At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
Friday, September 19: Trois Couleurs: Blanc / Three Colors: White (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 91 mins – France, Drama. In Polish and French with English subtitles.
With Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr, Aleksander Bardini, Grzegorz Warchol.
“This is the second of the "Three Colors" trilogy Red, White, and Blue: the colors symbolizing liberty, equality, and fraternity. White, therefore, was written around the destructive dynamics of a relationship based upon great inequality. Karol is a Polish hairdresser working in France. He has a beautiful wife, Dominique, whom he loves to obsession, and who is in the process of divorcing him for his inability to "consummate the marriage.” Karol loses all of his earthly possessions and is literally driven out of France by his estranged wife. Karol decides to fight back...”
– Alliance description
White is perhaps the craziest of the three: Kieslowski moves quickly and fluidly through a careening narrative that encompasses love lost and regained, death and rebirth, France and Poland, abject poverty and capitalist triumph. All in 90 vivid minutes. It’s actually a comedy, though it might take a second viewing to convince you of that. A black comedy. Which I suppose is why it’s called White, Kieslowski being Kieslowski!
There’s an interesting film clip of an interview with Julie Delpy discussing and dissecting the ending of White, where her character uses sign language to communicate with her ex-husband. There seems to have been some disagreement about what her signs were meant to convey, and here she explains it all.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gqYoVAErLQ. Interestingly enough, this whole scene seems to have been an afterthought, and she was called back to film this additional scene in the middle of the shooting final film in the series, Red.
Friday, September 26: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.
With Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan, Marion Stalens.
“Third and last part of Kieslowski's trilogy . . . Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbors' phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism…”
– Alliance description
Jean-Louis Trintignant is one of the leads in this film, as he was in the September 5 showing at the Alliance, Un homme et une femme / A Man and a Woman, only this shows him almost 30 years later.
About the director:
"Live carefully, with your eyes open, and try not to cause pain."
Krzysztof Kieslowski (b. June 27, 1941 in Warsaw, Poland -- d. March 13, 1996) was a leading director of documentaries, television and feature films from the 1970s to the 1990s. The social and moral themes of contemporary times became the focus of his many significant films and his unique humanist treatment of those themes secured his place as one of the greatest of modern film directors. He was a prominent member of the Polish film generation who defined the so-called "Cinema of Moral Anxiety" - films which tested the limits of Socialist film censorship by drawing sharp contrasts between the individual and the state.
Kieslowski graduated from the Lodz Film School in 1968 and began his film career making documentaries that were both artistic and political and aimed to awaken social consciousness. Workers '71 attempted to relate the workers' state of mind as they organized strikes. The people's desire for more radical change was addressed in Talking Heads. In 1973, social and political commentary infused The Bricklayer, the story of a political activist who becomes disenchanted with the hierarchy surrounding Party politics, and returns to bricklaying. Kieslowski's documentary Hospital (1976) is both a homage to the hardworking surgeons in a Polish hospital, and a revealing look at the problems with health care in Poland.
His early feature films were made for television; they include Personnel and Calm. Because his feature films evolved from the documentaries, he continued to use documentary techniques to enhance and add realism to the fiction films. The Scar (1976) was Kieslowski's first theatrical release, a socio-realist view of management problems in a large industrial factory. He came to festival attention with Camera Buff (1979), a parody on the film industry, an exploration of the unknown and a wry commentary on censorship. Blind Chance, a 1981 feature film, concentrates on what role fate or chance plays in our futures.
In 1984, he began a longtime writing collaboration with Polish lawyer, Krzysztof Piesiewicz with No End. Set during Poland's martial law of 1982, it is the story of a dead lawyer who watches over his family as they continue on with their lives. His wife becomes involved in his last case involving a worker who had been arrested when he tried to organize a strike.
Kieslowski's mammoth Decalogue, co-written with Piesiewicz, is a series made for Polish television based on the Ten Commandments. Each episode is set in a contemporary apartment complex in Warsaw and is one hour long. Kieslowski tackled the project after feeling "tension, a feeling of hopelessness, and a fear of worse yet to come - everywhere, everything, practically everybody's life." The series was shown in its entirety as the centerpiece of the 1989 Venice Film Festival and is considered a masterpiece of modern cinema.
