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Three Colours Trilogy(1993-1994)
This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss from Krzysztof Kieślowski was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films were named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—but this hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, and Geneva, and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White, and Red (Kieślowski’s final film) examine with artistic clarity a group of ambiguously interconnected people experiencing profound personal disruptions. Marked by intoxicating cinematography and stirring performances by such actors as Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieślowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema.
For more about Three Colours Trilogy and the Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray release, see the Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 5, 2011
Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors (1993-1994) trilogy arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features in this 3-disc box set include original theatrical trailers; interviews with actors Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy and Irene Jacob, producer Marin Karmitz, and editor Jacques Witta; segments from director Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterclass series; and making of featurettes. In French and Polish, with optional English subtitles for the main features. Region-Free.
During a horrific car accident somewhere in the French countryside, Julie (Juliette Binoche) loses her husband, an acclaimed European composer, and young daughter. She is found unconscious and quickly transported to a Parisian hospital. There, her wounds begin to heal but her soul hurts so bad that she attempts to commit suicide - and fails.
Immediately after she is released from the hospital, Julie begins erasing her past - first she sells her house, then she burns the scores of her husband's unfinished composition. She also makes love to one of his best friends (Benoit Regent) - to make sure that she is still alive and can still feel - and rents a small apartment in downtown Paris. Soon after, she is approached by one of her neighbors (Charlotte Very), also a young and single woman who works in a sex club on Place Pigalle, who wants to be friends with her.
Alone in her apartment Julie begins to forget. Occasionally she goes to a nearby cafe but does not talk to anyone. She prefers to listen to the sounds of the world moving around her. Then, one night her neighbor phones and asks her to come to the club because she needs help. Julie is shocked to discover that she has chosen such an ugly profession but does not judge her. While looking at one of the club's TV monitors running a report about her husband's unfinished composition, she discovers that he had a mistress (Florence Pernel).
A few days later, Julie and her husband's mistress meet and quickly conclude that they were genuinely loved by the same man. They agree that because of him their lives are now heading in completely different directions, and that because of him they have learned to appreciate them even more. After they part ways, Julie regains her freedom.
The first of the three films in Krzysztof Kieślowski's brilliant Three Colors trilogy, Blue, captures the essence of loss like no other contemporary film does. The focus of attention, however, is not on its dramatic and often destructive effects, but on the transition period where one slowly moves away from it.
The film is quiet, elegant and beautiful, but also incredibly cruel. It is enormously intense but completely free of melodrama. Julie's struggle to get rid of the pain that suffocates her soul is incredibly convincing; she does everything a devastated person would and comes to realize that she loved and lived with a man she did not know. It is a disappointing realization but also a liberating one.
The film overflows with lush blues, one of the three colors of the French national flag. Blue also represents liberty, one of the three French national principles. The film, however, does not attempt to define or politicize liberty. It simply suggests that liberty is elusive, and perhaps even mythical.
Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a Polish immigrant living in Paris. He is extremely poor, possibly impotent and without papers. His beautiful French wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), wants a divorce because their marriage was "never consummated", and because he rarely understands what she wants or needs.
The Pole refuses to divorce his wife but she frames him for arson after she sets her own beauty salon ablaze and the police go after him. While hiding in the subway, he meets another Polish immigrant (Janusz Gajos), a jaded professional poker player who has made enough and is getting ready to retire, who offers to help him go back home.
In Warsaw, Karol begins working in his brother's hair salon. A happy client suggests that if he wants to earn more he should start working as a bodyguard for her brother, a cocky young man who owns a currency exchange bureau. A few days later, Karol is given a gas pistol and instructed how to walk and talk so that he looks like a real bodyguard.
An opportunity arises and Karol makes a good chunk of money. Soon after, he meets the man from the subway again and invites him to become his business partner. They set up a small company and begin importing and exporting anything that they can get for a good price, from frozen bananas to Chinese knock-off merchandise.
Eventually, Karol puts together a brilliant revenge plan. With the assistance of his business partner, he manages to bring his wife to Poland and have her arrested by the local authorities. He disappears for a while, but then he reappears, having realized that he is still madly in love with her.
The focus of attention in White is also on a very unique transition period. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland has regained its freedom but Poles have discovered that they don't know what to do with it. Unsurprisingly, the mafia has taken over the country, started reshaping it and forced many Poles to look for a better life abroad.
Karol has ended up in France, a free and prosperous country, a true democracy. But he has quickly realized that the people living there are not all equal, and those like him, the poor immigrants, are possibly even not allowed to be equal. This is why he returns home, where he could give his wife a dose of the same inequality he has endured thanks to her.
As it was the case with Blue, a single color permeates the entire film. Here it is white, which symbolizes equality, the second of the three French national symbols. A stunning score by Zbigniew Preisner again compliments the film as well.
In the third and final film in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, Valentine (Irene Jacob), a beautiful model living in Geneva, ends up in the home of a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) after her car accidentally strikes his dog. His indifference towards the dog irritates her but his hobby - spying on his neighbor and recording all of his phone calls - fascinates her.
Valentine takes Rita, the dog, with her until her wounds heal. Eventually she comes back to the judge, who decides to reveal to her why he wiretaps his neighbor. His words disgust and anger her. The man who lives in the house across his is wealthy and married, most of the time looking incredibly happy. But he has many secrets, some of them dangerous, others sad. His wife doesn't know about them, but his daughter does.
