Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Three Colors: White

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Trois Couleurs: Blanc (Three Colors: White) is the story of a Polish man who is dumped by his French wife as he returns to Poland to gain revenge on his wife after a series of humiliating moments. The second part of a trilogy based on the themes of the French flag where the white color represents equality as the film is a black comedy about a man trying to get even with his wife. Starring Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gago, and Jerzy Stuhr. Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a witty and insightful film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

In marriage, it’s a concept where man and woman become equal partners in relationship as this film is an exploration into the theme of equality in an ironic and comical perspective. Notably as a Polish man named Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) marries this beautiful French woman named Dominique (Julie Delpy) but the marriage fizzles as Karol is unable to consummate the marriage as it leads to a series of humiliating situations and moments. Upon his return to Poland after meeting a mysterious man named Mikolaj (Janusz Gago), Karol conspires to get even with Dominique for humiliating him in the hopes she feels the same way he felt when she decided to leave him.

While the film in some respects is a revenge story, what Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz create is something more as the film is an exploration into the world of equality set in two different countries. The first act is set in Paris where Karol is a foreigner who can barely speak French which is a detriment to his divorce hearing as he loses his French residency, his means of support, his money, his property, and everything as he becomes a beggar wanting revenge over what Dominique did to him. Upon meeting Mikolaj, Karol gets the chance to return home to Warsaw where he lives with his older brother Jurek (Jerzy Stuhr) as the film’s second and third act are set in Warsaw where Karol schemes his revenge.

Whereas the first half of the film is this story of a man feeling humiliated by his wife which would play into his desire for revenge, the second half does become a revenge film of sorts but in an unconventional way. Notably as Karol would embark in this new post-Communist world of Poland that is driven by capitalism as Karol would take advantage of that. It would play into this third act where Karol would try to get Dominique to come to Warsaw in some way in order to become equal to her as part of his thirst for revenge. While some of the actions that Dominique does in the film’s first half were quite cruel, she isn’t a totally bad person but someone who was disappointed and needed to be with someone else where her arrival in Warsaw would reveal how she really felt about Karol.

Kieslowski’s direction is very understated in his approach to black humor and how he plans ever part of Karol’s elaborate scheme to get revenge on Dominique. Much of it would involve a lot of visual motifs such as birds and objects as it would play key parts in the film such as a 2 franc coin and the suitcase that Karol had brought with him from Poland. Upon his arrival to Paris, Karol’s day would be the worst where the first sign of this bad day is when a bird shits on his coat as it’s the sign of these to come. It’s among these moments that Kieslowski creates to play into the humor while using very brief flashback scenes of Karol and Dominique’s wedding day to express that there was love in that marriage yet it’s in sharp contrast to their divorce that left Karol humiliated. There’s also a lot of ambiguity in some of the scenes that Kieslowski creates such as repeated images of Dominique walking into a hotel room where it does play to Karol’s obsession towards her which adds to his own sense of conflict.

The direction also has Kieslowski use a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the look of Warsaw in the winter time where it’s a world that is starting to move out of Communism and into their own idea of capitalism where one of the frequent statements is that you can buy anything in Warsaw. It adds to some of the dark humor in the film as well as something that feels very loose in the direction where Karol and Mikolaj are enjoying themselves in their home country by taking advantage of this new world of capitalism. Even as its ending would have some ambiguity over everything Karol had done towards Dominique but also reinstate the theme of equality. Overall, Kieslowski creates a very smart and entertaining film about a man’s determination to be equal with the woman he loves.

Cinematographer Edward Klosinski does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the gorgeous look of white snow and low-key colors for many of the exterior scenes in Warsaw as well as some of the more colorful look in Paris as well as some of the rich lighting in the interior scenes. Editor Urszula Lesiak does fantastic work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts, montages, and some chilling moments to play into some of the dark humor of the film. Production designers Halina Dobrowolska and Claude Lenoir, with set decorator Magdalena Dipont, do brilliant work with the set pieces from the hair salon that Jurek owns as well as some of the places in Warsaw and the hair salon that Karol and Dominique owned until their divorce.

Costume designers Elzbieta Radke, Teresa Wardzala, Jolanta Luczak, and Virginie Viard do terrific work with the costumes from the clothes that Dominique wears to the evolution of clothes from ragged to refined suits that Karol would wear in the film. The sound work of Jean-Claude Laureux and mixing of William Flageollet is superb in the way it captures the sound of the metro stations as well as some of the locations in Paris and Warsaw. The film’s music by Zbigniew Preisner is phenomenal for its orchestral-driven score as it features some somber themes driven by woodwinds to some serene and light-hearted pieces to play into its humor.

The casting by Margot Capelier and Teresa Violetta Buhl is great for the ensemble that is created as it features cameos from Juliette Binoche and Florence Pernel in their respective roles from the previous film Trois Couleurs: Bleu along with some notable small roles from Jerzy Nowak as a farmer, Jerzy Trela as Karol’s driver, Aleksandr Bardini as a notary lawyer, and Cezary Harasimowicz as an inspector. Jerzy Stuhr is excellent as Karol’s brother Jurek who helps him get back on his feet in Poland while aiding him in his scheme. Janusz Gajos is superb as Mikolaj as a Polish man Karol meets in Paris who would help him get back to Poland while helping him in his schemes. Julie Delpy is amazing as Dominique as this French woman who is disappointed by Karol after their marriage as she wants nothing to do with him only to show a really tender side to herself in the film’s third act. Finally, there’s Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol Karol where he brings in a lot of low-key humor as well as a humility that makes him so engaging in his performance.

