Monday, 30 August 2010

Bleu Movie

Trois Couleurs: Bleu 1993
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2

I remember going to see this at a late night performance at, what was then, the Lumiere cinema in London back when this movie was first released. A couple of mates and I had driven into London late one night to specifically see this movie and we were all really tired... but as soon as the movie started we were completely hooked on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s amazing movie. I’d persuaded my friends to drive into town to watch this on the strength of a TV screening of Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love and his Decalog (which includes a shorter, alternate version of that film but with a different ending).

Blue didn't disappoint any of us... it was everything we were looking for in a movie right then... if we even knew what we were looking for. Rewatching it for the first time in a very long time, I was struck by how the director’s movies are both so distant and yet so utterly involving in their complex make up. Something about his movies gives you a very voyeuristic feeling... which is kinda strange considering that Kieslowski’s style of filming is quite artificial and the absolute antithesis of something like the “more than questionable” “style” of Dogme filmmaking which became slightly fashionable for a while (and don’t start me off about the inherent contradictions in the Dogme manifesto which make it impossible to even begin to shoot a movie in that style without ignoring the ground rules... I get kinda passionate and angry about it).

Kieslowski’s Blue uses a very strong colour palette (as some of his films do), and you will get primary colours juxtaposed against each other, much like in the movies of Mario Bava or Dario Argento, although they are not as deeply saturated as the colours those directors play with... but Kieslowski shows us that these colours are certainly strong enough to bounce off each other and create their own colour space without having to accent them so strongly. And of course... there’s a lot of blue filtering in this movie. It’s a visually striking film.

Blue tells the story of Julie, deftly played by Juliette Binoche, who is in a car crash at the start of the movie to which she loses both her young daughter and her famous composer husband. When she alone survives and finds that she is unable to take her own life, she runs away from it all and gets rid of as much of her previous life as she can and just tries to stay out of people’s way. Not so easy because a colleague of here husband, Olivier, is in love with her and tracks her down and keeps trying to find ways to attract her attention. It's suggested as a possibility, early on in the narrative, that Julie might be the actual writer of her famous husbands compositions. This is neither confirmed or denied because Kieslowski seems to have a fondness for filling his films with ambiguity and an acute lack of closure... which is absolutely fine. You make up your own mind. Certainly, as she assists and pretty much takes over from Olivier in his task to finish her husbands last important composition, the circumstantial evidence is compelling that she might well have been the true author of her husbands works.

Kieslowski tends to focus on little details in his films... little moments of extreme beauty like the drip, drip of the fuel from the tail pipe of a car or a feather lightly blowing in the wind. And it’s really interesting to watch these artificially accented shots because they are also a window into the main action which puts you in a fly on the wall position quite often and give you that sense of voyeurism that is in few director’s works. The performances are all absolutely amazing... as they always are from the actors in his movies... and this attention to pulling perfect performances out of very talented people allows room for the artificial concentration of some of his shots to work and breathe without worrying that bad performances are going to heighten the lack of naturalism... these really are expertly crafted films.

Kieslowski and composer Zbigniew Preisner’s fictional composer Van den Budenmayer (their equivalent of Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle and Ryful) also pops up in this one (as his music does quite significantly later on in The Double Life of Veronique). Preisner’s score in this is fantastic and swells up at unexpected times when the screen fades to black in the middle of a shot... only to fade back in after the music... like the director is “pulling a Godard” and wanting you to see that he’s making a point. I think what he’s doing is highlighting every time the lead character is posed with a choice or question that pulls her back closer to the land of the living. When she follows music with her fingers in various sequences of beautiful close up photography, a filter is used so all but the one note being played is in focus in the centre of the screen at any one time... a beautiful film to look at.

And then, of course, there’s the sugar cube shot. Once of the most memorable celluloid images and perhaps my favourite single shot of any movie. Julie dunks a sugar cube into a cup of coffee and in extreme close-up we watch the cube soak up the coffee over the space of five seconds. This looks cool on DVD but I can’t stress enough how much Kieslowski’s films need to be seen on the big screen. When you see a giant sugar cube soaking up coffee in your face at the cinema... it’s a moment of true beauty. I didn’t know this until earlier today but apparently Kieslowski went through all the sugar companies until he could find one which absorbed the coffee in exactly five seconds. No more... no less. Now that’s attention to detail!

Kieslowski’s Blue is the first part of a trilogy which continues in White and Red. His movies are some of the most beautiful pieces of motion picture art ever shot. If you’ve not seen this and you’re seriously into film then you may want to give his movies some of your time.

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