Three Colors: Blue (1993) Poster

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Liberty as Freefalling Through Life.
nycritic14 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
For a film about mourning, there are two moments in Krsyztoff Kielslowski's THREE COLORS: BLUE that seem divorced of anything that is happening at first glance. Both are seen through the impersonal medium of a television. The first occurs early in the film: as she recovers from an automobile accident which claimed the life of her husband, composer Patrice de Courcy, and her daughter Anna, Julie is given access to witness their funeral, but as she turns the channel, there is an image of a man bungee jumping. It will be seen again when Julie visits her mother (played by Emmanuelle Riva) who lives in a home, disconnected from the outside, watching television. This image of a person seen in free-fall against a pale blue sky (blue is indeed prominent in this film) seems to mirror Julie quite well: her loss has given her an empty outlook on life. She wishes to do 'nothing', to just exist, divorced from human contact. However, that same cord which is a life-preserver will eventually pull her back.

It's the slow but sure pull of the cord that Kieszlowski wants to tell in this beautiful but tragic story. In Juliette Binoche he has found his muse. With that face that expresses a complex set of emotions and her internalized body language that at times threatens to break through outbursts (as when she plays a piece of the concerto for the unification of Europe her husband was creating and suddenly slams the piano, or when she leaves her house carrying only a box and almost mauls her first against a stone wall). She cannot feel and is trying to make herself do so, but realizes it is better to just be, without ties, love, meaning.

BLUE is filled, almost drenched, in subtle meaning which grows stronger at every frame. Kieslowszki's bungee cord begins to make its presence at every subsequent scene. The box Julie is seen carrying contains a mobile which formed a blue sphere -- her only link to her daughter. The musical score, which in one scene she had ordered destroyed, makes its appearance in none other than the streets of Paris under the sad flute of a deadbeat who says, "We all must hold onto something." People inevitably come into her life -- for what reason we aren't told up front, but there is the feeling of matters left unresolved and new elements which will force Julie to come full circle and finally open herself to herself.

There are three sequences in which Julie immerses herself in water. Water allows herself to go under, to dive into what she has been avoiding for some time now. In one scene, she is seen in a fetal position as if this is a return to her primal state of floating -- free-fall -- and is "safe". However, the next-to-last time she swims she is confronted by her new friend and neighbor Lucille (Charlotte Very) who is an exotic dancer working in the red-light district in Paris (note the implicit link to RED) and then she, and we, hear the noise of little children who all jump into the pool dressed in reds and whites which make her instinctively recoil and maybe cry. After all, this is an oblique reference to Anna and she may not be ready for this kind of information. The memories come back (even when we do not see them) and even correlate to a decision to have a neighbor's cat kill a litter or mice in her apartment because she needs complete aloneness.

But this will not happen: there are still serious matters which she is about to discover and Lucille, the least involved person in Julie's tragedy but whose progressive insinuation into Julie's life, similar to Valentine's reaching out to the old judge in RED, will be the link to facing them.

Music is also an important part of BLUE, and whenever Julie is about to make a decision that will take the story to the next level we hear the haunting Preisner score which permeates the entire movie as its soul. American films don't seem to give music such a prominent position in a film, quite possibly because there is always the element of consumerism that is at the heart of every movie -- even serious films. European films, I've noticed, have a different approach to storytelling. BLUE is a very oblique mystery contained within itself from WHITE and RED, but one that demands listening to as well as subsequent views: it opens and reveals its petals very slowly and contains a surprise at the center of its bud, one that again, American film-makers would not have known how to resolve unless there was some form of catharsis and maybe even violence. Not here: for a movie that gives music and its relation to a truly spellbinding mystery, BLUE and its score are stunning, particularly at its climactic sequence where all of the people Julie has crossed paths with are seen in one last, flowing shot -- Emmanuelle Riva's being the most emotional, seen reflected twice in what can only be a haunting death scene, or is it? -- and returns, full circle, to another reflection of Julie, and Julie herself, open, and weeping in an enigmatic, Mona Lisa smile, free at last.
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clintswift29 April 2004
Often times when viewing an intelligent film like this I have to really contemplate what the implications the film maker making mean to me. This film was no exception. Kieslowski, with his background in non-fiction film making, is applying the french political value of liberty to a personal situation. He is, in essence, studying the human condition through fiction. The meaning of "liberty" takes on a very different meaning for Julie in this film. She tries to gain liberty from her memories and her emotions only to find that it is an impossible task. This is not a film to casually throw on after supper. This film requires a commitment by the audience to really consider Kieslowski's implications, for he is telling us (throughout this trilogy) what he thinks makes a "good" person. The score is beautiful and has a character of its own in the plot. A must see for true film lovers but perhaps a little too much for someone expecting a casual encounter.
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Bleu A Symphony of Grief
patita-113 March 2002
The subject(mourn,lost)is so interesting and profound that this film is a real treasure. It is very difficult to write about 'Bleu' because this film has so many intense scenes,with many details.Juliette Binoche's vulnerability is in every scene, every gesture, every moment. She plays an enigmatic woman,'Julie,' we're witness to her terrible loss(her husband who was a famous composer and her daughter died in a car crash)She is the survivor,not only of the accident,but of herself too.The film doesn't show us how her life was before the tragedy,but' Bleu' focuses on her personal journey to healing.

Julie seems stoic,she did not criy hysterically or stay in bed totally depressed,her grief is intimate and touching.In one scene when Julie is near the blue crystal mobile(which belonged to her daughter) just notice her reaction.Another poignant scene is when Julie is in that swimming pool,suddenly,she stops and she can hear her husband's symphony(all in her head).

Bleu also approaches a philosophical question-when you lose everything can you start all over again?,life is a series of events and choices,Julie moves to another place from the country to a city.She did not want to see her friends,she wants to be alone but is this possible?,her past will haunt her.

