Review by Ed Nguyen
Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Very, Hugues Quester
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Features: Look below!
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003
like to meet you. It's important."
the first film, revolves around Julie (Binoche), the wife of a prominent French
composer. She is a kind and
generous woman, one who is satisfied to live in the shadow of her famous
husband. However, a tragedy strikes
early in the film that irreparably changes her.
A horrific automobile accident deprives Julie of her husband and young
daughter. Julie survives the
accident, but she has been left an embittered woman.
Early on, she contemplates suicide, engulfing an entire bottle of pills.
But, she cannot bring herself to swallow and so spits out the pills,
telling the nurse who arrives on the scene, "I can't...I'm unable to."
Shortly before her departure from a convalescence home, she is accosted
by an insensitive reporter. When
the reporter expresses surprise at Julie's rudeness to her,
Julie murmurs, "Haven't you heard?
I had an accident. I lost my daughter and my husband."
in a sense, has become paralyzed. She
is unable or unwilling to interact socially, and she gradually withdraws from
all pleasure or friendship. She
asks her lawyer to sell her family possessions, and she destroys the transcript
of her husband's last unfinished concerto.
The concerto was to have been played during the Unification of
ceremonies. Music that once filled
her life is now exiled; Julie has chosen instead a refuge in silence.
Her only keepsake from her family is a chandelier with blue mobiles, once
the light for her daughter's room.
abandons the family's country manor for a smaller apartment.
She does not make these changes, as some divorced people do for
income tax or financial purposes, but
because she is shunning society. She reverts back to her maiden name.
When asked her occupation, she replies, "Nothing.
Nothing at all." Julie
has chosen to deny every facet of her past, and in refusing to confront the
realities of her life, she has trapped herself within an apathetic prison of her
own design. There are hints in the
many empty days that ensue that she has not entirely shunned all feelings - her
tears of regret over borrowing a neighbor's cat to kill a mouse and its helpless
newborn; her anguish over a former friend's attempt to resurrect the Unification
concerto. But such emotions are
mere shadows; Julie is no longer the warm and generous woman she once was.
Her salvation, if at all, will be a difficult and heart-breaking one.
are numerous sequences of an almost ethereal quality in Blue. The film's start
is an abstract example - an opening shot on a mysterious blue motion.
The camera slowly pulls back to reveal that it is a rapidly spinning
wheel of a car, silhouetted in twilight as it passes from darkness through lit
tunnels and out again. Inside the car, we see a young girl, surrounded by an aura of
red lights - they are the reflection of traffic rushing by.
A reverse angle displays a dazzlingly kaleidoscopic view of headlight
glares, the girl's subjective view of the traffic.
While breath-taking, the shots are somehow ominous and foreboding.
Within one minute, Kieslowski's amazing cinematography intrigues us and
foreshadows the tone of the film to follow.
Many other scenes in the film communicate solely through imagery or music
without dialogue. There is a lovely
yet melancholy scene in which Julie examines her daughter's chandelier, its
decorative baubles swaying slowly and casting traces of blue light upon her
visage. In another scene, Julie
focuses upon her husband's musical transcript; as she silently reads the music,
so we hear it. The musical
notations soon end. Still, Julie
continues to read the blank pages and we hear new, unwritten bars of music,
music that has just been freshly composed in Julie's mind.
The scene has no dialogue but communicates a telling aspect of Julie's
is filled with many such similar scenes. Often,
Kieslowski chooses to show random glimpses of Julie's current activities -
swimming by night in a dark blue pool room, re-arranging furniture in her
apartment, drinking coffee at a local tavern.
Julie ignores the world around her and concentrates upon insignificant
objects - a rustling feather, a dissolving sugar cube, a spoon in motion.
Kieslowski does not spell out the film's narrative flow; he has faith in
his audience's intelligence. Instead,
he has provided the scenes obliquely as pieces of an interlocking puzzle.
He trusts in his mise-en-scène and his actors' expressions and body
language to convey a certain mood or impression. Taken as a whole, the scenes indirectly reveal the nature of
Julie's broken spirit. This is bold
and truly effective film-making, the likes of which only confident directors
studies often suggest five stages in the process of death.
First comes denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and
finally acceptance. Julie may have physically survived her accident, but she is
not truly alive. And she may remain
dead to the world until she is willing to confront her continual existence,
rather than emotionally running away.
film ultimately does not conclude with Julie's re-emergence as a cheerful,
carefree woman. Kieslowski does not
deal out such tidy, maudlin endings. The
reality of Julie's situation means that she will never again be the same.
And yet, she has made various decisions by the film's conclusion that
suggest that she has begun the process of returning.
The entire film, in one sense, can be considered as just a prelude to the
real story to come. Julie has a
long, uncertain path yet ahead of her, but there is now hope that she might
liberate herself from her emotional isolation and in doing so, begin to live
film stock used for Blue is typical of
most European films. It has a
visible grain and produces a softer image than that seen in Hollywood movies.
Sometimes, dark backgrounds tend to fade into a featureless black.
However, this European film stock also has the potential (in capable
hands) of producing marvelous contrasts in colors. Stanley Kubrick knew this - his Eyes Wide Shut used a deliberately grainy film stock that resulted
in an absolutely beautiful film. Kieslowski
knew it, too, and likewise, Blue is a breath-taking film to behold.
the transfer is quite excellent. The
image looks spotless, and the gorgeous cinematography is wonderfully preserved.
