From the Chicago Reader (December 16, 1994). — J.R.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski
With Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frederique Feder, and Jean-Pierre Lorit.
A film of mystical correspondences, Red triumphantly concludes and summarizes Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy by contriving to tell us three stories about three separate characters all at once; yet it does this with such effortless musical grace that we may not even be aware of it at first. Two of the characters are neighbors in Geneva who never meet, both of them students — a model named Valentine (Irene Jacob) and a law student named Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit )– and the third is a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who lives in a Geneva suburb and whom Valentine meets quite by chance, when she accidentally runs over his German shepherd.
Eventually we discover that Auguste and the retired judge are younger and older versions of the same man (neither of them meet, either). Another set of correspondences is provided when, in separate scenes, Valentine and the judge are able to divine important facts about each other: he correctly guesses that she has a younger brother driven to drug addiction by the discovery that his mother’s husband is not his real father; she correctly guesses that he was once betrayed by someone he loved — which also happens to Auguste during the course of the film.… Read more »
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s major work (1990) consists of ten separate films, each running 50-odd minutes and set mainly around two high-rises in Warsaw. The films are built around a contemporary reflection on the Ten Commandments—specifically, an inquiry into what breaking each of them in today’s world might entail. Made as a miniseries for Polish TV before Kieslowski embarked on The Double Life of Veronique and the “Three Colors” trilogy, these concise dramas can be seen in any order or combination; they don’t depend on one another, though if you see them in batches you’ll notice that major characters in one story turn up as extras in another. One reason Kieslowski remains controversial is that in some ways he embodies the intellectual European filmmaking tradition of the 60s while commenting directly on how we live today. The first film, illustrating “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” is about trust in computers; the often ironic and ambiguous connections between most subsequent commandments and their matching stories tend to be less obvious. (One of the 60s traditions Kieslowski embodies is that of the puzzle film, though he takes it on seriously rather than frivolously, as part of his ethical inquiry.)… Read more »
From 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (2003). — J.R.
The Double Life of Véronique Krzysztof Kieslowski’s first feature after his Decalogue, launching the European coproduction mode of making films that would lead to his trilogy Three Colors(Blue, White, and Red), is an exquisite enigma following the parallel lives of two 20-year-old women, one in Poland and one in France, both played by the beautiful Irene Jacob. As in Three Colors, European coproduction becomes not only a means of financing, but part of the formal and thematic conceptualization of the project. The Polish Veronika is a talented singer with a heart condition; the French Veronique quits her voice lessons and gets involved with a puppeteer who writes children’s books. Masterfully directed, this rather dreamlike 1991 production is simultaneously an effort on Kieslowski’s part to hold onto to his Polish identity and an equally determined effort to move beyond it — almost as if the filmmaker were dreaming of a resurrected artistic identity for himself as Polish state financing went the route of Polish communism. With Philippe Volter, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, and Aleksander Bardini. (JR)
With Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delphy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr, Grzegorz Warchol, and Jerzy Nowak.
“Imagine a kind of filmmaking that’s truly in tune with the ways you think and relate to other people. A deeply humane kind of filmmaking, but free from ‘humanist’ lies and sentimental evasions. Not a dry, ‘realistic’ kind of filmmaking, but one in which all the imaginative and creative efforts have gone into understanding the way we are. A kind of filmmaking as sensitive to silence as to speech, and alert to the kind of meanings we prefer to hide away. To my knowledge, only two directors in the world are currently making films like that. One is Krzysztof Kieslowski in Poland. The other is Edward Yang in Taiwan.”
These rousing words by Tony Rayns in the June issue of Sight and Sound were just what I needed to read after returning last month from Cannes, where wonderful films by Yang and Kieslowski about contemporary life were showing in competition. They were the two best competing films that I saw, though neither won any prizes.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (February 11, 1994). — J.R.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
With Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Very, Helene Vincent, Emmanuelle Riva, and Philippe Volter.
Indisputably the work of a master, to a much greater degree than anything else around at the moment, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s first feature without reference to his native Poland is sufficiently contemporary and allegorical to take the future of Europe, and a “unified” Europe at that, as one of its themes. Palpably concerned with loss and regeneration, suffering and transcendence, Blue calls to mind some of the better late works of Ingmar Bergman in its powerful sense of dramatic concentration; it doesn’t have quite the undertow of neurosis that presumably made those films so exemplary for Woody Allen, but it does have a much bolder grasp of the movements and vagaries of consciousness.
In the opening moments of Blue the leading character, Julie (Juliette Binoche), loses both her husband, a famous French composer, and her five-year-old daughter in a car crash; the remainder of the film charts her mental and spiritual recovery. The film’s remarkable economy is already apparent in the opening shot — a close-up of the spinning right front wheel of the car, seen from behind, as it speeds down a highway.… Read more »