Another interesting aspect of this film is the use of music instead of dialogue,her silence is a reference of her terrible loss and pain,she is not depressed but sad. Also the meaning of the unfinished symphony of her husband is very profound (is connected with her grief and healing)

The photography of the film and the beautiful and delicate face of Binoche contribute to the impact of BLEU.

Kieslowski was one of the most talented directors, I really admired his 'Trois couleurs' trilogy but I think,'Bleu' was his most powerful film.

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'Blue,' 'White' and 'Red' represent the apotheosis of European art cinema just at the moment when its very existence seemed most uncertain…
Nazi_Fighter_David23 November 2008
"Three Colors Blue" is the first part of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy… "Blue" is set in France, "White" in Poland and "Red" in Switzerland, but all production was based in France… Not only are the colors of the trilogy those of the French national flag; the original intention was meditation on the ideals of the French Revolution: freedom, equality and fraternity… This suggests a political dimension to the work… But though like most Polish filmmakers Kieslowski had his difficulties with the Polish Communist system, its collapse by the early 1990s meant that he was not only free to work where he pleased, but liberated from the necessity for his films to engage directly in the political process…

In "Three Colors Blue" Juliette Binoche plays a woman whose husband and daughter are killed in a car crash… Overcome by melancholy, she progressively withdraws from life, depriving herself of possessions and refusing relationships, a state of mind conveyed in part by the director's subtle use of color blue… But eventually she is able to accept the attentions of a lover and even to offer friendship to another woman who is pregnant with her husband's child… Finally, she completes the piece of music which her husband has been commissioned to write…

The result is a work that has less in common with the Polish 'Cinema of moral concern' of the late 1970s than with the tradition of the mainstream European art cinema, in its concerns with alienation and the loss of feeling, countered by the transcendent power of love…
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Kieslowski: master of visual narrative.
Nathan S. Caswell21 November 2000
Krzysztof Kieslowski is, unquestionably, the master of the visual narrative.

More-so than even La Double Vie de Veronique (which is much more poetic than linear in it's structure), Trois Couleurs: Bleu is a marvel of visual exposition. Due to the nature of the film, exposition in this case is not necessarily related to plot, but rather to the understanding of a human being.

Kieslowski delves so deeply into the true nature of Julie (Juliette Binoche) and in such a remarkable way that by the end of the film we understand her utterly. Free from the clutter of dialogue and, for the most part, interaction with other characters we see Julie alone and in her most natural state. Kieslowski takes his documentary background and conveys his character in an almost voyeuristic manner. Showing Julie in anything but a state of solitude would be false; due to human nature Julie with Oliver would not be Julie, but rather a reflection of her true self which, although certainly interesting, pales in comparison to observing her silently struggle with the death of her husband and daughter alone.

Kieslowski played with applying the documentary techniques, which he perfected in his early work, to the narrative form in The Dekalog with tremendous, although at times visually mundane, results. The Dekalog looks like a documentary. Here, he turns over much visual control to his Director of Photographer, Slawomir Idziak, with tremendously cinematic results. Idziak's use of color and light, combined with his groundbreaking filter work, serve to further explore Julie's character. Blue feels like a documentary and looks like a dismal Rembrandt. While Kieslowski concentrates on showing the true nature of Julie through action, Idziak contributes by showing her through light and color.

Trois Couleurs: Blue is an almost unmatched achievement in the history of cinema. Never before has a character been conveyed so splendidly and in such a visually stunning manner.
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A masterpiece of an understudy into human grief!
Abhijoy-Gandhi-WG0523 January 2004
BLEU (TROIS COLEURS) / France/Poland 1993 (4 STARS) 23 January 2004: The thing that stands out most about Blue is the expression (or lack there of) of grief. How does a woman, seemingly fulfilled by happiness, react when that happiness is yanked away in one telling moment, in a car accident in which both her husband and her daughter pass away? That is the central understudy - a strong woman's attempts at finding purpose in the seeming absence of meaning. • Mise-en-scene: I watched an interview with Juliette Binoche, where she mentions that Kieslowski refused to make the film unless it had her in it. It's easy to see why. I can't imagine Bleu without Juliette – its not just that she lends her personality to the film…Bleu IS Binoche.

• I was thrown off by the sub-plots of the character's relationships with her mother and the striptease dancer, as I was about the seeming resolution at the end of the film. There were perhaps references that I missed but the ‘almost happy' ending left me feeling un-relinquished. Given that I had shared such an intense journey with Julie, it seemed almost improper to accept that she would settle in to a normal relationship again.

• Cinematography: The 1st shot of the film - that of a car tire racing - shot from the bottom of the moving car establishes this as ‘not your typical movie'. The sequence-of-shots that follow eerily draw one into the compelling story-telling style of Krzysztof Kieslowski, minimalist in its approach, with a world communicated without dialogue in the first five minutes of the film. • Blue is not your typical art-house film. Its production values are up there with the best, and the cinematography by Slavomir Idziak (who's craft was recognized by Hollywood in Black Hawk Down), is nothing short of stunning. • The lighting is low key and soft, and wraps around the characters to create a mood of subtlety. A distinguishing feature is the detail in the shadows. None of the close-ups fully illuminate the protagonist, almost hinting at her vulnerability at facing the light, though the delicate use of eye-lights does well to bring alive her emotions. • The camera, an intelligently used narrative element, interacts with Julie and partakes in her emotions, respecting them and yet accentuating their intensity as she plods on in an alien world of deep personal purposelessness. The tight close-ups penetrate her soul and force us to delve into Julie's mind and share in her agony. • Editing: deftly uses match on action to create irony while forwarding the narrative. • Sound: The pace is hauntingly slow and silence has been used compellingly. It screams with meaning as it is becomes one of the more important elements as the narrative progresses. Bleu is not a film you can watch, consume and move on. Either you'll feel that you've totally wasted your time and will probably not be able to sit through (the pivotal occurrence is over within the first five minutes of the film without a single world being spoken, and the rest of the film is essentially the protagonist's psychologically subjective journey) or you'll realize by the time you've reached the end that you'll revisit this film at various points in time, explore and read about it, discuss it with people you respect, and try to get closer to the essence of Kieslowski. For there are two now well-accepted truths about the folklore surrounding Kieslowski, whose reputation continues to mount posthumously…1. that Kieslowski carefully interwove elements that were rich with meaning and social irony, and 2. that figuring those elements out and appreciating their implications is probably a lifelong learning process.
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Perfect attention to detail - (with SPOILERS)
letrias13 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Blue" is a film that appears, at first glance, to have a very simple story and almost no plot. The film is about Julie (Juliette Binoche), who after losing her husband and daughter to a car accident must learn to cope with their deaths. But the real story revolves around the process of liberation from her past. Kieslowski illustrates this process with complex visuals, implementing an interesting use of light and shadow, as well as colors, to create an atmosphere that reflects the feeling of this piece perfectly.

