t go to the emotional depths as the other two, but that also makes it arguably the most accessible of the group.

8/10

Movie Review: Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight [2013]
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Genre: Drama
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Running Time: 108 minutes

This review is meant for those who have already seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If you haven’t watched them yet, go do so before reading this review!

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset perfectly encapsulated that idealistic feeling of finding true love. Before Midnight takes that notion and grounds it firmly in reality, showing what life is like ten years down the road.

It’s not always pretty.

Surely a couple like Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) could be immune to the ups-and-downs of a long-term relationship, right? After all, so many of us fell in love with them as we watched them fall in love with each other. They seemed like such a perfect fit, and their back-and-forth dialogue felt so smooth and natural.

Before Midnight [2013]

Before Midnight shows us this couple, now living together for several years and proud parents of a set of beautiful twin girls. They are wrapping up a summer vacation in the beautiful countryside of Greece. Jesse has just dropped his son from a previous marriage off at the airport, reluctantly sending him back to Chicago to be with his mother. As it happens, Jesse is devastated at spending so much time away from his son, especially as he enters his formative high school years. The idea of moving to Chicago gets brought up in the middle of a normal conversation — Celine is immediately against the idea.

She has the opportunity to take on a new job — her “dream job” as she later realizes — and she wants to stay in France. This discussion is kind of glossed over during a long car ride, but it comes up later, as is wont to do. This one little (but big) suggestion gets under her skin, festering beneath before sneaking out in the form of little jabs and potshots.

Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can immediately relate to the quibbles between the two of them, and quite frankly it can be difficult to watch Jesse and Celine spat back and forth. This is a couple that we have watched grow over the years in the most romantic way possible, and here they are middle-aged and bickering. It’s a stark reminder that no matter how a relationship starts, it takes some major work to see it through and keep that spark going.

Before Midnight [2013]

It’s not all melancholy in the film, however. There are several moments where we see glimpses of the couple as they were once before. A long scene at a Greek dinner party brings out some great stories, not just from them but also from their friends, both young and old. While the previous films rarely shined a light on anyone besides Jesse and Celine, here we are introduced to a handful of other characters, all of whom are interesting in their own right. It’s actually kind of refreshing to watch them banter with other people, especially given that their one-on-one conversations this time are a lot less pleasant.

But that’s the beauty of this film. Before Midnight feels entirely believable, even moreso than before. Hawke and Delpy still have flawless chemistry together, and as it goes with most Linklater films, the writing is excellent. While part of me is upset that I had to see Jesse and Celine this way, I am infinitely grateful to have experienced another 90+ minutes with them all the same.

9/10