Three Colors: Blue, White, Red (Blu-ray)
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 98/91/99 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 French/Polish
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Review Date: November 13, 2011
Blue – 4.5/5
After losing both her husband and her child in a tragic car crash, Julie (Juliette Binoche) attempts suicide to escape from a life she no longer wants to be a part of, but she can’t go through with it. Instead, she decides to put the family home on the market, pull up stakes, and start over with her maiden name and establish no contacts with anyone at all in the hopes of freeing herself from any future heartbreak. She finds, however, that this kind of liberty from interactive caring is easier said than done as life has a way of intruding on her solitary existence as one by one: a neighbor who works in a strip club (Charlotte Very), her former lover Olivier (Benoit Regent), and her husband’s mistress (Florence Pernel) who’s now pregnant manage to find their ways into her quiet little existence.
Kieslowski’s direction is so multi-faceted and interesting that even if the film had a simpler story (and the plot is fairly simple as is), the film would be a mesmerizing visual treat with no narrative at all. He stages one of the most fascinating car crashes ever seen in a movie (seconds after impact is where we begin viewing), and the doctor’s visit reflected in Juliet’s just-opened eye is quite startling. Given the film’s title, it’s no surprise that blue is everywhere from the lollipop Julie violently crunches on to a crystal mobile, the almost erotic blue water of the swimming pool where Julie goes to escape, the paint on her child’s wall, the blue ink Julie uses on the music manuscript, and blue washes that sometimes sweep over the scene. As blue is a color that can denote coldness and sorrow (both of which are key to Julie’s emotional state in the film), the title of the film takes on a meaning of such symbolic heft that the movie really couldn’t have been called anything else. Juliette Binoche is riveting from beginning to end as the woman so profoundly affected by her tragedy that it takes the entire film for her to be able to cry in a final image that is simply bloody brilliant.
White – 5/5
After having to accept a humiliating divorce from his beloved Dominique (Julie Delpy) because his lack of success and acceptance in Paris has left him feeling inferior and unworthy, Polish hairdresser Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) stumbles on a sympathetic fellow Pole Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos) who arranges a strange if viable return to Warsaw. Once there, Karol’s desire for revenge on the woman who cast him away involves an intricate plan which will require an enormous amount of money to carry off, so he sets off to only work at his brother’s (Jerzy Stuhr) hair salon occasionally while moonlighting with land speculation which brings him a great and unexpected amount of success in a much shorter time than he had expected.
Though white signifies “equality” in the second film in the trilogy, the movie’s protagonist is on anything but equal terms as the film opens, the point being that the film’s modus operandi revolves around his earning equality with the woman who disparages him as a man, takes away his identity, and makes him hunted by the police by having an arson blamed on him. The film’s first forty-five minutes are a black comedy in the same style as Arthur Hiller’s The Out-of-Towners as poor Karol is at the mercy of the fates as he’s buffeted from one calamity to the next. As the superb Krzysztof Piesiewicz- Krzysztof Kieslowski script evolves, however, the germ of an idea in Karol’s head grows more sophisticated and wry, and the screenplay explores the heart and soul of this fundamentally kind man who’s nevertheless not a pushover. We follow his progress in the film as Kieslowski shoots it in mostly conventional ways relying more on the superb performances of his two leads (the final moments between Karol and Dominique have some of the same intensity as the end of Chaplin’s City Lights, not likely a coincidence since Zbigniew Zamachowski has a couple of Chaplinesque moments tucking a gas gun in his pants and walking with mock authority and a lyrical bit of sliding play on the ice). Zbigniew Preisner’s music likewise sounds like it could have come from Chaplin’s composing ear with whimsical touches reminiscent of The Circus and The Gold Rush.
Red – 4.5/5
Fashion model Valentine (Irene Jacob) injures a dog on the street and seeks out its owner, an embittered middle-aged judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who doesn’t seem to care if the dog lives or dies; he’s much too busy eavesdropping on his neighbors’ telephone conversations via an elaborate IR set-up. She’s appalled by his snooping but fascinated by him personally, and as she gets to know about his unhappy earlier life, we also get to meet his younger doppelganger Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a young man readying for a career as a judge who’s having romance issues with girl friend Karin (Frederique Feder) and who happens to be a neighbor of Valentine’s although they’ve never met. The universe conspires to make this triangle of personalities meet in circumstances even they would never have imagined.