There is a certain degree of multiple meaning in the use of colors in Kieslowski's "Three Colours" trilogy, aside from creating an appropriate mood for each part of the trilogy; the colors also represent the blue, white, and red of the French flag. The three colors stand for liberty (blue), equality (white), and fraternity (red). Liberty, or freedom from the past, is a major theme in "Blue", the first part of the trilogy. The Juliette Binoche character, Julie, goes through a personal journey, as she must cope with her husband and daughter's deaths. She must go on with life even though the worst has happened, and she chooses to be free, to become liberated.

The color blue is used regularly from beginning to end. The film starts with a shot of a candy-wrapper moving in the wind; it is colored blue on one side. The street, the car, and even the air seem to be tinted in a hue of blue. The last shot before the final montage is of the sparkling blue crystal lamp hanging above Julie's flat. Throughout the film blue is used extensively, there is a trace of it in practically every shot of the film, everything from people's clothes, the color of ink, the paint on walls and arches, the tint of the street and the water, etc. The blue is used "to create moods of melancholy and coldness, and to draw attention to the resonant emotional associations conjured up by objects and places in Julie's mind." (Andrew, p. 25) The coloring perfectly reflects the mood of the film; it presents a very dismal and hopeless atmosphere full of solitude and melancholy, giving the viewer a visual insight into Julie's mind.

The several scenes in the swimming-pool are some of the most powerful moments in the film, "there's aching dimension in the bluish swimming-pool water she regularly immerses herself in" (Howe), and it is especially evident in the shot following Julie's recollection of her husband's last words. In this scene Kieslowski implements an interesting use of light and shadow. The shot begins in the water, Julie's entire body is submerged, and the only color visible in the frame is blue: the water is blue, her body is blue, the surrounding walls are blue, and even the shower door is blue. The camera pans as she moves from one side of the pool to the other. Then, as Julie lifts herself out of the water, a reddish ray of light covers the upper half of her body, while everything else seems to be hidden behind a blue-tinted shadow; it is as if the essence of life itself is shining its hopeful light on her. But she can not handle it; she is not yet ready for liberty. Slowly she lowers her body back into the water, returning once again into the atmosphere of the oppressive blue until she is completely submerged in the pool, her grief now as clear as the bluish water surrounding her.

Another fascinating element about Kieslowski's films is the attention that is paid to details, especially when it comes to expressing one of the most difficult elements to capture on camera: human emotion. Every glance, every reaction is rich with meaning, there is no close-up throughout the film that is unnecessary. Kieslowski works very well with the actors, especially Juliette Binoche, who gives one of the most impressive performances of her career in "Blue". One can see the grief on her face, but it is a very cold grief, more than in any of her other films Binoche gives the impression that her character in "Blue" is undergoing a complex state of thought.

There are a few shots in the film that seem to be unrelated to the story. This is yet another technique often used by Kieslowski to heighten the intellectual capacity of his films. Whenever creating any series of films, Kieslowski liked to link each respective part of the series with certain characters or actions, and this is true on several levels of the "Three Colours" trilogy. Beside the fact that the court scene of "White" is actually a short part of "Blue", and the fact that the characters from all three films appear at the end of "Red", there is a very interesting shot of an old woman that is presented in the same way in every part of the trilogy. It's a very simple shot, but it says a lot. An old woman, so old that she can barely walk, walks slowly towards a recycling container. She reaches up so high that she can barely reach to throw a bottle into the container, and then once again she takes her bag and slowly walks away. It is as if Kieslowski wanted to represent life's struggle, and indeed the different struggles of the characters of his trilogy, with this little old woman's struggle with the recycling container.

Also seemingly unrelated were several shots of people bungee jumping juxtaposed with a dialogue between Julie and her mother. "Before I was happy. I loved them. They loved me, too." says Julie, just as a shot of a man jumping from a helicopter begins. The fall seems to symbolize her desperation perfectly, yet it is also a symbol for the film's theme of liberation, for although the shots of the bungee jumpers all end just before it, the entire point of the bungee cord is to stop the fall and to pull the jumper back up, perhaps not to the same height, but up again never-the-less. It is like Julie's plunge into the bluish darkness of hopelessness after her tragedy, yet there exists the opportunity for liberation, for her to be pulled back up and to put the past behind her.

