Friday, December 5, 2008

Ong-Bak 2 Update

Ong-Bak opens today! Schedules change!

Chiang Mai movies update, Friday, December 5

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: Traitor. Twilight. Ong-Bak 2.

Ong-Bak 2 opens today (December 5) in a blitz of showings. Every half hour or so.

Please see the revised list of movie times for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew beginning today.

Thanks to Vista for rescuing the excellent Traitor. It’s left the Major Cineplex lineup, but has been picked up by Vista for a resurrected life. Do see it while you can.

Opening today, Friday, December 5

Ong-Bak 2 / องค์บาก 2: Thai Action/ Adventure – 100 mins – Expectations are high that this second Ong-Bak film will be very good entertainment indeed. The original was one of the better Thai action films of recent years, truly exciting, and I enjoyed watching Tony Jaa do his outrageous stunts.

Here is the official synopsis: “Set in the regal times of King Naresuan, Tony Jaa plays Tien, a man who was born into nobility but had it stripped from him after his parents were brutally murdered. During his childhood Tien learned Khon, a form of dance which is usually reserved for royalty. Although he didn't know it yet, Khon would later prove to be an invaluable aide to him. After seeing his parents murdered when he was at the tender age of 10, Tien is forced to live on the streets where he is eventually captured by a group of thieves who take him in and teach him how to steal and fight. Tien’s expertise as a thief and fighter grows, and it isn't long before he is made head thief. Then Tien sees something that makes his stomach churn. A competition is being held to find the best knights to serve under the very man who had killed Tien's parents all those years ago. Tien passes the tests easily and is made Lord Rachasana's 2nd Knight. Now, he has his opportunity to strike but he will have to use all his skill and ingenuity if he is going to get his revenge on the man who killed his parents, and stay alive.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's On starting December 4

Ong-Bak tomorrow, Chihuahua tonight!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 4

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: Traitor. Son of Rambow. Twilight. Ong-Bak 2.

Note: Ong-Bak 2 opens tomorrow (December 5), a holiday.

Here is my list of movies for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew for today, Thursday, December 4, 2008, only. Ong-Bak 2 starts tomorrow, Friday, December 5, and schedules will be adjusted. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks. And we have the complete schedule for the European Union Film Festival starting next week at Vista in Kadsuankaew (December 12 to 21).

This is Issue Number 6 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!

Thanks to Major Cineplex for bringing us the excellent Traitor. This will probably be its last day, so see it while you can. I am very disappointed that Major Cineplex still has not brought in the fascinating Burn After Reading which they had promised, with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich (the whole team of serious anti-government, anti-CIA rabble-rousers) in another expose of dirty dealing and incompetence in high places. And although they’re showing Teeth in several locations, they have decided against bringing this tale of the vagina dentata myth to Chiang Mai, at least for now. And shame to them for once again bringing in an interesting foreign film with no English subtitles and only awful Thai dubbing, this one being the very complex and expensive Japanese film Twentieth Century Boys. Many thanks to Vista for again bringing in a delightful but offbeat film, the quite wild film about childhood, Son of Rambow.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy/ Adventure/ Family – 91 mins – With the voices of Drew Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eugenio Derbez, Andy Garcia, Cheech Marin, Plácido Domingo, George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Luis Guzmán, and Salma Hayek. Almost every Spanish-accented voice in Hollywood! In this Disney comedy, a pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore) finds herself accidentally lost in the mean streets of Mexico without a day spa or Rodeo Drive boutique anywhere in sight. Now alone for the first time in her spoiled life, she must rely on some unexpected new friends – including a street-hardened German Shepherd named Delgado (voice of Andy Garcia) and an amorous pup named Papi (voice of George Lopez) – to lend her a paw and help her to find her inner strength on their incredible journey back home. “Alpo served with a burrito chaser,” as one reviewer put it. It’s a pretty ordinary talking animal picture. Critical reaction seems to be very mixed, with people either loving it or hating it. Overall, it comes out as mixed or average reviews: 41/50 out of 100.

You must know fairly well at this stage of the game whether or not you enjoy talking animal pictures, and if your child does. I found it amusing with parts quite a lot of fun. It is well done of its kind, so if this is your cup of tea, you should enjoy it well enough.

To clear up a possible misunderstanding, note that this is not an animated movie – it uses real animals, and the actors are the voices of the animals, apart from the small assortment of humans, like Jamie Lee Curtis, who is playing the lost dog's owner, and Piper Perabo, who is playing her niece.

Opening tomorrow, Friday, December 5

* Ong-Bak 2: Thai Action/ Adventure – 100 mins – Expectations are high that this second Ong-Bak film will be very good entertainment indeed. The original was one of the better Thai action films of recent years, truly exciting, and I enjoyed watching Tony Jaa do his outrageous stunts.