Valentine is torn between exposing the man and saving his family, and convinced that what the judge does isn't right. But is she right to judge the man and possibly redirect his life, or the judge. It is easy to be good when you don't know enough, but it is difficult to do the right thing when you know everything. There is too much responsibility, too much chaos one could create.
The film also follows the progression of the relationship between two young lovers, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) and Karin (Frederique Feder). They are committed to each other, but fate has a different plan for them. Like the judge some thirty years ago, Auguste is forced away from the woman he is madly in love with and drawn towards Valentine.
Red is a marvelous puzzle of a film about the cosmic force that determines how people meet, how they fall in love, how they live, and how they die. It tells two great stories, but it is the thoughts and feelings it evokes that captivate the viewer's imagination. Anyone could recognize a familiar piece in its puzzle and reflect on its meaning.
Red is the most elegant of the three films in the Three Colors trilogy. In it light and color are united by cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski in a manner that is simply breathtaking. Another incredible score by Zbigniew Preisner also enhances the visuals.
As the title suggests, red is the prominent color in the film. It represents the final of the three French national symbols, fraternity, but the film and its message are indeed universal. Red was also Krzysztof Kieslowki's last film. In 1996, two years after the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, he died at the age of fifty-five.
Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.86:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted 1080p transfers, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue, White and Red arrive on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
Artificial Eye's high-definition transfers appear to have been sourced from the same MK2 masters Criterion had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy. Unsurprisingly, the two releases have nearly identical technical characteristics.
I did my best to match a couple of screenshots from each film, but there might be small discrepancies as I did not use time codes. Regardless, I believe that the screenshots we have included with the review could give one a fairly good idea how the Artificial Eye release compares to Criterion's release.
As I noted in our review for the Criterion release, detail and color reproduction are dramatically improved, while the darker sequences are free of the macroblocking patterns that plagued the R1 DVD release. Detail and facial textures in particular are very pleasing, while contrast levels have been successfully stabilized. I was curious to see whether there might be some discrepancies in the color-scheme of the UK release (because back in the days of DVD the UK and U.S. DVD releases had very different color-schemes), but it appears that the prominent blues and browns seen throughout the film look identical on both releases. Finally, the same extremely light noise that is visible on the Criterion release is also present on the Artificial Eye release (compare screenshot #6 with screenshot #1 from our review of the Criterion release). Additional degraining has not been performed and there are no serious stability issues to report in this review).
I can only echo the comments from our review of the Criterion release - White's transition to high-definition is the most impressive one. Not only are detail and clarity substantially better, but the coarse sharpening and color bleeding that plagued the R1 DVD release have been effectively eliminated. Unsurprisingly, now the film's light and airy look does not appear compromised (see screenshot #11). This being said, I noticed the same tiny artifacts occasionally popping up here that I noticed on the Criterion release (see the sequence with the garbage field in Poland, where Karol is greeted by his countrymen). Nevertheless, the film looks wonderful, the best it ever has.
Predictably, Red has the strongest high-definition transfer. As it was the case with the Criterion release, close-ups convey wonderful depth, while light and light reflections are handled tremendously well. The color-scheme is also practically identical to that of the Criterion release - the prominent reds and browns are similarly saturated and only during a few selected scenes the Criterion release has slightly stronger greens (compare screenshot #20 with the corresponding screenshot from our review of the Criterion release). All in all, the presentation is of exceptionally high-quality.
(Note: The three Blu-ray discs in the Three Colors Trilogy are Region-Free. Therefore, you will be able to play them on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding their menus).
Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Each of the three films in Three Colors trilogy arrives with French LPCM 2.0 and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 tracks (with large portions of Polish in White), as well as optional English subtitles.
Clearly, it would have been a lot better if Criterion had these two exact same audio options on their Blu-ray box set (obviously, having LPCM 2.0 or DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks is the same thing). This way some of the confusion that followed up their release would have been avoided.
The depth and clarity of the LPCM 2.0 tracks matches that of the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks from the Criterion release (the crispness of the strings and sharp trumpet solo in Blue, for instance, sound identical to me). In Red, Zbigniew Preisner's score also sounds equally rich and vibrant. Now, unlike the Criterion release the Artificial Eye release has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 tracks that handle the Pro-Logic surround material. I personally do not find the surrounds to be overly effective, but the fact remains that this is the more flexible option for a number of people who bistream and have experienced some issues with the Criterion Blu-ray box set.
Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: Please note that some of the supplemental features included in this box set are encoded in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in North America where PAL is not supported, you need to have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC in order to view them.
Three Colours Trilogy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British distributors Artificial Eye's release of Krzysztof Kieslowski's legendary Three Colors trilogy is an excellent alternative for people residing outside of the United States who could not take advantage of Criterion's release. The three films in the box set have been sourced from the same masters Criterion had access to and predictably look just as good. The audio options on the Artificial Eye release are, in my opinion, more flexible, and therefore preferable. As far as supplemental features are concerned, the Criterion release clearly has a better selection. All in all, the Three Colors trilogy's appearance on Blu-ray is undoubtedly a cause for celebration. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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