Music is a large part not only of the story of "Blue", but Kieslowski actually worked with composer Zbigniew Preisner to make it a part of the film. There are more than a few parts in the film where music is essential in creating the effect of the scene. "Kieslowski suggests the music's almost supernatural provenance by showing Julie first dozing in a chair with an unexplained blue light playing over her face, then, having been woken by the music, looking started and mystified toward the camera (which not only draws back from her and then returns, but bathes the scene in a blue wash), as if the music itself were a (blue?) physical presence." (Andrew) When Julie first starts remembering the tune to the music to the "Song For The Unification Of Europe" the music plays in several brief flashes, and each time it plays Kieslowski creates a visual lens flare effect, which is of course colored blue. In the scene where Olivier shows Julie his version of the music the audio and video simultaneously lose clarity: each time Julie makes a change to the manuscript, removing instruments from the composition one by one, the camera goes out of focus until only the string instruments are left and the camera is completely unfocused. The ending sequence is another example, for the first time in the film the audience hears the complete chorus and as the tension builds and we finally hear the choir portion the camera tilts up to Julie's glittering blue crystal lamp, a shot which is followed by the powerful chorus and complete darkness. This effect of juxtaposing darkness with music is something that occurs several times throughout the film, Kieslowski uses this technique to represent the intensity of emotion running through Julie's head. When the character Antoine asks Julie if she wants to know what he saw at the time of the accident, she answers simply "no", then the screen blacks out and music begins, a few seconds later the black ends and we are returned once again to Julie and Antoine's conversation.

It's a shame that more directors do not undertake more ambitious efforts such as the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski. His films often do not rely on conventional plot elements, in fact, often times there is no real plot at all, yet somehow he was able to make his films both intellectually stimulating and interesting to watch. In "Blue", Juliette Binoche's character, Julia, must learn to cope with her family's death. She wants to put her past behind her, yet she is drawn into the past because of her husband's unfinished composition. Does she even want the composition finished? Was the music originally her husband's, or was she the real composer? Kieslowski was not interested in answering these questions, he preferred to leave them uncertain.

The film is, instead, about the process of Julie's liberation from her memories. "For Kieslowski, subtlety is a religion. He hints or implies -- anything to keep from laying his cards on the table. With "Blue," you never feel he's shown his whole hand; not even after the game is over" (Hinson). There is no happy ending here, and there is no real solution to the puzzle; the final shot is of Julie's tear-stained face, as it slowly loses opacity to an image of something blue on the frame behind it. She makes the decision to be liberated from her past; hence it's a hopeful ending, yet the tear represents a struggle that is never really over.
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A passage through dark water into light
rosalyn-115 December 2003
This movie is one of my favorites.

The disturbing topic of a woman who can't deal with the loss of her husband and child transforms into an essay on the impossibility of isolation. It is a quiet, personal movie that spends most of it's time with the main character played excellently by Juliette Binoche.

The color blue is very evident in the film,and a fade to a simple blue screen is used to show times of deep emotion. Although the characters are set in a specific time and place ( France just before the formation of the EU ) the focus on the personal journey of grief transcends the setting.

I like the way this film changes from a story about a death to an affirmation to life. I like the way that little things like mice in the apartment loom large in the thought of our main character, where as what others consider important such as finishing her husband's symphony seem very minor .

It feels like diving deep through cold dark water to finally swim toward the light. One passes through emotional turmoil to come out the other side. I found it a very satisfying.
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A stunning film from one of the world's preeminent directors.
Craig-3222 November 1999
TROIS COLOURES: BLEU is a rich, dark film with all the Kieslowski marks: death, silence, depression, and the inner torment of outwardly attractive women. After seeing the whole trilogy and the DEKALOG, I'm convinced at Kieslowski's great talent, and his very early death was a true blow to world cinema. Much like Kubrick but with a less ironic nature, Kieslowski loves to make his characters and stories both humanely distant, realistic, and, at the same time, philosophically idealist and dense. I enjoyed BLEU more than BLANC (which was an odd machismic entry in a trilogy mainly focusing on women) but not as much as ROUGE, which I feel is one of the finest, most beautiful, most well-done films I've ever seen.

More specifically, BLEU's focus seems to be on the relationship of a woman's loss of the tactile manifestation of her husband's existance with the ligering notions of his life - especially his music, which pervades the entire film, interrupting at key moments with a blackout and short blast of the overture. To watch Julie struggle with her husband's abandoned secrets (including a mistress Julie befriends) is shattering, frustrating, and perplexing.

Unfortunately, life must move, and, due to that, I can't watch BLEU over and over. However, I did glean from one viewing the complexity of this picture, and recognize its need to be watched over and over, until Kieslowski's last gasps can be properly understood, which is all we can hope to return to a man whose genius was tragically cut short, but still stands as a giant in my view of cinema.
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A Beautiful Film
gbheron17 July 1999
Blue is one of those little movies that grows on you. The more you think about it the more you like it. That's not to say that it's not enjoyable to view; the cinematography and music are marvelous. But this is Juliette Binoche's movie. Everything revolves around her character, Julie, who, in the first scene, survives an automobile accident that claims the lives of her famous composer husband and her five-year-old daughter. Now alone the remainder of the movie delves into Julie's long emotional recovery. Not traumatic, or depressing as the subject matter may imply it is instead subtle, graceful, and beautiful.
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My brief review of the film
sol-12 June 2005
Carefully directed, with attention to both detail and colour, the film is amazing on a visual scope, but it is also powerful on an emotional scope with a number of very intense and moving scenes. It is a story of coping with grief, with characters fleshed out through facial expressions rather than words and actions, and Binoche is a fine choice for the lead. The intriguing music score and fade-to-black editing provide the film with an interesting sensation, in particular alongside the cinematography and lighting, used cleverly to keep things in and out of focus. Kieslowski also plays with sound in an interesting manner, and it is hard to flaw the film on anything. We are told nothing of the background of our protagonist, the supporting characters at times appear haphazardly thrown around, and yes, there is a lot of meandering and not much story, but this surely depicts the state of mind of the protagonist. Really, it is hard to say anything against this film, as it is so well made and moving that it is really just fine viewing. The first entry in a trilogy of films, it was followed in 1994 by 'Trois Couleurs: Blanc'.
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Excellently executed, sensitive and moving drama.
Rebex18 July 2001
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Not only for Juliette Binoche's excellent performance, but also for the delicate cinematography, the haunting music and the overall texture of immersion in the world of the young woman. If you are after car chases, exploding jets and gun-toting macho muscle-men, then stop reading now, this is not for you.

