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THREE COLORS TRILOGY
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Ed Nguyen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Introduction:

The small nation of Poland may seem an unusual country to produce one of cinema's modern masters.  And yet, over the last quarter of the twentieth-century, it was home to one of Europe's finest film directors ever.  His name?  Krzysztof Kieslowski (that's CHEES-TOFF KEYS-LOSS-KEE).  Kieslowski's name may be unwieldy and generally unfamiliar to western audiences, but his best films transcend all language and politics.

Like Sweden's well-regarded Ingmar Bergman, Kieslowski was an actor's director.  He was interested in exploring the complexities and subtleties of human relationships.  Though meticulous in his preparations and direction, he nonetheless often allowed his actors' performances to serve as the emotional heart of his films.  Kieslowski shunned intrusive action or unnecessary dialogue.  As a result, many of his films possessed an East European and decidedly un-Hollywood flavour.  They were exquisitely crafted and deliberately-paced, focusing upon the minutiae of life that defined the characters and their actions.  Kieslowski often wove evocative dream-states around simple tales, creating worlds that felt real and yet existed not entirely within the conscious realm.  La Double vie de Veronique is a good example of one such film.  But of his numerous other works, the one most recognized by western audiences today is his final masterpiece - Trois Couleurs (the Three Colors Trilogy).

Krzysztof Kieslowski started his directorial career making documentaries.  It was not until 1976 that he directed his first full-length feature (Blizna).  The film won first prize at the Moscow Film Festival and helped to establish Kieslowski as a leader in the cinema of moral anxiety.  This Polish film movement included a number of other prominent directors, such as Andrzej Wajda and Agnieszka Holland, and its objective was to use the language of film to subtly depict Polish oppression under communism.  Ironically, Kieslowski was never interested in the Cold War dynamics of the real world and sought to avoid political agendas in all his films.  Though the political atmosphere of the day constrained Kieslowski's talents initially, the eventual collapse of communism in Poland freed Kieslowski to experiment cinematically.  His subsequent films can be included among the best of the contemporary European films.

Kieslowski's crowning achievement in the 1980's was the mini-series, Dekalog.  A ten-hour film whose segments drew thematic inspiration from the Ten Commandments, Dekalog was a tremendous artistic triumph.  Kieslowski's 1991 follow-up, La Double vie de Veronique, brought him further international acclaim.  The film was a surreal meditation on identity and awareness and featured a luminous Irene Jacob.  It was in many ways a test-run for Trois Couleurs.  Perhaps encouraged by the enthusiastic reception for La Double vie de Veronique, Kieslowski announced that his next ambitious project would be a trilogy of films.  These films would expound upon the ideals symbolized by the three colors of the French flag.  The first film, Bleu (Blue), would represent liberty.  The second film, Blanc (White), would represent equality.  The last film, Rouge (Red), would represent fraternity and would provide a common link to the three films in its conclusion.  While separately the films would be different in tone, together, they would form a Magnus Opus - Trois Couleurs.

Superficially, the stories of Trois Couleurs might appear simple and straight-forward.  Surely, hasn't Hollywood made these sorts of films countless times?  However, there is a certain magic in Kieslowski's understated yet confident direction that almost no Hollywood director could ever hope to duplicate.  His films, much like those of Ozu or Truffaut, have a surface simplicity that only belie their countless layers of depth.  It is an immeasurable quality that only the greatest directors possess - a seemingly effortless ability to infuse incredible artistry and beauty into even the most basic of stories.

BLUE

Stars: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Very, Hugues Quester
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: DTS Stereo 2.0
Subtitles: English
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Studio: Miramax
Features: Look below!
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date:
November 15, 2011

"I'd like to meet you.  It's important."

"Nothing's important."

Blue, 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."

Julie, 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 Europe 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.

Julie 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.

There 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 nature.

Blue 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 will attempt.

Thanatological 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.

The 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 again.

WHITE

Stars: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: DTS Stereo 2.0
Subtitles: English
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Studio: Miramax
Features: Woah, just see below!
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: November 15, 2011

"If I say I love you, you don't understand.  If I say I hate you, you still don't understand.  You don't understand that I need you, that I want you.  Do you understand?"

