Krzysztof Kieślowski’s meditation on love and fate is the first in the trilogy to be rereleased 30 years on
Krzysztof Kieślowski’s vast meditation on love, fate and the unheard harmonies of the universe begins its 30th-anniversary rerelease tomorrow. This is the first in his film trilogy with its tricolour motif (to be followed by White and Red); the whole is a triptych with overlapping images and character-glimpses, all destined to be tied up in a chaotic conclusion.
Here, Juliette Binoche plays Julie, the wife of a famous composer working on a huge commission from the European Council: a symphony to be played by no fewer than 12 orchestras, symbolising the 12 nations of the European Community (as it then was). Kieślowski teasingly hints that the hubris of this project is maybe not too different from his own triple-decker movie fantasy, and the music itself periodically crashes on to the soundtrack in Julie’s mind, disruptively jolting her from a trance of anxiety. The chords are vehement but halting, self-questioning, a very different officially sanctioned Euro-celebration to, say, the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth.
While her husband is driving her with their young daughter, their expensive car’s brake fluid leaks and it crashes, as the child is opening a lollipop with a vivid blue wrapper, speckling the entire film with a traumatised aftershock colour scheme: blue crystals, blue swimming pool water. Kieślowski contrives an interestingly low-key but very real-looking smash: Alfa Romeo has a note over the closing credits saying that such a thing could never actually happen with one of its vehicles.
The composer and child are killed and Julie survives; in the midst of her reclusive grief, she is waylaid by an intrusive journalist who asks if it is true that she actually wrote all her husband’s music. The question is never explicitly raised again, but in an agony of self-annihilation, Julie puts the family’s handsome country estate up for sale, destroys all the manuscripts she can, moves to a small apartment in Paris and tries living a life of utter anonymity.
But the film shows how the past nags, a web of obligations and unresolved emotional ties: her husband’s assistant Olivier (Benoît Regent) is clearly in love with her; her husband was clearly in love with someone else, a lawyer called Sandrine (Florence Pernel). And in Paris, she is drawn into the life of a sex club dancer called Lucille (Charlotte Véry) who confesses to Julie her trauma at seeing her elderly father in the audience one night. And Julie must continue to visit her elderly mother who has dementia; this is a poignant performance from Emmanuelle Riva, who was to portray something similar 20 years later in Michael Haneke’s Amour.
Shots of Binoche in Paris – especially in this movie – have become icons of cinema, like De Niro in New York; when she drifts or runs through the Paris streets, or takes an elegant coffee in a cafe or walks up the stairwell of her apartment building, she is so sinuously at home that there is a thrill in just watching her, even when she is palpably uncomfortable, as when she carries a neighbour’s cat into her flat to kill the mice.
Thirty years on, though, it is possible to be conflicted about Binoche’s award-winning performance; her dreamy, just-on-the-verge-of-tears smiles and silent trains of thought can look a bit precious, and her occasional air of detachment and integrity are surely complicated by the possible imposture and dishonesty involved in the music’s authorship, a complication which the movie does not entirely absorb. But she has marvellous charisma and address to the camera; there is something so rich and spacious and unhurried here. There is a wonderful reach and flair in Kieślowski’s film-making.
Source: Three Colours: Blue review – Binoche as charismatic as ever in Kieślowski masterwork | Movies | The Guardian