The 2003 Region 1 DVD from the Trois Couleurs box set from Miramax presents the film in its 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio for widescreen that is enhanced in 16x9 televisions as it includes its original French and Polish language with English subtitles and Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The DVD special features includes an audio commentary track from Kieslowski historian Annette Insdorff who talks about the film and many of its ironies along with some insight into some of the people that appeared in the film who had also appeared in some of Kieslowski’s previous films. The seven-minute and twenty-five second featurette entitled A Look at Blanc features interviews with Insdorff, film critic Geoff Andrews, collaborator/filmmaker Agnieska Holland, editor Jacques Witta, and actress Julie Delpy as they all talk about the film and the changes that were happening in Poland during production.

The documentary Kieslowski: The Later Years features interviews with many of the people interviewed in the DVD along with Juliette Binoche, Irene Jacob, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, cinematographer Piotr Jaxa, and actor Phillippe Volter all talk about the years Kieslowski was making The Decalogue as well as his subsequent works as well as another trilogy that Krzysztof Piesiewicz were creating before Kieslowski’s death in 1996. The 18-minute featurette on working with Kieslowski has many of his actors and collaborators talking about working with the director and his approach to filmmaking where they all reveal Kieslowski’s desire to get input from his collaborators on how to tell the story.

The five-minute conversation with Julie Delpy has the actress discuss her collaboration with Kieslowski as she also does a select scene commentary where she talks about some scenes in the film as well as some technical tidbits on the film. The 10-minute cinema lesson segment from Kieslowski talks about how he times his approach to comedy as he cites the bird-dropping scene as a key example as well as Karol’s return to Poland. Producer Marin Karmitz’s interview has him talking about what Kieslowski wanted in the production as well as Kieslowski’s intention for the film. The DVD also includes a 16-minute behind-the scenes documentary on making the film where Kieslowski and his crew had to deal with the cold conditions in Warsaw which did make things difficult.

The set would also feature a trio of early student short films by Kieslowski during his days as a student at the Lodz Film School. The first is a five-minute short called The Office that explored the downside of Communism where Poles tried to get work at the time. The second is Tramway (or The Trolley) as it’s another five-minute short with no sound as it’s a very simple and understated short film about a man who meets a young woman. The third and final short called The Face that Kieslowski also acted in as it’s a thriller with music about a man who is haunted by a face he saw in paintings. The DVD also features trailers for the other two films in the trilogy plus the 2002 film Heaven that Kieslowski wrote with Piesiewicz that is directed by Tom Tykwer.

The 2011 Region 1 DVD/Region A Blu-Ray from the 4-disc DVD/3-disc Blu-Ray Criterion Collection release for the trilogy presents the film in its original theatrical ratio plus a remastered 2.0 Surround Sound in French and Polish with English subtitles as the film is given a new high-definition digital transfer. The DVD special features retains Kieslowski’s cinema lesson and the making-of documentary featurette as it would also include some new interviews and such for the DVD release.

The first is a 22-minute video essay by film critic Tony Rayns who talks about the film and its theme of equality. Most notably in relation to Kieslowski’s home country of Poland where the country in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism was trying to catch up with the rest of Western Europe. Rayns reveals a lot of ambiguities and some metaphors of what Kieslowski wanted to say about Poland and its relationship with France as it’s a very compelling video essay from the renowned film critic. Notably as Rayns also talks about how the film fits in with the rest of the trilogies and its relations to Kieslowski’s previous films such as The Decalogue.

New interviews with co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz and actors Julie Delpy and Zbigniew Zamachowski appear for this release. The 21-minute and twenty-three second interview with Piesiewicz has him talking about his friendship with Kieslowski and their collaboration which began with 1985‘s No End as they had met a few years earlier during a crucial period in Kieslowski‘s life and career. Piesiewicz also discusses the trilogy and his interpretations of what they mean as well as some personal stories he had about his friendship with Kieslowski in a truly fascinating interview. The 18-minute interviews with Delpy and Zamachowski have the two talking about the film and working with Kieslowski as Zamachowski had previously worked with him in the 10th episode of The Decalogue. The two also talked about Kieslowski’s approach to direction while Delpy revealed how helpful Kieslowski was in guiding her into her own career as a filmmaker by taking to seminars as it’s a very enjoyable interview from both actors.

The DVD/Blu-Ray box set also include a 78-booklet that features many essays and text pieces relating to the trilogy. For Blanc, there’s an essay from film critic Stuart Klawans and an interview with cinematographer Edward Klosinski. Klawans’ essay entitled The Nonpolitical Reunifications of Karol Karol explores not just many of the political metaphors in the film but also Kieslowski’s approach to humor. Klawans also discusses some of the aspects of the narrative while admitting that the character of Dominique is the weakest of the three female protagonists because there’s not much detail about her yet she does serve as an integral part to the film as it relates to the character of Karol. Even as it would play to the unification of not just their marriage but also the relationship between Eastern and Western Europe. Klosinski’s interview has the cinematographer not just talk about their collaboration but also in how they approached the cinematography. Even as Klosinski revealed that very few hand-held shots was used in Blanc in favor of tracking shots while he also revealed some technical tidbits into his ideas on lighting.

Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a majestic and delightful film from Krzysztof Kieslowski. Thanks to the remarkable performances of Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy along with Edward Klosinski’s potent cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s intoxicating score. It’s definitely the most fun film of the entire trilogy as it offers some witty political commentary and humorous anecdotes on capitalism and revenge. In the end, Trois Couleurs: Blanc is a spectacular film from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Krzysztof Kieslowski Films: (Personal) - (The Scar) - (Camera Buff) - (The Calm) - (Short Working Day) - Blind Chance - (No End) - (A Short Film About Killing) - (A Short Film About Love) - The Decalogue - The Double Life of Veronique - Trois Couleurs: Bleu - Trois Couleurs: Rouge

© thevoid99 2014

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