Film *** 1/2

Krzysztof Kieslowski, a graduate of the famed Lodz Film Academy, achieved wide international recognition with the Cannes premiere of his 1991 film La Double vie de Veronique.  A film enthusiast at heart, he wasted little time in preparing treatments for his new French project - Trois Couleurs.  Blue would be the first film completed for the trilogy, but even before he was finished with it, Kieslowski began filming White.  During various stages of White's production, Kieslowski would spend time either editing Blue or completing the script for Red.  He was sometimes too focused upon his craft - an incident early in Blue's production, when he worked for 24 hours straight, exhausted his crew and rendered them entirely useless the following day.  Then again, this should come as no surprise for a director who once completed, in the span of a year, a documentary, two feature-length films, and one 10-hour film!  Despite his overwhelmingly workaholic love for film-making, Kieslowski was uniformly beloved by all his crew and cast.  Editor Jacques Witta, when asked if he wanted to work with Kieslowski on his Trois Couleurs, replied, "400%."

Kieslowski's amazing work ethics continued during filming of Trois Couleurs.  His aim was to release Blue in 1993 for the Venice Film Festival and White later the same year in Berlin.  Kieslowski accomplished his goal, an amazingly proficient task for a director who did not even speak French.  Blue swept a huge number of awards, and White earned him the Best Director Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

White is the lightest in tone of the three films.  It is a tale about a hapless man named Karol (Zamachowski).  He is a little Polish barber, upbeat yet goofy.  He wears a perpetual look of confounded naiveté on his face.  He is pretty much a lovable loser, the proverbial fish out of water.  His exasperated French wife, Dominique (Delpy), certainly thought so, for she has most unceremoniously dumped him out onto the Parisian streets after their annulment.  Sought by the police after Dominique frames him for arson, penniless after a bank employee nonchalantly cuts up his credit card, Karol is simply not having a good day.  He ends up hobo-ing it around the Parisian metros.

Despite his string of luck, all bad, Karol still loves Dominique.  One day, he calls her up, only to have her answer during a passionate encounter with another man.  Perhaps it is the inciting incident for his hero cycle.  Something snaps in Karol.  The call instills in Karol a sense of purpose, for he determines thereafter to show to Dominique that he is not a loser.  He is not a toss-away, little barber but her equal!  He resolves to earn her respect even if it means sneaking out of Paris back home to Poland in a suitcase.

Karol's new odyssey begins badly.  Arriving in Poland, he is beaten by hoodlums.  When they discover that his wallet contains one lousy coin, which Karol nonetheless attempts to retrieve, they toss him and the coin aside and depart in disgust.  As he lies face-down in the dirt, Karol looks up and flashes an optimistic smile.  "Home at last," he says.  The shot is a simple one yet it defines his character.  His net worth may be a mere two francs, but Karol still has his indomitable spirit.  We begin to understand implicitly that, no matter what the obstacles, he will somehow eventually re-build his life and perhaps find a way back into Dominique's good graces.

After the somber mood of Blue, White feels downright cheerful.  It is not a typical comedy, however, even if it is somewhat fanciful and comic in tone.  White is very much akin in spirit to the "comedies" of Louis Malle (My Dinner with Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street).  There are no actually hilarious moments, though the situations that arise are often amusing in a real but touching way.  White is a celebration of the bittersweet ironies of being human.  The attainment of love is often fraught with pain, and sometimes, life does not begin until after a symbolic death.  Not just a comedy, White is almost at times an upside-down love story.

White's plot takes several liberties with cross-cutting chronology and even with believability.  As the film progresses, we become increasingly less certain of whether the images that Kieslowski offers represent past, present, or future.  Some scenes exist as flashbacks, though it is unclear as to whether they are Karol's or Dominique's.  The ambiguity strengthens the invisible bond between both characters, suggesting that despite their current separation, their lives are inevitably intertwined.  Some scenes seem to exist in a normal world, while others have such a surreal reality that we wonder if they exist beyond Karol's imagination or hopes.  How else to rationalize the oddness of Karol's sudden success or Dominique's final predicament?

A key scene occurs near the film's mid-point after Karol comes into a great deal of money.  I will not reveal how he acquires this money, but he now has the means to resurrect his life.  One minute, he is a dirt-poor barber; the next minute, he has a chauffeur and wears a very smart suit.  Of course, a year has passed and while the film offers some hints to this effect, it is easy to overlook, especially given the wavering chronology.  The relative speed of Karol's subsequent business success may also bear a ring of implausibility if one is not aware of Poland's actual economic situation during the time of filming.  Poland had just recently been liberated from communism.  The newborn and inexperienced capitalistic society, especially in Warsaw, the setting for Karol's home, provided enormous potential for growth and rapid wealth through international trade...for someone with the proper drive and motivation.  Karol, for his part, is utterly driven by an unwithering desire to make something of himself, to regain his dignity and to prove to Dominique that he is deserving of her.