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s final part of his trilogy is the densest and most esoteric of the three films. The fraternal bond these three strangers inevitably strike doesn’t really come full circle until the very end of the movie (and also neatly ties into the earlier two colors in the trilogy), and audiences may not find the storytelling especially rewarding the first time through. This is a story that requires multiple visits to see how all of the pieces fit together, but it’s amazing in its construction and beautifully put together. Red occupies almost every shot in the movie in some way, a much more intense and self-conscious use of the hue here than in the other two films, and all of the things that the color typically suggests: love and hate and death and anger, all are to be found within the narrative and in multiple situations. Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant are a terrific team, jockeying for the superior position and having the last word in the early going and later coming to a tangible understanding of their conflicted and unsatisfying lives, separated from romance by a couple of generations (thus the intelligent utilization of the character of Auguste who otherwise is a less interesting part of the film) but nevertheless connected making the film’s climax all the more fulfilling.
Blue, White – 4.5/5
Red – 5/5
Each of the films has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Blue uses a combination of rich color in certain scenes and more subdued color in others. Sharpness is superb even if flesh tones seem a bit pale in certain scenes. In lower light, the film takes on a slightly digital appearance with slightly crushed blacks. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
White features a more desaturated color look than Blue does, but the picture is every bit as sharp and clean as the others. Once again, black levels tend to get a bit spotty when light levels go down and grain intensifies, but it’s not a serious matter. This film is divided into 17 chapters.
Red is the most consistent video transfer of the trio and is a glorious high definition transfer. With all of the red that’s present, it could have been a nightmare for the encoders, but none of it ever suggests a hint of noise, not even the huge red billboard ad that features Jacob advertising bubble gum. Black levels are also the strongest here of the three movies. Sharpness is superb and consistent. The white subtitles in all of the films are always easy to read. The final film in the trilogy has been divided into 17 chapters.
Blue, Red – 4.5/5
White – 4/5
All three films offer a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround audio track. With music playing such an important role in the story of Blue, the sound mix here is crucial to the film’s effectiveness, and this lossless encode doesn’t let the viewer down for a moment. The music is lush, sweeping, and bold perfecting complementing the storytelling throughout. Dialogue has been placed in the center channel and is always discernible. In the quietest moments, there’s some slight hiss but it’s never intrusive to the drama.
White offers a much more constricted sound palette and doesn’t use its DTS-HD MA sound design nearly as effectively. The charming, capricious score by Zbigniew Preisner gets a rather thin spread in the audio mix with not very resonant impact as the film progresses. Dialogue as before is situated in the center channel and is never a problem. Once again, there is some slight hiss to be heard but only in the moments without anything happening on screen.
Red offers excellent spread across the soundstage of music and sound effects (important during some storm sequences that happen importantly in the movie). The music is more somber, even occasionally ominous in this one, appropriate to the serious storytelling, and it sounds wonderful in this lossless stereo mix. Dialogue is strongly placed in the center channel.
Blue contains the following bonus features:
“On Blue” features film professor Annette Insdorf offering an overview of all three films in the trilogy and then going into detail on Blue in this 20 ¾-minute video critique presented in 1080p.
“Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Cinema Lesson” is a 7 ½-minute video piece by the director of the trilogy explaining some of his directorial techniques and his use of close-ups in the movie. It’s in 1080i.
An audio interview with Juliette Binoche features the actress’ comments over clips from various portions of the movie. This 24 ½-minute interview offers fascinating information about her work process and her collaboration with the director. The clips are in 1080i.
A 21 ½-minute interview with composer Zbigniew Preisner stresses his entire working relationship with the director and the murderous pace the director maintained not only with the trilogy which he scored by his previous twelve pictures with him done in less than two years. It’s in 1080p.
