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Three Colors: Blue, White, Red
DVD disk
12.05.2011 By: Mathew Plale
Three Colors: Blue, White, Red order
Krzysztof Kieslowski

Juliette Binoche
Zbigniew Zamachowski
Irčne Jacob


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Krzysztof Kieslowski's acclaimed trilogy explores the ideas represented by the three colors of the French flag: liberty, equality and fraternity.
Named after the three colors of the French flag, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors (Blue, White, Red), made between 1993 and ’94, explores liberty, equality and fraternity.

In Blue, Juliette Binoche stars as Julie, who loses her composer husband and daughter in a car accident. Recovery for Julie comes in a suicide attempt and sex with an old friend, both of which fail. She makes a plan to disappear from all civilization and holes up in a Paris apartment. But nobody can just vanish from it all: a man named Antoine returns the necklace she thought lost in the crash; she refuses to sign a petition to boot a prostitute/dancer from the complex and the woman, as thanks, brings flowers to Julie; she hears a homeless man playing her dead husband’s opus on a recorder.

White sees Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and his wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), splitting up after years of language barriers and no consummation. They try once, but the act ends in a pathetic, “Well?” Karol escapes back to his motherland of Poland in a suitcase--which is stolen by thieves in humorously botched plot--and kicks off a plan of revenge against Dominique that involves a man’s request for murder and a land-flipping scheme.

Red finds the lives and loves of a model, a retired judge and a student intertwined. There is Valentine (Irčne Jacob), who has left her indifferent boyfriend behind in England; Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who has made a hobby out of eavesdropping on his neighbors; and Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), who both Valentine and Joseph find worthy of discussion. As we learn Auguste’s wife has started seeing another man, we begin to realize what is happening in England. Valentine phones her boyfriend to ask if he still loves her. He only replies, “I think so.”

Kieślowski employed three different cinematographers for the films so as not to have any of the films feel alike. Each--Sławomir Idziak, Edward Kłosiński, Piotr Sobociński--uses the respective colors as a launching point, masterfully utilizing them to create individual worlds of sadness, happiness and romance.

As a whole, Three Colors is a wonderful achievement that reaches so many of our feelings and emotions in a relatively short amount of time. In under five hours, loss, joy, hatred, betrayal, lust, love, and so much more are approached, developed and dealt with in a mature and personal manner. On individual terms, ranking seems inevitable. My order would go: Blue, Red, White. Blue has the most relatable core, with the idea that distancing yourself does not come without certain haunts. Red, with Jacob and Trintignant, has the best acting moments of the lot. The consensus agrees that White is the weakest of the three as, despite it having the shortest runtime, is longwinded and strays far in making its point about equality.

The films are linked not just by the traits stitched on the French flag, but by certain moments. There is the recurring image of the elderly trying to recycle bottles, and how, within the confines of the themes of liberty, equality and fraternity, each of the primary characters--Julie, Karol and Valentine--approaches the situation. And there is that final scene in Red. As highly implausible and forced as it is, it is somehow the perfect ending to both a fine trilogy and a great career.

On Blue (20:44): This video essay was written and narrated by Annette Insdorf, author of Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski.

Kieślowski’s Cinema Lesson (7:35): This 1994 piece sees the director discussing the café scene in Blue and the significance of the shot of the sugar cube.

Juliette Binoche (24:25): In these snippets from a 2004 audio commentary, the star of Blue shares her thoughts on the making of the film and working with Kieślowski.

Zbigniew Preisner (21:31): In this interview, recorded in 2011, composer Preisner reflects on his work with Kieślowski, which includes Three Colors, The Decalogue and The Double Life of Véronique.

Reflections on “Blue” (17:26): Here, film critic Geoff Andrew, Binoche, filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, film studies professor Annette Insdorf, and editor Jacques Witta discuss the film’s production and the intriguing questions Kieślowski asks his viewers.


On White (21:46): This video essay was written and narrated by film critic Tony Rayns, who has done commentaries for more than a half-dozen Criterion titles.

Kieślowski’s Cinema Lesson (10:48): In this featurette, also from 1994, this the director discusses the opening scene of White and how it came to be.

Zamachowski and Delpy (18:15): This 2011 piece has Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy, who respectively played Karol Karol and Dominque, reminiscing about filming White and collaborating with Kieślowski.

Krzysztof Piesiewicz (21:21): In this 2011 interview, Piesiewicz, who co-wrote the trilogy, discusses his friendship/work relationship with Kieślowski, the film’s themes and more.

The Making of “White” (16:09): This featurette offers behind-the-scenes footage of the Polish shooting locations and comments from the director.


On Red (21:59): This video essay was written and narrated by Dennis Lim, who is currently editor-in-chief of Moving Image Source.

Kieślowski’s Cinema Lesson (8:40): In this final installment, the director discusses the editing of the scene where the judge’s dog runs away from Valentine.

Irčne Jacob (16:24): In this 2011 interview, Jacob sits down to reflect on working with Kieślowski and her co-star, Jean-Louis Trintignant, who played Joseph Kern in Red.

Marin Karmitz (10:51): Karmitz, who produced the trilogy, goes in depth about the film’s production, its losing the Palme d’Or and its Oscar nominations.

Jacques Witta (12:46): Witta, who edited both Blue and Red, lets viewers in on why certain scenes from the latter were cut.

Kieślowski Cannes 1994 (15:11): This documentary, shot during the festival, features interviews with the director and others, clips of Red and footage of the press conference where Kieślowski revealed he was done making films.


Kieślowski: The Early Years (15:00): In this 2003 program, film critic Geoff Andrew, filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, film studies professor Annette Insdorf, and actress Irčne Jacob gather to discuss the director’s upbringing and how certain movements played into his life and work.

Behind the Scenes of Red (23:30) sees the director at work on the set of the final entry in the trilogy.

Krzysztof Kieślowski: I’m So-So… (55:25): This documentary, shot a year after Red was released and less than one year before Kieślowski’s death, finds the director reflecting on his life and career. Shot at Kieślowski’s home in Poland, the interviews are very personal and offer an insightful look into the man.

This disc also features two student films (The Tram and The Face, both from 1966), two documentaries (1978’s Seven Women of Different Ages; 1980’s Talking Heads) and trailers.

Also included with this Criterion Collection box set is a 78-page booklet featuring essays by professor Colin McCabe, editor/author Nick James, film critic Stuart Klawans, and professor Georgina Evans; an excerpt from Kieślowski on Kieślowski; and interviews with cinematographers Sławomir Idziak, Edward Kłosiński and Piotr Sobociński.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors is a terrific achievement, with Blue and Red being the best works. All around, this is an incredible four-disc box set with a wealth of bonus material that will keep buyers occupied for days. Fans will want to pick up the presumably superior three-disc Blu-ray set, though, which I cannot offer proper comment on since I was not sent it to review.
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