Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Jerzy Stuhr, Janusz Gajos
Written by: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Directed by: Krzysztof Kieslowski
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language
Language: Polish, French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 01/26/1994

Three Colors: White (1994)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Color Me Impressed Part 2

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Miramax has taken one more important step toward reclaiming their good name. One of the very best things they've ever smeared their grimy paws on, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz's Three Colors Trilogy (1994) has finally been properly released on DVD.

Based on the three colors of France's flag, "Blue" for "Liberty," "White" for "Equality" and "Red" for "Fraternity," the three films use those terms as loose jumping-off points for intensely personal explorations. For the lead roles, Kieslowski cast three of the world's most talented and beautiful women.

Juliette Binoche stars in Blue, which was once considered the weakest of the trilogy but holds up better than one would have suspected. When her husband, a famous composer, dies in a car crash, Binoche more or less drops out of life. She also decides to keep herhusband's final score away from the public.

Julie Delpy is featured heavily in the advertising for White, but she's only a secondary character in this slightly comical story of a Polish hairdresser (Zbigniew Zamachowski). She viciously divorces him after he fails to sexually satisfy her, and he decides to make a run for it back to Poland without his passport. Once there he redesigns himself as a kind of confident gangster to try and win his wife back.

Finally, Irene Jacob stars in Red, the most complicated and most celebrated of the trio, locking in Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography. A Paris model, Jacob accidentally runs over a dog and tries to return it to its rightful owner, a strange, cynical retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who eavesdrops on his neighbors. A friendship grows between the unlikely pair.

Certain plot threads tie the entire trilogy together. Each film has its own beautiful, remarkable look, swathed in bold patches of the respective title color. Kieslowski proves a strong presence, making specific and always interesting choices about what to show and what not to show -- his camera swings away from the action at the most fascinating moments. He also relies less on dialogue than on individual moments. The characters are often alone on camera, and we're forced to reckon with their emotions through expression alone. This is a wonderful achievement, of a piece with Kieslowski and Piesiewicz's equally great The Decalogue.

Miramax released the trio on DVD in 2003. Each DVD comes with lots of extras, including interviews with the stars and other Kieslowski colleagues. But best of all is a generous collection of early Kieslowski short films. Each disc sells separately for $19.99, but I can't recommend this whole set highly enough. The Criterion Collection released new editions on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2011.

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