Top 250 Tuesdays: #137 – Three Colors: Blue (1993)

No, I’m not going to repeat this intro every time, but since this is a newish feature, and I’ve had a few new readers come on board recently, it seems appropriate to re-run it at least one more time, so here’s just a small bit of introduction before we get things underway. Top 250 Tuesdays is my attempt to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Films list. Basically, for me it’s a way of exploring what are considered some of the all-time great movies, in an attempt both to broaden the scope of my viewing and to fill in a number of gaps in the movies that I probably should have already seen, or even revisiting some old favorites in a new light A couple of notes, however, before we get started. As you’ll note at the top, this says #005. that’s actually noting that this movie is number five on the list, not that this is the fifth entry into the series. I decided to do it this way because I don’t intend to just go up (or down) through the list. Instead, I’ll be jumping around, sometimes just picking a number at random and watching that one, sometimes picking a movie based on other considerations. Also, I’m not planning for these write-ups to be reviews per se, though of course, in writing about them, I’m sure you’ll be able to get a feel for how much I liked or disliked a particular movie, nor do I intend to feed you a lot of Wikipedia or IMDB style information about the movies – obviously, you can find that type of information in any number of places. Of course, there will be times when background and context is important for getting a feel for some of these films, especially the older or less familiar ones, but generally I intend to keep that kind of thing to a minimum and just stick to my reactions or thoughts on the movie. After all, hopefully that’s what you’ve come here to read. For a longer introduction and a look at the entire list of films in the top 250, you can find that here. Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

Three_Colours-Blue-1993-posterBlue was actually the second of director Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s Three Colors trilogy that I watched. I actually began with the end, when, upon a visit with a friend in Chicago that happened to coincide with it’s release, she insisted that we go see Red, the actual last film in the series. Fortunately, since the films form more of a thematic trilogy than one in which the actual plot spans the three films, that one was able to stand on its own, and it very much did. Not only did it stand up well, but it stood out in a way that definitely made me want to go back and explore not only the other films of the series, but as much of the director’s other work as I could. To say that I was enraptured and captivated by what I saw on the screen that day would not be too much of an overstatement.

Kieslowski’s trilogy is built around two basic ideas. The first, of course, is that of the titles, Blue, White, and Red, those being the colors of the french flag. (Yes, for my American readers, they are also, in reverse order, the colors of the U.S. flag, but that, in this case is sheer coincidence.) The other idea is the thematic link between the three films, this time built around the three ideals of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood (or, as it is more closely and usually translated, Fraternity).

Blue, as it comes first, obviously is intended to take on the theme of liberty, but liberty from what? Clearly, this is a very personal, rather than political film, so rather than being about liberty from outside forces, the movie is centered on freedom from internal forces. Freedom from the past. Freedom from pain. Freedom from memories. Perhaps even freedom from life itself.

Blue is a film that is full of beauty…

The movie stars Juliette Binoche, who is at her most dazzlingly beautiful under the eye of Kieslowski and cinematographer Sławomir Idziak’s  camera. Binoche plays the role of Juliet, the wife of famed composer Patrice de Courcy. When her husband and young daughter are killed in a car accident on the way back from a family outing, she is left as the only survivor. Thus, she is suffering through most of the film not only from the loss of her family, but from survivor’s guilt.

None of the above, by the way, should be considered spoilers, since the wreck occurs within the opening minutes of the film.

Last week, I wrote about F.W. Murnau’s silent film Sunrise which was subtitled A Song of Two Humans. If that film was a song, then Blue is a symphony. Not only is there the literal symphony, or rather concerto, which gives the plot its driving force, and snatches of which are heard throughout the film, but the film itself is a symphony of images, of thoughts, of colors, and yes, of music. It has crescendos of both beauty and pain, and it has quieter moments of reverie and, eventually, acceptance. It is, in a word, glorious.

…but it is also one full of pain and grief.

Blue is one of those movies that is very hard to describe to someone who is unfamiliar with it, or with the director’s other works, because it truly is a film that needs to be seen. I don’t mean that it would be hard to describe the plot, because that can be done in a few sentences. Or, on the other hand I could write pages and pages about it, and still not have exhausted what could be said. No, what I really mean is that this is one of those instances where the whole really is so much more than the sum of its parts. It is a film where the story, the visuals, the music, all of which could form the basis of a really good movie, come together in a way that raises this one from the level of good to great.

And, I suppose that’s why it’s on this list, and presumably (hopefully) there will be many more like it to come.

Anyway, to put it very simply, with Blue, Kieslowski has truly composed a masterpiece.

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