I enjoyed the other two films in the trilogy ("Three colours Red" and "Three Colours White"), but "...Blue" is easily the best. Kieslowski's movies are very different from the formulaic action movies that steer you firmly down a plotline, without giving the audience time to absorb any feeling. Without giving anything away, the story centres on the life of a young woman who experiences a great loss, and how everything changes, how she reacts, what happens next and much more. Music plays a central part in the plot and the scene where her finger traces the score as she shapes the symphony for Europe, is unforgettable. As you watch it you are lulled by the music yet also aware of the tension between her lover and her. Simply put, this film is subtle and moving, beautiful to watch, has a haunting musical soundtrack (I bought the CD as well, I have to say) and is never sentimental or cliched, not for a minute. There are little link scenes that join this movie with the other "Three colours..." movies - the storylines are separate but overlap.

If you liked this, see also "Three colours Red" and "The Unbearable lightness of Being". It's best on the big screen.
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Poetic cinema at its finest.
EThompsonUMD18 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Shot in France with a French cast and a Franco-Polish crew, "Blue" (1993) is the first entry in the masterful Three Colors Trilogy that Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski completed shortly before his untimely death in 1996. Each of the three films draws its title from one of the colors of the French flag. In "Blue" Kieslowski richly counterpoints the color's conventional connotation of grief with its emblematic meaning of "liberty."

After a devastating car accident claims the lives of her young daughter and her internationally renowned composer husband, the film's protagonist Julie (Juliette Binoche) finds herself unable either to deal with the profound pain of loss or, despite several aborted attempts, to commit suicide. She elects instead to distort the meaning of "liberty" by cutting herself off from all things connected to her happy domestic past and from all human relationships that might cause further pain. She empties her home of furnishings - including all but one key item that belonged to her daughter. She retrieves the last composition that her husband was working on (significantly entitled "Concerto for European Unification") and deposits it in a passing garbage truck. She summons and sleeps with her husband's associate, Olivier, who she correctly suspects has always carried a torch of unrequited love.

As a test of her dispassion, Julie perversely uses the act of love making as one final gesture of disconnection, hoping also to prove "just a woman" to Olivier and not worthy of his continued pursuit and idealization. In the morning she deserts Olivier and her emptied country home for a leased room in Paris, where she plans to do nothing and live anonymously. On her way off the estate, however, we watch as Julie scrapes her knuckles along a stone wall until they bleed, suggesting that the pain of human existence and memory resides powerfully beneath her liberated surface.

For some time while residing in Paris, Julie continues her self-imposed human exile, having little to do with her neighbors, focusing intently on the phenomena of the present (like a sugar cube dissolving in her morning coffee), and continuing to repress the feelings and memories symbolized by sudden bursts of orchestral music against a black screen. Inevitably, however, Julie's walled in isolation begins to crumble. Olivier finds her hiding place, a homeless man inexplicably plays fragments of the Unity Concerto on his flute, a young stripper who has been ostracized by all others in Julie's apartment building insinuates herself into Julie's life and re-awakens her memories by zeroing in on the blue glass mobile that hangs in Julie's apartment – the one object connected to her daughter that Julie was unable to abandon or destroy.

Ultimately, two events combine to extract Julie from her psychological slough of despond and initiate the process of her re-engagement with the world. First, by a chance occasion paralleling the accident itself, she learns that her husband had been conducting a prolonged affair with a young law clerk and that the woman is carrying her husband's child. Initially stunned with betrayal, Julie angrily confronts the woman, but then her inherently generous nature surfaces and Julie invites her to take possession of the abandoned country estate. At about the same time, Julie learns that Olivier has undertaken to complete the Unification Concerto on his own, which - as he has counted on - arouses Julie's ire and provokes her into aiding Olivier with the project.

As earlier intimated, it now becomes clear that she, not her husband, was the concerto's primary composer. Work on the concerto not only restores Julie's creative link to life but also sparks love and desire for the ever-faithful Olivier. The healing powers of love and music together are indicated by the lyrics of the concerto's chorus. Adapted from St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians, they read: "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, if I have not love, I am nothing." The film ends with a montage of images that weave an existential tapestry of chance and fate, love and isolation, life and death. The most memorable of these is a sonogram of the fetus pulsating in the mistress's womb, compensating imperfectly yet affirmatively for the loss of Julie's own child.

Roger Ebert, in his original review of "Blue," cited Ingmar Bergman's conviction that "many moments in films can only be dealt with by a close-up of a face - the right face - and that too many directors try instead to use dialogue or action." Dialog and action in "Blue" are indeed sparse and obviously subordinated not only to close-ups on Juliette Binoche's extraordinarily expressive face, but to other purely cinematic film elements such as color, composition, camera placement, and – perhaps above all – sound. Indeed, "Blue" includes one of the most original and emotionally powerful diegetic soundtracks that I have ever encountered.