Oddly, in the midst of these scenes that document Karol's rise, there is another scene.  It is a night-time scene, and Karol, looking disheveled and wearing simple clothing, awakens from his sleep.  He does not appear very confident or prosperous.  He is, in fact, tearful and decides to call Dominique again.  In the foreground, we see an alabaster bust.  It is the very likeness of his beloved Dominique.  It is in fact the only other possession he brought back with him to Poland.  There is a poignant scene early in the film in which he repairs a break in the bust and later, in silhouette, kisses it.  Now, he calls the real Dominique and begs her to speak so he may hear her voice.  She promptly hangs up, at which point the scene fades to black.  In the very next scene, we see a confident, smartly-attired Karol once more, formulating a plan to bring Dominique to him.

One could interpret this sequence several ways.  Everything could be simply part of Karol's reality - he really is wealthy and powerful and his phone call motivates him to use his new wealth to bring Dominique to him.  Or, everything could be a part of Karol's dream, with only the night scene as reality.  The real Karol could be a lonely, poor barber who still fantasizes about the woman who abandoned him; the dream Karol could be this wealthy, powerful man who can win back his love.  On the surface, Kieslowski's narrative seems straight-forward enough, but it leaves room for interpretation.

Near the film's end, an encounter between Karol and Dominique continues this ambiguous tone.  The scene has a strange familiarity about it.  Have we seen it before?  Yes - very brief portions were played earlier in the film.  What, then, is reality?  What is fantasy?  What is real-time and what is the past?  Furthermore, throughout the film, happy scenes from Karol's wedding are glimpsed.  Are they merely Karol's repetitive memories, or do they serve to imply a future re-conciliation between Karol and Dominique?

White may be an ironic comedy but it conceals many labyrinthine meanings.  As with all of Kieslowski's films, it is a film that improves with every subsequent re-viewing, slowly revealing its secrets.  The film's construction, though unorthodox, is ultimately brilliant.  The Berlin Film Festival chose wisely in rewarding Kieslowski with a well-deserved Best Director award for White.

RED

Stars: Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frederique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Studio: Miramax
Features: Golly, just read below!
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003

"Yesterday I dreamt...I dreamt of you.  You were forty or fifty years old, and you were happy."

"Do your dreams come true?"

"It's been years since I dreamt something nice."

Film ****

Rouge (Red), as the finale for Trois Couleurs, coalesces the three films together.  It is considered Kieslowski's finest film and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.

Principal photography for Trois Couleurs started around September, 1992.  Red's shoot ended in late spring 1993, concluding an arduous nine months of production.  Annette Insdorf, a long-time friend and translator for Kieslowski, at one point during filming remarked to Kieslowski that he was killing himself from overwork.  Many nights, he was lucky to get two hours of sleep.  His reply was a simple shrug.  The work continued.

Post-production on Red initially yielded some twenty versions of the film.  Kieslowski considered film as a breathing, fluctuating entity and often liked to experiment with different versions of his films to emphasize different scenes (Kieslowski once wanted to release seventeen different versions of La Double vie de Veronique simultaneously!).  At any rate, Red is my personal favorite.  Kieslowski's romantic direction is leisurely yet masterful as it explores an unusual relationship that develops between a younger woman, Valentine, and an older, retired man.

Irene Jacob, as Valentine, is beyond beautiful.  Anyone who has seen her mesmerizing performance in La Double vie de Veronique will be equally entranced by her in Red.  Valentine is a young fashion model.  She lives in Geneva, and though she is a kind and warm-hearted person, she is lonely.  Her boyfriend is away and never seen.  His occasional phone calls reveal him to be a jealous and callous type.  One day, as Valentine is driving home, she inadvertently strikes a runaway dog.  She nurses the injured dog back to health and traces ownership back to an elderly man.  He is retired, having retreated into the darkened shell of his large home.  He lives in solitude, alone with the memories of past regrets and decisions.  To pass the time, he confesses to eavesdropping on the private telephone conversations of his neighbors from his radio.  Valentine is at first repulsed by this voyeuristic obsession, but she gradually learns that the man, beneath his crusted exterior, was once a good-hearted judge.  For his part, the judge is affected by his encounters with Valentine and begins to change his life, though not without some consequences.

