Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The colors of the French flag -- blue, white, and red -- inspired the great Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski to make his masterful French-language Three Colors trilogy. The series begins with Blue, a powerful drama shot through with fragments of an unfinished symphonic masterpiece. Juliette Binoche portrays the survivor of a car accident that claims the life of her husband, a world-renowned composer, and her young daughter. On one level, the film is a meditation on grief; but as the woman is haunted by the musical themes of her husband's last score and uncovers secrets about his life, the story moves into a more mysterious and voyeuristic realm. The cinematography is as beautiful as the music, making Blue one of Kieslowski's most sobering and powerful films.
A different brand of grief drives White, the second film of the trilogy. It follows the spectacular fall from grace of a Polish man (Zbigniew Zamachowski) who is divorced by his beautiful French wife (Julie Delpy). The tone changes sharply here, as White veers into the realm of black comedy, marked by Zamachowski's utterly charming yet ultimately enigmatic performance. There's a change in venue and language, too, as the story takes its protagonist back to Poland, where he tries to reassemble the pieces of his shattered life. Binoche oh-so-briefly reprises her role from Blue, appearing for only a few seconds in a moment from the film that recurs here as part of an entirely different story. (Kieslowski employed a similar technique to great effect in The Decalogue.) White also expands on themes of secrecy and voyeurism that were explored in the previous film, but with a refreshing unpredictability that makes White one of Kieslowski's quirkiest efforts.
Voyeurism becomes a central theme in the masterful conclusion to the Three Colors trilogy, Red. The main story here involves the unlikely friendship that develops between a fashion model (Irene Jacob) and a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who spends his time eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of his neighbors. This is the most typically Kieslowskian of the trilogy, bathed in the warm glow of mystery and compassion that infuses his best work. And as with Binoche's blink-of-an-eye appearance in White, characters from the other two films make brief appearances here, spinning an unusual thread that connects the three films. Ultimately, Red works as a superb conclusion to a trilogy in which each film is marked by a distinctly individual tone, even as the three cohere in a powerfully singular vision.
All Movie Guide
Not to be confused with the valedictory Derek Jarman film of the same name, the French/Polish Blue was directed by the late Polish filmmaker Krzystof Kieslowski. Juliette Binoche delivers an award-winning performance as a devastated Frenchwoman who has lost her husband and child in an auto accident. The grieving Binoche busies herself by building a whole new life. In so doing, she tries to purge herself of all memories of her late husband, a famous composer. Throughout the film, Binoche wavers uncertainly between reality and fantasy, but she manages to weather her crisis. Kieslowski followed Blue with White and Red, each film exploring a different aspect of contemporary European life ("Blue" is the traditional French color of liberation--as in Binoche's liberation from the ghosts of her past). Hal Erickson
The second feature in filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy, the black comedy White features Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol Karol, an expatriate Polish hairdresser whose French wife (the breathtaking Julie Delpy) divorces him after just six months of marriage because of his impotency. Penniless and devoid of his passport, Karol must journey back to Poland by hiding in a trunk. Upon his return, he slowly begins amassing a considerable fortune, ultimately hatching a perverse plot for revenge. Often unjustly dismissed as the weak link in the trilogy, White grows in strength upon repeated viewings. An allegory about equality, the film is mordantly witty, a cynical look at power, marriage and capitalism. Jason Ankeny
The concluding chapter in filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy, Red stars the luminous Irène Jacob as Valentine, a young student and fashion model who befriends a bitter former judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant, his character a proxy for Kieslowski himself). Their accidental meeting is just one of the many chance encounters woven through the narrative fabric of this feature, the most accomplished effort in Kieslowski's highly ambitious series. Like its predecessors, Red corresponds to a color of the French flag, as well as the color's symbolic attributes. The subject here is fraternity, and indeed, its central characters are all closely connected, their destinies locked on a collision course. The film's final scene even ties up the trilogy by bringing together the protagonists of the other features. Jason Ankeny