Movie Project #18: Three Colors: Red [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: Red [1994]

Three Colors: Red [1994]
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieślowski
Country: France/Poland/Switzerland
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Romance
Starring: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder
Running Time: 99 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: Three Oscar nominations (Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay), Palme d’Or nomination, Best Foreign Language Film from National Board Review, five César Award nominations, four BAFTA nominations, entry in Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, Criterion Collection

In closing out the Three Colors trilogy, Red follows the French ideal of fraternity. Here we have a number of individuals that are all connected in some way, often without them truly knowing it.

Valentine Dussaut (Irène Jacob) is a beautiful young woman who stays busy by modeling and taking ballet lessons. One night while driving home from dance practice, she accidentally hits a German Shepherd with her car. Valentine finds the owner’s address on the dog’s collar and drives in that direction (presumably the owner is closer than an animal hospital). She notifies the owner, an old reclusive ex-judge named Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), though he seems completely ambivalent to the incident. He tells Valentine to keep the dog, which she does, and promptly takes it to the vet.

Three Colors: Red [1994]

Later, the dog, now fixed up thanks to the vet, runs away, ultimately going back to the judge’s house. Valentine rushes over there and discovers that Kern is eavesdropping on his neighbor’s telephone conversation. Apparently this is his post-retirement hobby, ad he has been doing this illegally for years. Valentine is appalled by his behavior, and she leaves with her dog, vowing never to return.

Yet there is something that keeps bringing these two together, and they form a platonic friendship despite their obscenely different views on voyeurism.

Another important relationship comes in the form of Valentine’s neighbor, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), and his girlfriend, Karin (Frederique Feder). They are seemingly in love, but little problems keep popping up between the two of them, as is wont in ill-destined relationships. Auguste’s life is startlingly similar to that of a young Kern, and he keeps ending up in a series of near-miss encounters with Valentine.

Three Colors: Red [1994]

Fate is continuously acknowledged via these coincidences. Perhaps Valentine and Kern would have made a great couple if they had been able to meet at the same age; after all, they seem to be kindred spirits. It is possible that it is now her destiny to be with Auguste, who is currently going through a series of events similar to those that eventually made Kern a recluse.

The performances here are fantastic — the unlikely friendship between Valentine and Kern feels effortlessly authentic thanks to Jacob and Trintignant — and there is certainly a lot of depth to the film. Red asks the most questions out of the trilogy, and there are so many layers that it is impossible to unravel them in just one viewing. My gut reaction was an appreciation of the film, but I didn’t fall in love with it like I did Blue and, to a lesser extent, White. I suspect that this may change on later viewings, as now I know what to expect, and I can pick up on the subtle clues that Kieslowski drops throughout the film. I would love to revisit this sometime down the road, but as it stands now, this ranks third in the trilogy for me.

8/10

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 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