Scene after scene glow in hues of blue and red, a pattern that repeats in
White and Red
as well. The inherent grain of the
image is deliberate - Kieslowski employed similar film stock in all the films of
presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The
films are quiet and dialogue-driven, so they do not require an immersive sonic
environment. For Blue,
the audio is clean and projected mainly from the front speakers.
The .1 channel sees occasional usage, but don't expect any major rumbles.
Nonetheless, the sound can be surprisingly forceful at times, especially
during segments of the Unification concerto.
actually glad Miramax didn't try to force the audio into a 5.1 mix.
Some things are better left untouched.
I've heard too many mono and stereo tracks butchered in the transition to
5.1, and Blue sounds fine just as it
Blue contains a staggering
amount of bonus materials! Furthermore, almost all of the features are at least 15
minutes in length, and there are few filler pieces.
A number of these extras originate from the European DVDs which have been
available for ages, while others are new to the Miramax editions.
Most offer interviews and have a refreshingly unpolished appearance.
There is some repetition between the features but overall, they are all
worth a good look.
up is Reflections on Bleu, a
featurette about the film itself. Several
film historians and cast and crew members offer their experiences on the set as
well as interpretations of the film or its characters.
The feature is actually informative, not the usual Hollywood it-was-so-much-fun
fanfare. Interestingly, Blue's
cinematographer notes that he was once asked if any of the film's visuals had
been modified by CGI, to which he replied that everything was created in-camera.
Reading between the lines, it is obvious that he was probably insulted by
the very inference that somehow Kieslowski or he had not been skilled enough to
hand-craft the film themselves without resorting to the easy but inferior
solution that computers offer. It
is quite amusing...but a sad comment on the state of affairs in today's film
Juliette Binoche appears in a Conversation
on Kieslowski. She looks really
good (European actresses just never ever age!) and is often quite funny in her
reminiscences about what is perhaps her most memorable performance.
She also notes that Kieslowski obsessed about rehearsals so that he would
not have to do more than one take of any scene if he could help it!
The feature is worth watching just to hear Juliette's cute laughter
feature gives a biographical discussion of Kieslowski's early years.
It provides interviews with his colleagues as they talk about his film
school experiences, his documentary work, and his general importance to the moral
anxiety movement in Poland. The
second part of this feature can be found on the White
himself gives a film lesson in the next short featurette.
He takes a scene from the film and dissects it, discussing the rationale
for various actions and shots. Coming
from a director who rarely discussed his films publicly, this is a rare
Karmitz, producer of Trois Couleurs, discusses his friendship with
Kieslowski in the next feature. He
recounts many wonderful anecdotes about their working relationship.
Despite the fact that Kieslowski spoke no French and Karmitz spoke
neither English nor Polish, they had an uncanny ability to communicate ideas.
Karmitz appears in featurettes on all three DVDs, and while they are
short segments, they often contain some of the most fascinating disclosures of
any of the features.
Binoche appears in her second feature - this time, she provides a selected
scenes commentary for the film. Some
segments of the interview are actually rather poignant, as she reflects upon
Kieslowski and the metaphors he chose for the film. Binoche offers a fun piece of trivia, though - she turned
down a starring role in Spielberg's Jurassic
Park because she felt her role in Blue
would be emotionally more gratifying.
Witta, the film's editor, has his own featurette to talk about the film's
structure. Most of his comments are
of a technical nature and discuss the rhythm of scenes, the pacing, and the
important of cover footage. However,
the most interesting tidbits concern the rationale behind the very atypical
fade-to-black shots that appear in the middle of a number of scenes in Blue.
Worth a look!
audio commentary is provided by Annette Insdorf. She was Kieslowski's occasional translator as well as an the
author of a book on his films. She
has a warmly pleasant, singsong narrative voice and, being a scholar of
Kieslowski's films, is able to offer forth vast quantities of insightful
comments. This is simple great
stuff, worthy of a Criterion DVD, and it should please all admirers of the film.
is a filmography for Kieslowski as well as a few trailers (White, Red, Heaven). The trailers are the generic Hollywood pack of lies and
misinformation. The Red
and White trailers make both films
look like sexy, fast-paced murder thrillers.
Oh the humanity!
one of Kieslowski's early student films is included - Concert of Wishes. It
is roughly 15 minutes long but already shows evidence of Kieslowski's confidence
behind the camera and his skill with actors.
The plot is a simple one - a boy and a girl traveling on a motorbike lose
their tent and must re-trace their route to retrieve it.
Nothing fancy, but it's still a nice little gem.
short, the Blue disc (as well as those
for its sister films White and Red)
has some of the highest quality content that I have ever seen in a Disney DVD!
Other DVD companies should take notice of the Trois Couleurs release and stop filling their own DVDs with the
pseudo-features that are nothing more than thinly-disguised promotional junk.
is Krzysztof Kieslowski's final masterpiece.
The tragic Blue starts off the
trilogy admirably. Miramax, which
owned the US distribution rights, criminally neglected Trois Couleurs for a very long time, but all is forgiven, as Miramax
has at last produced an excellent DVD!