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Barnes & Noble -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.