Whether regarded as an independent entity or viewed in the context of the whole trilogy, "Blue" is a major work by one of the great masters of contemporary world cinema.
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Do we like her? Do we feel anything?
kintopf43211 August 2004
Something of a model of directorial focus and control, 'Bleu' seems to be an attempt to answer several related questions: How can a filmmaker express the feelings for someone who won't, or can't, express them herself? Can the director make the viewer understand her, like her, share her feelings? Krzysztof Kieslowski comes very close, finding ingenious, even brilliant ways to get inside the head of his deliberately impenetrable Julie. The frequent 'blackouts,' coupled with the throbbing, somber score (inspired, it seems, at least in part, by Mozart's 'Requiem'), gives us a window into the character's inner life, lets us hear, rather than see, the humanity behind her aloof façade. We understand her--but do we like her? How easy it would be for Julie to become totally unlikable--the way Juliette Binoche plays her, she is blank to the point of coldness, sometimes in ways reminiscent of Catherine Deneuve's Carole in "Repulsion," only with a taut intelligence that character certainly lacks. Somehow, she never does; but, for all the actress's control, the characterization is ultimately Kieslowski's creation, not hers. It's the directorial techniques, and not the acting, that allow us to care about Julie. So, do we ever share her feelings? No, despite all Kieslowski's tricks, we really can't. So often, Americans wrongly write off European films as 'cold,' and that's why it's surprising that this movie, which directly tackles the question of emotional frigidity, and which has such a passionate following among cinephiles, should turn out never to make us feel really anything. Oh, the film has an undeniable emotionalism, a potency, just beneath the surface, yes. But it's never willing to go the extra step and manipulate the viewer in an outright way. It's too respectful of its audience, too intelligent, too careful, for that. And this studied, uncompromising unsentimentality in itself is an achievement Kieslowski should be commended for, but some may find it makes 'Bleu' into a portrait of grief to be admired, rather than loved. 7 out of 10.
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A Bit More Narrative Please
jayraskin13 July 2010
The movie's narrative basically ends after the first ten minutes. There is practically no external conflict after that, except for the rather uninteresting point of will Juliete Binoche finish the score for the "Unification of Europe" song. To tell the truth, I really, really did not care one way or the other.

Without plot narrative, we're left with some quite striking cinematography, mainly shots of Juliete which should definitely be in a slick fashion magazine. There's some nice montage of images and sounds a la Godard or Bertolucci, but nothing very memorable except for a sugar cube dissolving and some baby mice. This leaves me in the distinct minority of those who found the film cold and boring. I realize that the director Krzysztof Kieslowski was dying of aids when he made this film, but I can't transfer my sympathy for him to the film. I haven't seen the other two films in the trilogy. I hope they are better.

I'm also upset with the false advertising on the DVD which calls the film "Mysterious and Sexy." There is no mystery here and one shot of Juliete Binoche's naked back and several shots of her swimming in a bathing suit hardly qualifies a film as sexy. Of course, if they had written the truth "Morbid and Pretty" who would buy it?
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It's Not Easy Being "Blue".
tfrizzell19 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The first of legendary Polish director Krzysztof Kielslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy (representing the three colors of the French national flag) is a hypnotic and intriguing journey which follows Juliette Binoche after she tries to gain total liberty (the representation of blue in the flag) after the deaths of her husband (a famous European composer) and young daughter in an automobile accident. Of course isolating oneself from all others is not easy to do as the past keeps on popping up and the future holds many uncertainties. The fact that Binoche's husband had an affair and the woman is now carrying his child is both ironic and tragic for all involved. In the end will Binoche be able to stop being blue? "Blue", like all of Kielslowski's works, thrives on symbolism (the color popping up all throughout the film) and an unmistakable tone (much the way that Roman Polanski uses that feature in his better productions). The film is not for all tastes because of strong adult content and a distinct female flair (due to the almost total focus on Binoche), but "Blue" is still a movie which is a testament to its excellent film-maker and its unique theatrical aspects. 4 stars out of 5.
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Overrated navel gazing
heywood10013 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*****Some spoilers*****

I was actually expecting to like this quite a lot - although I hadn't thought much of Three Colours White I decided to give the series the benefit of the doubt and continue persevering because I had heard so many good things about this installment. It seems this was a mistake. Three Colours Blue is exactly the kind of film that action loving Hollywood film fans so gleefully laugh about. After a promising opening it becomes very slow and very little happens throughout. This is probably because it concerns a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband and daughter in something approaching complete isolation, but that's no excuse for making something as thoroughly uninteresting as this. Things do start to liven up a bit towards the end with the introduction of the husbands secret lover, but this is topped off by possibly the most horrible closing scene of any movie ever - it seems to start with Juliet Binoche having sex in a glass box full of water, then goes through a roll-call of all the characters looking thoughtful and deep. Overall, while this is far more ambitious than Three Colours White it does not pull off a success. Sometimes you have to drop a little bit of the subtlety to include something an audience can actually enjoy and engage with.
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Colored Noir
tedg12 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

No people are more culturally distinct from their neighbors than the Polish. They know something of pain, and they have a stronger vision of beauty than anyone - one which extends to even pain having beauty. And not just any notion of beauty, but a sublime beauty.

The most important development in film in 50 years was the development of noir. True noir takes the direction of the story away from the writer, away from anything that makes sense, and places the story as it unfolds in the hands of a capricious fate. It added another layer to the folding of narrative, one above the layer of the viewer and author and two above that of the movie.

But noir is black, or was. With these films, our genius explores what colored noir would be like... what a world would be like under an ineffable drive to recover the past. Parallel pasts, hers and his. Other films in the trilogy dealt with tougher challenges: Red as parallel presents; White as parallel futures.

That business about the French flag is no more a skeleton for these than the old woman recycling glass. I'm astonished that anyone would believe that.

So this is colored noir, and necessarily beautiful - in fact part of the pain is the entanglement with the sublime. This could be the most beautiful film ever made. All in the eye which frames the thing.

Binoche understands that she is not inventing a character, but a representative of life - someone who blends into the motion of the film. That whole motion makes the whole world a woman.

Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cine-literate person should experience this.
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Predictable and slow, but mercifully only 1 hr. 40 min.
pfrymier13 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this as a DVD. "Mysterious"? "Sexy"? Well, maybe if you have lived in a box. Why this movie is rated "R" is beyond me.

I've seen plenty of art films and have enjoyed most. This one is predictable and slow, in my opinion, with very little mystery about it. Plenty of art for art's sake here; a 1 minute view of the shadow made by a teacup as the day progresses. Oops. Sorry for the spoiler.

A movie I did appreciate on a similar theme (tragic loss throwing unwitting strangers together) was Enduring Love. I realize they are two totally different approaches to the theme, but I thought the latter was more thought-provoking.

If you want to drive someone nuts, rave about this movie within earshot. You'll be sure they will waste an hour and a half and perhaps wonder how they can be so shallow.

