Blu-ray Review: Stunning Criterion Set For Kieslowsk’s ‘Three Colors’

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CHICAGO – Movies don’t get much more personally influential than Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue,” “White,” and “Red,” collectively known as the “Three Colors” trilogy, and recently released in one gorgeous box set from The Criterion Collection. As we all do, I was a bit concerned that perhaps my memory of these films had been enhanced with time, but I found the opposite — they’re even better with age and stand as one of the best film achievements of not just their era but of all time. I can’t say enough about Kieslowski’s talent as a director and, while some may point to the “Decalogue” films or “The Double Life of Veronique,” I’ve always considered “Three Colors” to be the greatest accomplishment of one of history’s greatest directors. And Criterion has done one of their most notable acquisitions justice with one of their best releases of the year. It’s a must-own for any serious cinephile. Blu-ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

Loosely inspired by the three colors of the French flag, which Kieslowski and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz mistakenly interpreted as the slogan of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” “Blue,” “White,” and “Red” are such notable accomplishments that they can stand on their own as interesting dramas or become one cohesive vision as a trilogy. With amazing performances from Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, and Irene Jacob, respectively, these are rich, character-driven dramas about our place in an increasingly-complex world. Kieslowski had an ability to find the lyrical and even magical in the humane and never more so than he does here with three works that obtain a hypnotizing, haunting level of achievement. These are films that will be used to study the form for decades to come.

And they’ve never looked better. I actually worked in an art house movie theatre when “Three Colors” was making its way around the states and so had a chance to see all three works on the big screen repeatedly but, either my memory has gone or they look better than they even did then for I don’t remember them being so visually striking. The HD transfers from Criterion are new and they’re perfect with just the right color mixing and level of detail. Kieslowski was a more visual artist than he often gets credited for being and these transfers will remind of the artistry of his composition.

More so than with nearly any set this year, the Criterion release of “Three Colors” is loaded with amazing bonus material. And, once again, it’s the kind of special features that doesn’t merely serve as filler to raise a price point or attract a buyer’s eye but actually enhances your appreciation of the films. There are new interviews with many of the major players, some insightful new video essays about the themes of the film, and much more, but perhaps the most notable material for serious fans of Kieslowski are the short films from early in his career, works which indicate that this man had notable skill from the beginning. The only tragedy of the set is remembering that Kieslowski died way too young (only 54) and the realization of how different the film world might have been if he had lived to continue making works of art as remarkable as this one.

Three Colors: Blue, White, and Red
Three Colors: Blue, White, and Red
Photo credit: The Criterion Collection

This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss, from Krzysztof Kieslowski, was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films are named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution - liberty, equality, and fraternity - but that hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, Geneva and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White and Red (Kieslowski’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, Irene Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieslowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema.

Special Features:
o Three cinema lessons with director Krzysztof Kieslowski
o New interviews with cowriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz, composer Zbigniew Preisner, and actors Julie Delpy, Irene Jacob, and Zbigniew Zamachowski
o Selected-scene commentary featuring actor Juliette Binoche
o New video essays on Blue, White and Red by film writers Annette Insdorf, Tony Rayns, and Dennis Lim
o Full-length 1995 documentary featuring Kieslowski
o Three Kieslowski short films: “The Tram” (1966), “Seven Women Of Different Ages” (1978), “Talking Heads” (1980),·Plus the short film “The Face” (1966) starring Kieslowski
o Interview programs on Kieslowski’s life and work, featuring film critic Geoff Andrew, Binoche, filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, Insdorf, Jacob, producer Martin Karmitz, and editor Jacques Witta
o Behind-the-scenes programs for White and Red, and a 1994 short documentary on Red’s world premiere
o Original theatrical trailers
o Booklet featuring essays by film critics Colin MacCabe, Nick James, Stuart Klawans, and Georgina Evans; an excerpt from Kieslowski On Kieslowski; and reprinted interviews with cinematographers Idziak, Edward Klosinski, and Piotr Sobocinski

“Three Colors: Blue, White, and Red” was released by The Criterion Collection on November 15th, 2011 on Blu-ray and DVD. content director Brian Tallerico

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