Red is not a typical romantic tale.  For one, Valentine's relationship with the judge is platonic.  They  never embrace or kiss.  Nonetheless, the judge becomes her closest friend and, to some degree, her emotional guide.  His relationship with the young Valentine is closer and warmer than Valentine's with her unseen boyfriend.  Her conversations with the boyfriend are harsh and abrupt; her conversations with the judge are quiet and  intimate.  She invites the judge, not her boyfriend, to her latest fashion show.  The judge is the final person she visits before a fateful voyage abroad.  In truth, the judge and Valentine are soulmates.  Perhaps in a different setting or a younger age, they may have fallen in love, as even the judge recognizes: "Maybe you're the woman I never met."

Their final scene together is a melancholy one.  The judge has entered his car, and before driving off, places his palm against the window.  Valentine, standing outside the car, responds by placing her palm against the window as well.  The glass bars them, a symbol of the barriers that separate them.  They can only exchange smiles before the judge slowly departs.

Red uses an intensely vivid cinematographic style to reflect the often undeclared emotions of its characters.  The color red can express many emotions - passion, anger, or warmth, to name a few.  The film has an understated, passionate story, and so the red tonal quality of the film is diffusely present throughout.  Valentine's very name calls to mind the color; indeed, she has a friendly personality and quietly desires someone to truly love and who will return her love.  Her scenes are often lit with a soft golden-red glow, as expressed in the red theater that houses her fashion show or her sunset visits to the judge's home.  The judge's home, with its dark wood paneling and furniture, has a somber red-brown hue, symbolic of the judge's suppressed or exhausted passion.  In direct contrast, there is a sub-plot that follows Auguste, a young Swiss citizen.  Unlike the judge, he is full of energy, whisking about in a bright-red jeep while cultivating a stormy, fluctuating relationship with his girlfriend. 

Then, there is the famous profile of Valentine.  It is the same portrait that was used extensively for the film's actual promotion.  Valentine, in the shot, glances sadly off to a side while silhouetted in the background by a gently blowing red curtain.  It is a mysterious shot, but a poignant one, almost an expression of Valentine's own internal desires.  In the film, we initially see the expanded portrait on a billboard through Auguste's eyes as he waits by a red traffic light.  Auguste, in fact, is perhaps not coincidentally also a young judge, and as the film progresses, his life experiences seem to mirror those of the older judge.  While Auguste and Valentine never directly cross paths, we sense a certain connection between the two characters.  Perhaps then, the color red has another meaning for the film - perhaps it is an indication of destiny, of the connection and inevitable pairing of two people even across the barrier of time or circumstances.

This theme of second chances echoes in all three films of Trois Couleurs.  Coupled with the theme of death, the suggestion of rebirth is an important one and creates a sense of renewal in the films.  Julie, in Blue, provides the first signs at the film's conclusion that she will overcome her grief at her family tragedy.  Blue's concerto is a symbolic celebration of this new beginning, for it too celebrates a birth - the creation of a new Europe.  Karol, in White, starts out as almost a child - innocent and helpless in face of his plights, he must slowly learn to live again.  Even his changed homeland of Poland is in its infancy, having only just arisen from the ashes of its communist past.  In this new setting, Karol hopes to re-establish the foundations of his love for Dominique, his former wife.  In Red, the very name of Valentine itself is a child's name, personally chosen by Irene Jacob for the memories it evoked in her of her own childhood.  Valentine has requested from the judge the gift of a young puppy, borne of the dog she rescued earlier in the film.  Equally as important, the judge's experiences are reflected in Auguste, a symbolic reflection of the judge himself as a younger man.  Their lives are the same, yet where the judge had failed in love, perhaps the younger man will succeed.  There is a premonition of fate in Red, of destiny bridging the gap between ages, beginning life anew for Valentine and a young judge.

Death, as well, is often an inciting event for change in the three films.  Death is the critical event that so drastically alters Julie in Blue and so prevalently haunts her throughout much of the film.  In White, Karol and a friend both receive a symbolic death that reveals the similarities in their lives and gradually transforms the paths of their lives for the better.  In Red, death exists in an abstract manner, showing the emptiness of Valentine's and the judge's lives as well as being the final force that unites the main characters of Trois Couleurs in the end.  Kieslowski has admitted that death as a dramatic impulse appealed greatly to him, and he used it frequently in his films, subtly changing its relevance to the plot in film to film.

The re-occurrence of characters in Trois Couleurs is a trend from his previous films and also serves to unite Red with its sister films.  Alert viewers may have caught a glimpse of Juliette Binoche early in White.  Likewise, Julie Delpy appears near the end of Blue.  Both characters will re-appear in Red's conclusion.  Furthermore, all three films include a scene with an elderly person struggling to insert a bottle into a recycling bin.  In Blue, Binoche's Julie is completely indifferent to the woman; her eyes are closed and she is distant and far away.  In White, the sad sap Karol watches with an amused smile but does nothing to help; perhaps it comforts him that he has company in his woes.  In Red, Valentine notices the woman's struggles and walks over to assist her.  The different manners in which all three approach the same situation help to define their characters.