Lack of funds in Poland drove Kieslowski to seek financial backing from the West - most notably in France. The Double Life of Veronique (1992) firmly established Kieslowski with an international reputation. This moody, atmospheric study of two women, doppelgangers, one French, one Polish, who share the same name, birthday, heart condition, and a vague sense of the existence of the other, was a commercial as well as critical success and made a star of its leading actress, Irene Jacob.
The Three Colors trilogy, representing the colors of the French flag, Blue (1993, liberty), White (1994, equality) and Red (1994, fraternity) followed. The trilogy explores these three themes; in Blue, Juliette Binoche grieves as she loses her husband and child in a car accident and her new life and freedom cannot replace lost love. In White, a Polish hairdresser tries to regain the love of his ex-wife, a beautiful French girl played by Julie Delpy, and seeks equality in their one-sided relationship. In Red, Irene Jacob is a model who gradually falls in love with an older man (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) after she accidentally kills his dog in a traffic accident. The retired judge arranges for her to "accidentally" meet someone her own age and for whom he thinks will be good for her. The films were scheduled to be released three months apart and while each can stand on its own; they were designed to be seen as a single entity.
Kieslowski periodically announced his retirement from filmmaking, though he never actually abandoned the cinema completely. His last project was to coauthor another trilogy with Piesiewicz, with the films tentatively titled Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Kieslowski died before the trilogy was completed. A chain smoker, the great director died following cardiac surgery at the age of 54. Heaven, the first in the trilogy, was completed in 2002 with Tom Tykwer at the helm and Cate Blanchett in the starring role.
At Alliance Française on Friday, October 3: Les Mauvais joueurs / Gamblers (2005) by Frédéric Balekdjian – 85 mins – France, Crime/ Drama. English subtitles.
With Pascal Elbé, Simon Abkarian, Isaac Sharry.
Vahé, Sahak, and Toros run a bonneteau game on the streets of Paris. They're Lebanese French. Vahé also works with his father, a cloth merchant, and is in love with Lu Ann, Chinese French, who's broken off their affair. Vahé wants to make things right: with Lu Ann, with his father's business, and with Yuen, Lu Ann's younger brother, who's on the edge of delinquency and owes money to the gang who arranged his passage from China. Vahé tries to be like a father to Yuen, teaching him a work ethic. When Yuen impetuosity puts his own life in jeopardy, Vahé tries to save him. Are Vahé's impulses and hopes to die on the streets of Paris?
– Alliance description
The setting is the Paris garment district, where low-end French criminals rub elbows with the teeming masses of illegal Chinese immigrants. One such "illegal," a snot-nosed and lazy kid called Yuen, wants nothing to do with his French "protectors," and will stop at nothing to escape their influence. Unfortunately, those thugs have a financial interest in Yuen remaining complacent, so it's only a matter of time before someone gets shot. Vahé is the one kindhearted crook who tries to keep the peace between his French colleagues and the Chinese youth, but his influence is minimal.
The last time a French film exploded with such raw energy was when Mathieu Kassovitz debuted with La Haine in 1995. This is writer/director Frederic Balekdijan's first feature, also, and it uses the same neo-realistic style, with handheld cameras close in and on the streets. There isn't a whiff of falsehood, or evidence of a set designer's duster. Even the script has the rough-cut unpredictability of real life.
It deals with card sharks, street scams, petty crime, backed by an uglier, darker crowd of Armenian thugs. This is the Paris of immigrants, sweatshops, cafes, and illegals. Chinese, North Africans, Eastern European gangsters coexist in a barely sustainable truce. Sooner or later a spark will ignite the tinderbox and someone will be killed. Followed by revenge attacks. Followed by God knows what else. In this no-go, gendarmes are noticeable by their absence.
Stories and characters move swiftly. There is no conventional plot, only the time it takes to rip the lid off the powder keg and somehow survive. Or not.