Around here, red, white and blue are known as the colours of the American flag, and they are also the colours of the French flag. But they also are the names of the late Krzysztof Kieslowski's brilliant "Three Colours" trilogy, which has a delicacy that most directors can only dream of. Beautiful, painful, artfully shot, it's a visual feast for anyone who has an appreciation for beauty, subtlety and filmmaking.
In "Bleu," Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche) and her family are in a car accident when their brakes fail, and her husband and daughter are killed. Devastated, she leaves her palatial house in the country after a night with her husband's old friend Olivier (Benoît Régent), who has been in love with her for years. And though Julie tries to leave her old life behind, she is pulled in when Olivier starts to finish her husband's last composition -- and he tells her of a side of her husband that she never knew.
In the bitterly funny "Blanc," hairdresser Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is being coldly divorced by his beautiful wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) because she is sexually dissatisfied with him -- and she takes all his money too. But after returning to Poland, Karol rebuilds his life and fortune, and amid a web of killing, seduction and faked death, he comes up with a way to get back at Dominique...
And "Rouge" is the color of love. On her way home from a modelling session, Valentine (Irene Jacob) accidently injures a pregnant dog. The owner is Joseph Kern, (Jean-Louis Trintignant) an embittered ex-judge whose job has left him spiritually adrift, and who now spends his time wiretapping the phones of his neighbors and predicting what will happen in their lives. The friendship between Valentine and Kern grows, even as a young man's current life mirrors what devastated Kern long ago...
The three colours of the French flag symbolize liberty, equality and fraternity -- and these are echoed in the stories of Kieslowski's films. And each of the three movies has its own "feel" -- "Blue" is cool and sensual, "White" was sharp and sexy, and "Red" has a sweetness and richness that is truly moving.
And while most directors are just boring when they do slow, arty direction, Kieslowski infused his direction with sensual beauty and endless light and colour, like a painting come to life. And he intertwined many symbolic images and lingering threads from one movie to the next, whether it's an old lady recycling bottles or a rather surprising finale for "Red" that brings all three movies' protagonists together.
And he saturated the movies with the colour of their title -- blue is sadness, depth and beauty; white is beautiful and pure, stark and blinding; red is passion and warmth. While this may not have been Kieslowski's intention, the constant presence of these colors (a bridal gown, a swimming pool, and so on) add an extra dimension to the emotions in the story, especially the first.
Juliette Binoche is an extremely good actress, and this movie uses her expressiveness as most movies don't. Zamachowski brings an element of humanity and poignancy to what could have been an idiotic character, and I never felt anything but understanding for this guy. And Irene Jacob brings a sweetness and innocence to her role as Valentine (aptly named, considering the title of the movie she stars in) that is rarely seen in modern movies.
Kieslowski was an unusual and extremely talented moviemaker, and his "Three Colors" trilogy -- "Bleu," "Blanc" and "Rouge" -- is an exceptional piece of work. We shall not see his like again.