“Reflections on Blue” finds a collection of former collaborators of the director as well as critics and his biographer describing the great achievements of the movie in this 17 ½-minute piece in 1080i.
“Krzysztof Kieslowski: The Early Years” offers once again the same group of Kieslowski experts discussing his early life and his three attempts to be accepted in film school to get his career started. This 15-minute piece is presented in 1080i.
Two student films are presented for viewing. The Tram is Kieslowski’s 5 ½-minutge silent film as a young male and female make a fleeting connection on a bus. In The Face, the director himself stars as a tortured artist who has used his face as his inspirational model and now finds he can’t stand to look at it any more. This runs 6 minutes. Both are in 1080p.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes in 1080p.
White contains the following bonus material:
“On White” is a 21 ¾-minute video critique of the film by movie historian Tony Rayns which also offers background on the director’s other movies leading up to this one. He also points out the many echoes in the Three Colors trilogy to Kieslowski’s Decalogue series of films. It’s in 1080p.
“Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Cinema Lesson” is 10 ¾ minutes of the director discussing his original plans for the movie and the changes that took place during production. It’s in 1080i.
Separate interviews with Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy are combined into an 18 ¼-minute video piece in which the two actors talk about their previous experiences with the director and how they enjoyed the working relationship with him in this film. It’s in 1080p.
Co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz discusses his initial meeting with the director in 1982, his career as a lawyer before turning to screenwriting, and the seventeen films they worked on together. He also offers his own interpretation of how the three films in the trilogy fit together and what the strengths for each one are. This 1080p interview runs 21 ¼ minutes.
“The Making of White” offers very interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of the director staging and filming various sequences in the movie. It runs 16 ¼ minutes in 1080i.
Two of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s short documentaries are offered for viewing. Seven Women of Different Ages explores seven females in a ballet school both in class and in recital giving one day to each female in this 16 ¼-minute 1080i featurette. Talking Heads asks the same questions of forty people ranging in age from 1 year to 100 years old: “Who are you really?” and “What do you want most from life?” It runs 14 ¾ minutes in 1080i.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 1 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
Red contains the following bonus features:
“On Red” is critic Dennis Lim’s video essay on the movie, a 22-minute video critique that ties together the themes and stories of all three films after concentrating on Red. It’s in 1080p.
“Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Cinema Lesson” is an 8 ¾-minute excursion with the director as he examines several scenes and discusses their importance to the narrative. It’s in 1080i.
Actress Irene Jacob talks for 16 ½ minutes about her rewarding filmmaking experiences with the director both in Red and in the dual roles in The Double Life of Veronique. It’s in 1080p.
Producer Marin Karmitz discusses the problems associated with the production and their disappointment in leaving Cannes without winning the grand prize (though the film’s three Oscar nominations were a surprise and a treat). This 1080i featurette runs 10 ¾ minutes.
Film editor Jacques Witta discusses significant cuts that were made, showing the cut footage and then showing the scenes in the film where the edits were made. This runs 12 ¾ minutes in 1080i.
“Behind the Scenes of Red” shows the director staging and shooting takes of various scenes and then shows those scenes as they appear in the movie. This runs 23 ½ minutes in 1080i.
“Kieslowski – Cannes – 1994” feature excerpts from interviews with director Kieslowski and co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant talking about their work in this 15 ¼-minute 1080i vignette.
“Krzysztof Kieslowski: I’m So-So” is an unusual 55 ½-minute biographical film in which the director with production friends discusses his life and his work. Among the films discussed and shown in part are TheCalm, Camera Buff, Blind Chance, The Decalogue, and Red. It’s in 1080i.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 1 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
The enclosed 79-page booklet contains cast and crew lists for all the films, an overview of the trilogy by film professor Colin MacCabe, individual essays on each of the three works by Nick James, Stuart Klawans, and Georginia Evans respectively, the director’s own excerpted thoughts about his films from a book on his works, and articles by each film’s director of photography about shooting his particular movie.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Three Colors: Blue, White, Red makes for a stunning Blu-ray set from Criterion. With a startling batch of bonus materials and these universally hailed films looking and sounding their best, this set can’t help but gain the highest recommendation!