Mercifully, it was kept to an hour and a half.
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Gorgeous and resonant.
Rockwell_Cronenberg18 February 2012
Krzysztof Kieslowski explores grief and loss here with an authenticity, aided by the perfectly understated turn from Juliette Binoche, that is somehow simultaneously beautiful and ravaging. So many scenes leave a lasting impression. The moments of her succumbing to masochistic tendencies in order to feel something, anything other than the unbearable despair over her loss, are absolutely wrenching.

Kieslowski doesn't lean towards melodrama for a moment here, never allowing his audience to feel as though they are watching a film take place, but rather presenting such a lived-in study of this level of devastation a person can experience. Binoche is on point every step of the way, somehow being expressive to the audience while shutting herself off from everyone around her. She is my favorite actress in the history of cinema and this is a glowing example as to why; even when she's saying nothing she is saying everything. Her face is so expressive in the most subtle of ways and here she puts that to remarkable use.

Of course even if this wasn't such an emotionally profound piece, it would still manage to be a treat for the eyes, with Kieslowski making full use of his color palette in impressively vivid ways. That final shot, a hold on Binoche's face as tears quietly stream down it, was one of the few things that I had remembered from my initial viewing of the film years ago and it's easy to see why; it's haunting.
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Freedom is an Illusion
ilpohirvonen13 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Krzysztof Kieslowski's most famous films are his last. The three colors trilogy or film tricolor was very highly appreciated among critics and viewers. The series of three includes the films Blue, White and Red. After the last one, Red, Kieslowski announced that it was the best he could do and therefore retired. I don't believe, and I don't think even Kieslowski believed that Red was the best he could do. I bet he only wanted to get peace, by announcing that. To get out of the fame and media. Each of the colors have one main theme, but the same themes repeat in all films, for instance the paradox of freedom and love, which had been a leading theme throughout Kieslowski's work, culminates in The Three Colors. Blue - Freedom is about a woman who loses her husband and daughter. She is in a prison of love, she tries to move on, detach and become independent, but can't. The paradox of love and freedom: the woman wants to be free but can't because she is in love. "People who think they're free are the least free of all." K. Kieslowski.

A woman, Julie (Juliette Binoche) suddenly gets in a car accident with her husband and daughter. She tries to find solutions how to continue her life, and decides to escape their home. Since Julie's husband was a famous composer, the media and the people are very interested in her life. Julie's husband had started a new composition in celebration of the united Europe. But because of his sudden death, the composition remained unfinished. A friend of Julie and his husband decodes to try to get the composition ready. When he gets Julie to agree and help him, they begin to compose it as close to the original purpose as possible.

Why The Three Colours Trilogy is so famous and appreciated is because the films are so multidimensional and full of many layers. Each of them have their own story and themes, but certain events, motives and themes combine them. Blue is about a woman, White as about a man and Red is about a man and a woman. That is the simplest way to look at them. But each of them have their leading themes: Blue / Freedom, White / Equality and Red / Fraternity. But of course all the films deal with plenty of other themes. In Blue among freedom Kieslowski deals with the difficulty of detachment and independence. It makes us wonder what is freedom? Can we ever actually get it? What is the freedom Julie seeks or receives from? This is of course what Krzysztof Kieslowski intended. He breaks many codes of narrative and traditional dramaturgy, but he certainly doesn't do that just to seem intelligent. He breaks the chronology and leaves many things opened, but if one pays attention one will figure them out.

In addition to Blue's thematic beauty and depth it is technically perfect. Krzysztof Kieslowski's main composer, Zbigniew Preisner composed the music for Blue as he did for No End and all the subsequent films by Kieslowski. His score is always very beautiful, touching, emotional and important for the film, but in Blue it is especially important for the story. The film itself deals with music, because Julie's husband was a composer. Preisner, who hasn't ever studied music wrote a beautiful composition for the unification of Europe. In the end where we get to listen to the composition one could cry. Not only because of the sad story or the touching climaxes, but because of the true beauty in cinema. I burst out into tears, the music is so beautiful, so perfect and so profound. The lyrics are taken from The Love Chapter in the Bible. The song is such a beautiful piece which makes one understand the beauty of life but also remember the enormous pain belongs to it.

There are several ways to interpret Blue, the events, the choices and the situations in it. The simplest way to understand Julie's choice would probably be to think that she had known that her husband had an affair for years. That is why the appearing of the mistress doesn't shock the audience as it doesn't Julie. But the theme score by Preisner, which plays every time someone talks about Julie's husband to her, gives many changes of different interpretations for the audience. For instance in the beginning a journalist asks Julie: "Is it true that you composed all the compositions by your husband?" No matter is the statement true, still Blue gives the audience a lot to decide, observe and think on their own.

Krzysztof Piesiewicz the screenwriter was the third important man in Kieslowski's team. Kieslowski says in his interview, Kieslowski on Kieslowski that Piesiewicz is not much of a writer, but an amazing speaker. They talk for hours and write the screenplays together. But Kieslowski admits that usually all the great ideas come from Piesiewicz. These three masterful men were able to create a perfect film cycle. Krzysztof Kieslowski was very talented in visual narrative he didn't need dialog to explain certain things and emotions. For example the old lady recycling the bottle, Julie sees her but decides not to help her. In Red the main character sees her and does decide to help her. In Blue we are clearly told that Freedom is only an illusion, which people so hardly try to reach but never can get. If White portrays love as a prison then in Blue the paradox of love and freedom comes from the impossibility to set oneself free and become independent when still in love. Because to Kieslowski love is the strongest force of all just as it says in The Love Chapter. Only love can expose the true nature of freedom.
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Blue=Liberty or is it?
rayesh_g4 December 2009
Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue is the first of the three part trilogy based on the three colors of the French flag, with the other two being Red and White. It follows a story of a woman;Julie, played by Juliet Binoche dealing with the pain and her life after the accidental death of her husband and her daughter. She is completely cut off from everyone else around her life, and she decides to deal with the pain on her own terms. After her loss, she destroys all music notes composed by her husband and sells anything in her house that would bring her memories from the past. She is sad and shaken. She tests her self whether she could feel any love by seducing the man who was working with her husband who was secretly in love with her. No she cannot. She settles into an apartment by herself to be free, to begin life all over again or to just avoid the urge to begin.

