At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm
Film Space is now showing “A Month of Mental Retardation” through the end of November. [In December, they will give you another chance to view Kieslowski’s fascinating Three Colors Trilogy, plus his The Double Life of Veronique.]
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Now that the weather is cool, they are resuming their rooftop showings, weather permitting. You might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space on November 29, 7 pm: I Am Sam (2001) by Jessie Nelson – US Drama – 132 mins. Starring Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Dakota Fanning. Generally negative reviews: 28/46 out of 100.
Sean Penn leads a large cast as a mentally handicapped man raising a young daughter on his own as well as fighting an impervious child-care bureaucracy. Quite a difference of opinion on this one between the critics who in general slam it as simplistic and manipulative, and many viewers who count it among their most favorite films. As examples:
Rolling Stone: Contrived, manipulative, and shamelessly sentimental, this film is notable for the courageous reach of Sean Penn, who gives a bold, heartfelt performance.
Variety: A near-parody of ultra-politically correct storytelling, in which single parenthood is lionized (and even finally found preferable over an alternative two-parent family option). The movie assumes, in a thoroughly unearned way, a total acceptance of its shaky premise -- that a man like Sam, with the mental abilities of a 7-year-old, is the best possible parent because he has more love for his child than anyone else.
IMDb viewer: As the film progresses, you will find yourself laughing one minute, crying the next (you WILL cry no matter how mature or old you are, so make sure you have tissues) . . . and the next moment simply staring at the screen not believing your eyes and ears at how emotionally powerful a film can be.
IMDb viewer: It's A Wonderful Life has been the top of my list for all time favorite movies, now I Am Sam has moved in right next to it.
At Film Space on December 6, 7 pm: Trois Couleurs: Bleu / Three Colors: Blue (1993) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 100 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.
With Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Véry, Hélène Vincent, Philippe Volter, Claude Duneton, Hugues Quester, Emmanuelle Riva.
“Three Colors: Blue is the first part of Kieslowski's trilogy on France's national motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Blue is the story of Julie who loses her husband, an acclaimed European composer, and her young daughter in a car accident. The film's theme of liberty is manifested in Julie's attempt to start a new life free of personal commitments, belongings, grief, and love. She intends to spiritually commit suicide by withdrawing from the world and live completely independently, anonymously and in solitude in the Parisian metropolis. Despite her intentions, people from her former and present life intrude with their own needs. However...”
– Alliance Française description
In Blue, you will be struck by the powerful performance of Juliette Binoche in what is basically a solo performance. It has been said that her face shows clearly what she is thinking all the time. Well, not all the time for me. Most of the time, yes, but at a couple of key points I was suddenly at a complete loss as to what was going on in her mind, and it was a puzzle that I needed to figure out.
Kieslowski obviously wants to key these three films and their themes in some way to the French flag and the French motto of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity: blue, white, and red are continually referred to in the film, as well as in the titles. At one point in the first film, we see the protagonist Julie carrying a box which, as a close-up shows, has prominently written across it the word "blanco", Spanish for white; in the next shot we are looking at her from behind, and she pauses in the street as a man in blue passes her on her left and a woman in red passes her on her right. This is a not-so-subtle reference to the structure of the Three Colors trilogy - blue, white, red, in that order, mirroring the French flag.
And then again, During one swimming scene in the blue pool, children in red and white bathing suits run out and jump in the water -- another reference to the trilogy (blue, white, and red).
And in the first film, Blue, there is blue all over the place; in addition to blue filters and blue lighting, any number of prominent objects are blue - a foil balloon, a tinted window, awnings, a folder, the walls of a room, coats, skirts, scarves, blouses, jeans, shirts, trash bags, crystals, a lollypop and its wrapper, binders, graffiti, a pool, a van, and a pen.
Blue, supposedly standing for Liberty. Does this help? Well, for sure, it can get you thinking, trying to make connections. You could say that this woman is on a campaign to be completely independent (at liberty, I suppose) with nothing to tie her down, and no alliances which might become entangling. She says at one point, “Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don't want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”
Is this a cautionary tale? Liberty being taken to a ridiculous extreme? What precisely is the film trying to say? If one takes this as being an example of “liberty” then what about it’s unity with another part of the flag, the red, “fraternity” (or “brotherhood”)? This woman is about as opposite to “fraternal” as you can get! In fact, she’s basically an extremely unsympathetic and unpalatable character, cold, and selfish.
So the blue, white, and red of the French flag, and Liberté, égalité, fraternité, may seem like a help, our window to a grand scheme, but is it really? I rather think it only seems to be a help, on first glance, but really isn’t. If it’s purpose is just to get you to think about it, it certainly succeeds. Maybe something along the line of, “You can’t have all three!” Not at the same time.
Juliette Binoche, in what amounts to a one-woman show, turns in a mesmerizing and accomplished performance. She manages to bring an element of humanity and sympathy to a basically unsympathetic character – there is little in Julie, as written, for the audience to latch onto, but Ms. Binoche provides the emotional link to the story.
Blue is a powerful motion picture - both in terms of its dramatic impact and in its method of presentation, and it is an adventure to be prized highly.
At Film Space on December 13, 7 pm: 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 Française 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 the film’s female star 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.
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.
Doug Cummings, Senses of Cinema: White is a return to the dark humor and irony reminiscent of Decalogue: Ten with its story of Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), an impotent Polish man whose French wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), divorces him. This sets in motion Karol's elaborate plot to regain equality in their relationship, though the scheme he hatches verges on revenge and thus ensures a tragic combination of love and separation. (Quoting a Polish proverb, Kieslowski remarked, “There are those who are equal and those who are more equal,” suggesting equality is a fleeting and imperfect ideal.) However, the film suffers in comparison to Blue and Red—the cool machinations of its protagonist (as well as its storytelling) often seem manipulative and superficial, but Kieslowski's pessimistic wit shines throughout.
Cinemathequeontario: “A continuing testament to the Polish director’s poetic mastery. . . . articulates a whole language of sensations, images, ironies, and mystery” (Desson Howe, The Washington Post). In this somewhat anomalous second film in the Trois Couleurs trilogy, an impotent, penniless hairdresser claws his way back to the top after rejection by his wife (Julie Delpy) leaves him shattered. Blanc shies away from the explicit treatment of existential themes found in Rouge, and the introductory collapse of its whimsically pathetic protagonist is a far cry from Bleu’s majestically grieving Binoche. But with oddly compelling, sometimes comical verve, Blanc offers a haunting tale of love and possession in which the hairdresser’s elaborately planned vengeance is depicted as an ambiguous triumph. Winner of the Silver Bear at the 1994 Berlin film festival.