Movie Review #814: ‘Three Colors: Blue’ is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before.
By Alexander Diminiano
This review is dedicated to my friend Ta’Shawn, with whom I recently spent the greatest two weeks of my life; truthfully, I wish I had spent even more time with him. Less than a week ago, Ta’Shawn passed away ever so suddenly. There was no one in this world quite like him. He had a way with words that was unique only to him, and god what a character he was. I find myself thinking back to the short time that I knew him, and wishing I’d gotten to know him better. He did not deserve to die this early on in life, and it’s increasingly difficult to believe that he is no longer with us. Ta’Shawn, I miss you, brother.
|Drama, Music, Mystery|
|Rated R (contains sexual content, partial nudity)|
I think the term “arthouse cinema” or “art film” has come to connote negatively. The truth of the matter is, it shouldn’t. Yes, some art films are shallow, pointless, and obnoxiously pseudointellectual. But then there’s others, ones like “Blue”, the first entry in director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colors” (“Trois couleurs” / “Trzy kolory”) trilogy.
This ilk, and this film, to quote a Hollywood movie, is the stuff dreams are made of.
There’s a blue filter masking the cinematography in the very first sequence of “Three Colors: Blue”. Ironically, it’s the rest of the film that deals with the color blue, or rather what it symbolizes: liberty, as on the French flag. “Blue” works by letting us interpret it. There’s shreds of meaning here in this fluent story of a woman who is trying, no matter how impossible it may feel to her, to move on after losing her husband in a car accident. We’re drawn into the film, as if obligated to piece its meaning together, from every drop of symbolism, every motif, and the nuances in this mystifying storytelling.
“Blue” is tremendous in its use of imagery and soud. It’s powerful and touching in its vivid study of human emotion. This isn’t a gentle study, though; every poignant or harrowing thought in Julie (Juliette Binoche)’s mind is felt in perfect, exquisite detail. Nearly all the music is created inside of the scene itself, though the rest of it is unsettling, ominous orchestrations. This is a film that bears every element of a requiem, and yet it’s colossally cinematic. In every way I can so imagine, “Blue” is beautiful and aesthetic. The film even delivers two of the darkest, most hauntingly implied sex scenes I have ever seen, both inventive in their own astonishing fashions.
That’s where “Blue” is most amazing: its creativity. The script is highly creative, favoring imagery and sound, and ignoring dialogue unless dialogue is entirely necessary. Kieślowski blends pessimism with optimism in a wave of wonder and curiosity. The color blue acts as a plot device in almost every scene, but we can rarely ever say how it is acting as a plot device. Thus, while “Blue” is a drama and a tragedy, it’s also a mystery.
Kieślowski is a master at cinematic technique. Cinematography, symbolism, sound, timing, pacing, everywhere, it’s all there, and it’s rendered to absolute perfection. Only to top off the director’s talent (or perhaps talent is an understatement) is actress Juliette Binoche, who steals the breath, the soul, and the heartbeat of her riveting lead. The effort makes such a dynamic, such an unusually grand, such a serene film.
On three occasions, “Blue” fades to black mid-scene, pauses, and then fades back inward to proceed with the scene. It’s like experiencing an epiphany the very moment Binoche experiences it herself. The fermata that occurs between the fades acts strikingly and almost eye-openingly. It’s one of many pivotal marks of Kieślowski’s stylistic genius. This auteur is himself Polish, and the film is itself in the French language, but the mise-en-scène of “Blue” seems to allow it to speak a language of its very own. “Blue” is a movie that I very strongly recommend, and I strongly recommend watching it without subtitles. Regardless of how well you understand the French language, the movie’s dialogue is only supplementary, and it should not be read in an entourage of words that shield all its beauty. It should be watched, heard, experienced, and pondered. And, if possible, understood.