The three films conclude in a similar manner.  They offer a sense of real hope, with the emotional liberation and transformation that hope brings.  We see the face of a character in close-up.  The camera holds the frame for a long time as slowly, a tear rolls down the character's face, and the brief hint of a smile appears before the picture fades to black.  In Blue, this character is Julie as she ponders her future.  In White, it is Karol, looking up with adoration upon his beloved Dominique.  In Red, it is the judge, looking past a cracked window in the aftermath of a destructive storm.  But the final image of the trilogy belongs to Valentine, profiled against a deep magenta sky as she gazes into the distance.  The camera focuses in, stopping as a red backdrop suddenly appears behind her.  It is very reminiscent her portrait from earlier in Red, but now, it is a vital and living image, not merely a static one.  Valentine, like Julie and Karol equally before her, has weathered life's uncertainties.  For all their differences, these characters are united by their experiences.  Their lives are a continual process - a search for freedom, for understanding, or for companionship.  They are fundamentally similar.  Red, in revealing their common destiny, is a fitting conclusion to Trois Couleurs.

Released theatrically in 1994, Red was Kieslowski's last film.  It completed an extraordinary cinematic legacy the likes of which have rarely been equaled.  With Trois Couleurs, Kieslowski's greatness as a director was forever established.  Sadly, Kieslowski did not live long after completion of Red.  In 1996, he died from complications of open-heart surgery.  The premature death of Europe's finest modern director was a tragic loss in the cinematic world.  In tribute, Kieslowski's wake in Warsaw was accompanied by Blue's funeral theme.

He was only 54 years old.

Video ****

It's hard for me to believe, but apparently, some critics scoffed at Kieslowski's use of color in these films.  Each one is filtered to amplify the color of the title, and from my perspective, the results are quite striking a beautiful.  The blues add a visceral sense of sorrows, the whites a natural feel as though we were seeing it all from God's perspective, and the reds invoke passion and emotion.  Criterion's Blu-ray offering keeps all of Kieslowski's exact vision intact, with clarity and vividness.  Each film looks great, and progressively improves.  Red is truly a vision to behold.

Audio ***1/2

You might think these audio tracks have a couple of strikes against them from the start...they represent the original stereo sound, and the films are largely dialogue-oriented.  But don't despair...with the use of music to enhance the drama, these discs offer terrific listening experiences.  There is some dynamic range, but better still, a clear sense of balance to the mixes.  They offer the sounds of life.

Features ****

It wouldn't be a Criterion offering without some wonderful supplements, and this three disc set packs plenty of good ones.  Each disc contains a cinema lesson from Kieslowski himself, analyzing some part of his film and offering his thoughts on their construction and purpose.

Blue has a new video essay by biographer Annette Insdorf, as well as a new interview with the film's composer (a treat, since the music is a vital part of the story).  There is also select-scene commentary from Juliette Binoche, and a documentary "Reflections on Blue", featuring analysis from critics, filmmakers and cinematographers.  There are two early shorts from Kieslowski, one he made, and one he starred in.  Rounding out is the original trailer.

White offers a video essay by critic Tony Rayns and two new interviews; one with co-writer Krzystof Piesiewicz and one with stars Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy.  There is a short documentary on the making of the film, as well as two documentaries by Kieslowski and the original trailer.

Red brings the set full circle, featuring a video essay by film writer Dennis Lim.  There is a brand new interview with actress Irene Jacob, plus interviews with producer Marin Karmitz and editor Jacques Witta.  There is some behind-the-scenes footage, a look at the film's premiere at Cannes, and a film made about Kieslowski shortly before his death.  It begins with various professionals...a priest, a doctor, a psychiatrist...offering their opinions of the man, but then the film settles into letting the man speak for himself.  The trailer concludes the extras.

Lastly, Criterion offers one of their best booklets of the year, featuring essays, reprinted interviews, and even an excerpt from Kieslowski on Kieslowski.  This is a wonderful, rich package.

Summary:

Trois Couleurs Blue/White/Red is Krzysztof Kieslowski's final, poetic masterpiece.  Red alone would shame many a Best Picture Oscar recipient.  Small wonder that Trois Couleurs as a whole is widely considered one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the entire 1990's.   This Criterion Blu-ray set deserves a coveted spot in the home library of any serious film fan.  Absolutely the highest recommendations!

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