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The Three Colours trilogy
casts: Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Zbigniew Zamachowski

director: Krzysztof Kieslowski

94 + 88 + 96 minutes (15) 1993/4
widescreen 1.85:1
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Three Colours: Blue, Three Colours: White, Three Colours: Red. The colours of the French flag, of liberty, egality and fraternity. Following The Dekalog, in which Kieslowski reinterpreted the 10 commandments for the modern age, he embarked on three films, made back to back, in which he did the same for the three tenets of the French Revolution.
   In Blue, Julie Vignon (Juliette Binoche) is the only survivor of a car crash that kills her husband, a distinguished composer. As she grieves, she cuts herself off from her previous life, selling her house, not seeing her friends. She attains a kind of freedom, but at what price? Slowly, she is drawn back into her life via her and her husband's music; creativity heals. Blue is a slow, reflective, rather private film, beautifully acted by Binoche.
   White begins with Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish hairdresser in Paris, divorced by his French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) for failing to consummate their marriage. Karol is thrown onto the streets, penniless and without his passport. A man he meets on the Metro helps him by arranging for him to be smuggled back to Poland in a suitcase. Once in Poland, Karol builds up his fortune on the black market, all in the aid of a plan to take revenge on his wife... The mood here shifts to fast-moving black comedy, which gives an unflattering picture of a Poland where everyone is out for himself or herself.
   The final film, Red, is set in Geneva. Valentine, a student (Irène Jacob) accidentally hits a dog with her car. She takes the dog back to its owner, Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a retired judge who spends his days eavesdropping on his neighbours. By means of a complex plot, the young woman and the older man learn from each other, from his wisdom and her compassion.
   Each film tells a separate story, and has its own look, dominated by the colours of the titles. (Kieslowski used a different cinematographer for each film, although the rest of the crew was much the same for the whole trilogy.) The main characters of Blue and White briefly meet when Julie accidentally enters the courtroom where Karol and Dominique's divorce hearing is taking place. Similar incidents occur in each film, and the ending of Red rounds off the stories of all the trilogy's leading characters on a redemptive note. Red was Kieslowski's last film; he announced his retirement shortly afterwards, and died in 1996.
   The Three Colours trilogy is one of the major films of the 1990s, and shows at its fullest Kieslowski's extraordinary ability to suggest what lies just beyond the real world (in the most materialistic of art forms). By this point, he had refined his style to one of extreme economy: some attention is required as single shots or details can convey story points, and the films amply repay repeated viewings. What follows is merely personal preference: to me, Kieslowski's Polish films, in particular The Dekalog (one of the masterpieces of the last quarter century) have an edge his 'international' films don't quite have - which is why I prefer the Polish-set first half-hour of The Double Life Of Veronique to the French-set remainder, and is why White is my favourite of this trilogy. But even so, these discs (unfortunately only available separately rather than a DVD boxset) are very highly recommended.
   All three discs have a widescreen-enhanced transfer, but despite what the packaging says, they do not have Dolby digital 5.1 sound: Blue and White have 5.0 soundtracks while Red for some reason only has 2.0 Dolby surround sound. Extras: a short masterclass from Kieslowski made for French TV (on all three discs), trailers for all three films (on all three discs), making-of footage (White, Red), interviews with Juliette Binoche (Blue), Julie Delpy (White), Irène Jacob (Red), editor Jacques Witta (Blue, Red) and producer Marin Karmitz (all three discs), and extracts from Zbigniew Preisner's scores.

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