Review by Ed Nguyen
Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.85:1, color
Features: Woah, just see below!
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003
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?"
is part two of a three-part review of Trois
Couleurs that began with Blue.
Those interested in Trois Couleurs may wish to look over the Three
Colors overview for more
background information about director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his concept for
the trilogy, which continues with this film, Blanc (White).
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%."
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
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 naivete 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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
is an excellent transfer. The
picture is clean, and the colors have a penetrating vividness to them.
While American audiences may be initially unsettled by the slightly soft
and grainy image quality, rest assured that these are deliberate
decisions by Kieslowski and do not reflect a flaw in the transfer (which is, as
stated, excellent). Kieslowski
wanted to establish a certain degree of realism and intimacy in his films.
He enjoyed the grainy, intimate quality that most documentaries possess,
and having started his career in documentaries, he was comfortable in adapting
their appearance to his fictional films.
films often shun anything other than a fine grain, highly polished appearance.
Sometimes, however, there are alternate methods of photographing a film
that unequivocally serve the story better.
As a master filmmaker, Kieslowski knew this, and it is something to keep
in mind when watching any of his films.
is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Like
its sister films, it is dialogue-driven. The
audio is heard mostly in the front speakers and is free of pops or hiss.
The .1 channel will not receive much attention; bass plays an
insignificant role in this film, anyways. Overall,
this is a fine audio mix that delivers exactly the right tone for the film.
this is what I call bonus features!
The combined time of all the extras is greater than White's
actual length. As with Blue, some of the extras originate from the European DVDs, while
others are unique to the Miramax editions.
Judging by the language therein, it's easy to tell what's new or not, but
nonetheless all the features are of an extremely high quality.
warning - please watching the film
first before looking over the features. There
is so much presented here that some of it may surely spoil the experience of
seeing White for the first time.
This also applies to Blue and Red, too!
up is A Look at Blanc.
It consists mostly of interviews of various colleagues, cast, or crew who
participated in the making of the film. These
same people will show up again in the other features as well, but they always
have something new and interesting to say.
is part two of a discussion of Kieslowski's films in general.
Part one, concerning his early documentary work, was covered in Blue.
This half concentrates on his latter films from the mid-1980's onward.
It is revealed at one point that Kieslowski was working on scripts for a
new trilogy - Hell, Paradise, and Purgatory.
Perhaps one day these films will be made.
love A Discussion on Working with
Kieslowski! It very prominently features scenes from La Double vie de Veronique,
my second favorite Kieslowski film. Viewers
may notice that the film is bathed in a consistently dark, golden hue - it was
all quite deliberate and created a mystical aura about the film.
Interestingly, despite its low budget, the film cost more than all of
Kieslowski's previous Polish films....combined!
Obviously, Kieslowski did not require a great deal of money to create
cinematic masterpieces. Hollywood
directors, please take note! Lastly,
on a wry note, the truth about Dutch composer Van den Budenmayer is revealed.
I will not reveal it here, but he was a favorite of Kieslowski's and was
either mentioned or had his music prominently featured in many of Kieslowski's
Conversation with Julie Delpy
is a 10-minute featurette on her recollections about working with Kieslowski.
She's really funny. She
speaks English so rapidly that you forget she's French.
She also reveals that Kieslowski was often right behind the camera during
filming, literally inches away from the actors' faces.
It's an amusing clip, though some of the material appears in the other
features as well.
Delpy returns for a scene commentary featurette and looks stunningly beautiful.
I'm sure she was relating a lot of interesting anecdotes about the film
and Kieslowski, but I hardly remember a word.
However, I am convinced that
European actresses all secretly know the precise location of the Fountain of
Youth. Oh - Delpy does mention
something funny; she had never driven a car before prior to filming. Yet, for one scene, she hopped into a car and drove off, much
to the shock of the crew, which had to chase after her to make sure she didn't
up is a short cinematic class by Kieslowski himself. He's not so pretty, but he can certainly make a great film.
He reveals some of his secrets in this rare but wonderful lesson.
Marin Karmitz has a very small featurette.
In it, he reads notes during pre-production hinting that Kieslowski was
already tired even before filming for Trois
Couleurs had begun. Secondly,
Karmitz reads a note suggesting changes to White's
original ending. These improvements
appear in the final version and offer a sense of hope that had been previously
absent. The featurette is short but
is a series of videos documenting the filming of White.
A similar feature is included on the Red
DVD. The videos are presented in an essentially raw form without
any narration. Furthermore, they
actually show the filming process, not
a montage of publicity stunts. All
in all, this is a great and rare opportunity to see Kieslowski at work.
a trio of Kieslowski's student films has been assembled for the DVD.
They're fairly short (less than six minutes apiece) but still intriguing.
Kieslowski's talents are clear even this early in his career.
Trolley is a silent story about
a boy who sees a pretty girl on a trolley.
The Face is an avant-garde
short about a frustrated young painter who destroys his self-portraits and
mirrors before starting afresh. The
Office is a documentary about a day in a busy licensing office.
Normal civilians, including a Spiro Agnew look-alike, stand in line and
speak a lot of Polish. There are no subtitles, so, uh, good luck.
Still, one can never have too many Kieslowski's films!
has a commentary track by Annette Insdorf.
She returns for an encore performance from the Blue
DVD and once again provides a wonderfully rich discussion.
Obviously, Insdorf knows a great deal about the film and offers a very
detailed and insightful discussion on its structure, its themes, the
cinematography, the editing, the script, and pretty much everything.
The commentary really is a thrill to listen to!
there is a filmography for Kieslowski films.
It is the same one that appears on all three DVDs of the trilogy.
The sneak peeks section has three trailers, including a wretched one for Red
that is a complete insult to Kieslowski's best film. Utter vomitus. Don't
final word - ignore the silly hype on White's
DVD cover, too. The hype is phony
baloney and utterly misrepresents White.
In fact, consider that a blanket statement for all three films.
It beats me why publicity people think Americans will not watch any movie
unless they think it is loaded with violence, sex, or action sequences. I really hope that is not true!
darkly comic White is the most fun of
the three films in the Trois Couleurs
trilogy and serves as an entertaining counter-point to Blue. It is another
remarkable film in a career filled with remarkable achievements.