Krzysztof Kieslowski, who was one of the most prolific filmmakers, was a devotee of such filmmakers as Bergman and Tarkovsky, who explored subjects of faith, philosophy and death. Kieslowski here too dives into these subjects in a fashionable way, playing around with some of the scenes to show the inner nature of the characters using beautiful cinematography and story telling techniques. The use of close ups in the movie has a profound effect in portraying the mindset of a character. We read their faces to understand what it says even though the words are not present to express it.

Towards the end there is quite a surprise when she meets the mistress of her dead husband who is now pregnant with his child. How they deal with this discovery and most importantly how Julie deals with it presents a great revelation about her.
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bcpohl27 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The lead character was at the depths of despair when she lost her family, and she struggled to muddle through life afterward. Many vignettes of her life were shown; not one of them was particularly earth-shattering in itself, and each was represented by a piece of music. Some of her "life scenes" were very ordinary; other scenes showed us how hard it was for her just to make it through the day; others showed her experiencing some amount of happiness. At the end, all of the musical vignettes were brought together to create a wonderful symphony. The creator of this parable wanted to show us that each of our lives is a symphony in its own right, a wonderful compilation of our experiences, no matter how mundane or difficult each experience seems to be.
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Addition and subtraction.
buster-crashtestdummy3 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Taken as a whole, the "Thee Colors" trilogy is certainly a work that is greater than the sum of it's part. It represents the totality of life by way of trichotomy, and by a process of addition, each film adding on another aspect, another color, to what came before. Blue is tragedy, white is comedy, and red is... well, it is indeed hard to pin down, but I would think that it is perhaps romance. At the same time, like the way bits of each film make guest appearances in the others, each of these aspects, each color, is mixed with parts of the others. Therefore, it's important to see all the films, and they really should ideally be seen in their chronological order, for only at the end of it all - when it all adds up - do we find the sense of completion that gives the work its true magic. Therefore, I won't be commenting on Blue and pretend the others don't exist. They must be taken together as a three-course meal.

In light of this it may seem almost paradoxical that each of the individual films in certain respects are based on an opposite process, an act of subtraction. The beauty and poetry of these works is just as often as not a result of what is not said, what is left out and must be inferred, what is never confirmed, what is left hanging. This act of subtraction is given most poignantly in "Blue".

The accident that opens the movie and grants Julie that tragic liberty that she never asked for and never wanted, sets in play a process of removal that we feel cannot be stopped, until it either reaches its conclusion or some greater outer force intervenes. Julie never, for a second, attempts to restore the fragments of her lost life. Once the process of destruction is started, she does not attempt to stop it. The bulk of the movie shows her systematically destroying what is left, and all memories of what was. She gets rid of the mansion where she lived with her family, including all furniture and belongings. She angrily, in an act of stunning subdued violence, chews and devours a lollipop that had been her daughter's. Finally, she tries to destroy the score for her husband's symphony for the Unification of Europe.

In a movie about a woman who has lost her husband and her child, we may expect certain kinds of scenes: flashbacks, memory sequences, returns to what has been lost. These are all notably missing from "Blue". Julie doesn't return, not to her past or to the world of the living, not until outside forces – Kieslowski's wonderful random acts of genius storytelling - intrude.

At the end of the day, "Blue", mercifully, ends on a note of affirmation of life, optimistically, even happily. It is, of course, a "happy ending" unlike any other in cinema, one that can only be brought about by way of the most extreme grief and loss. It's a phenomenological process of sorts, in the Husserlian sense. For Husserl, only by removing the objects of consciousness, by constantly subtracting what is in it, can we hope to arrive at understanding of consciousness itself. For Julie, only be removing everything that her life contained, by going down to the bare bones of her self, can she truly find herself, and start living again. In the end, life wins out and starts anew. Even after the greatest apocalypse, some seeds of life have escaped death, and they will continue to grow and to flower.

This is one of my favorite movies of all time, an opinion that is, I believe, shared by everyone who sees it. It's more than a trip to the movies. It's even more than an experience of immense beauty, even if it is, of course, that too. It is, in my opinion, an opportunity to take part in a process of discovery of what it is to be human, that will leave you a better person afterwards.
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despite its being depressing, hang on--it does have a good payoff at the conclusion
MartinHafer13 July 2005
I think in general my tolerance for super-depressing films is less than some film connoisseurs. I have found that some films (such as some of Bergman's) are too depressing to merit the high praise they receive. It's almost like to be considered a sophisticated, you have to love depressing and occasionally pointless films. I began to feel this way towards this film early on--thinking to myself "oh, no,...another dreadfully depressing art film". However, I was VERY pleased when despite the incredibly somber pacing, music and plot, the movie did not remained mired in misery and showed growth and change--and NOT in an overly idealistic or Hollywood way, either. Instead, the depression and existence of the lead, Binoche, seemed very real and I think this is the best of her films I have seen. In fact, I was a bit hesitant to watch the movie, as I was NOT a fan of two of her most famous films, The English Patient and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. These two films were also quite depressing and cold, but the movie Blue seemed to engage me more--perhaps because I could easily see myself or someone I love in Binoche's position following the deaths of her family.

At first, she decides the best way to cope is complete denial and repression--forget about the past by extinguishing all memories--including selling all her possessions and running from her past life. However, despite her best efforts, she finds herself unable to completely keep out the past and is forced to deal with her husband's legacy (though the movie makes a mistake not to really address the death of Binoche's child very well).

For psychology students, this movie is an excellent example of defense mechanisms (Freud) or the grieving process (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross).
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