Here is the official synopsis: “Set in the regal times of King Naresuan, Tony Jaa plays Tien, a man who was born into nobility but had it stripped from him after his parents were brutally murdered. During his childhood Tien learned Khon, a form of dance which is usually reserved for royalty. Although he didn't know it yet, Khon would later prove to be an invaluable aide to him. After seeing his parents murdered when he was at the tender age of 10, Tien is forced to live on the streets where he is eventually captured by a group of thieves who take him in and teach him how to steal and fight. Tien’s expertise as a thief and fighter grows, and it isn't long before he is made head thief. Then Tien sees something that makes his stomach churn. A competition is being held to find the best knights to serve under the very man who had killed Tien's parents all those years ago. Tien passes the tests easily and is made Lord Rachasana's 2nd Knight. Now, he has his opportunity to strike but he will have to use all his skill and ingenuity if he is going to get his revenge on the man who killed his parents, and stay alive.”

Now playing

Twilight: US Vampire love – 121 mins – Yes, it was a phenomenon, the opening weekend of Twilight – somewhat akin to the Beatles frenzy, at least for heartthrob Robert Pattinson, who is a handsome, smouldering devil as the vampire. Here in Chiang Mai there were squeals from a few patrons at the first appearance of Pattinson on screen when I saw it, but apparently nothing like the near hysteria that greeted his visage in every new shot in American moviehouses and where girls were getting injured in the mass near-rioting whereever Pattinson had a personal appearance.

It’s quite well done overall, and I rather enjoyed it. In the story of Twilight, you have your against-the-odds teen love, your woman in peril, your vampires, and your cult following. Mixed or average reviews: 56/53 out of 100. Vista has a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles. Airport Plaza has it in the original English, with Thai subtitles.

During it’s opening weekend in North American the film sold an estimated $70.6 million in tickets to a huge young-adult audience, 75% female. And of course it was #1 in Thailand. But this last weekend, including Thanskgiving, interest in Twilight fell precipitously. Which figures: movies with excited fan bases or that are part of the vampire sub-genre burn through much of their demand in their first weeks, as was the case here, leading to one of the steepest Thanksgiving drops ever.

Nevertheless, It's about to top Van Helsing as the highest-grossing vampire movie on record, though, adjusted for ticket price inflation, it still has a long way to go to catch Interview with the Vampire, which has a final gross that would equal nearly $180 million today. Portending Twilight's fate, Interview itself suffered an enormous fall for 1994, plunging 52 percent in its second weekend.

Based on the first in Stephenie Meyer’s hugely popular series of vampire romance novels, the movie created a frenzy among teenage girls, with more than 1,000 screenings across the country selling out days in advance. Twilight comes to movie theaters with a long and profitable back story in print: four novels and 17 million copies sold. Written by Stephenie Meyer, a first-time author who’s now 34, the series originated with a dream she had about a young woman and her love for a vampire, who returns her love while managing to avoid his urge to bite her.

The books that followed take place in cloudy Forks, Washington, where the Cullens, a group of sun-shirking vampires, live among humans but do not prey on them, drinking animal blood instead. Bella Swan, a shy, bookish young woman, is drawn to one of them, Edward, even after she comes to understand the danger. A proffered apple on hands of pale flesh, on the cover of the first book, suggests the chaste urgency of their love, and Edward becomes Bella’s protector after another, less well behaved vampire, James, takes aim at her tender neck.

Plans have now been announced to begin production of New Moon, an adaptation of the second novel in the series.

Who is Robert Pattinson?

More than once touted as the next Jude Law, actor/model/musician Robert Thomas-Pattinson was born in London, England on May 13, 1986. The 6’ 1″ actor enjoys music, playing both the piano and guitar, as well as composing. Pattinson began his acting career as a teen with the Barnes Theatre Company, appearing in Tess of the D’Urbervilles before moving on to work in films, including the television movie “Ring of the Nibelungs” and the feature Vanity Fair. In 2005 Pattinson played Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter adaptation, The Goblet of Fire. He has the lead role in the forthcoming feature film Little Ashes, in which he plays Salvador Dalí. This 2009 film may disquiet Pattinson's devout female fanbase, as it depicts a love affair between Dalí and Federico García Lorca.

Who is Edward Cullen, and who are the other Cullens, and where did they come from? And what’s the big deal about them?

Picture: Rosalie Hale, Jasper Hale, Alice Cullen, Edward Cullen, and Emmett Cullen.

Edward Cullen is the fictional character in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” book series. Edward was born on June 20, 1901, in Chicago as Edward Anthony Masen. He had contracted the Spanish influenza in 1918, where he lay dying in the hospital, when he was changed into a vampire by Dr. Carlisle Cullen in order to save him from death. Carlisle brought up Edward as his own son, instilling in him the notion that humans are not a food source, instead relying on animal blood to survive. Over the course of the next several decades, Edward acquired an adoptive mother, Esmee, and four siblings, Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper. The Cullens had always wrestled with their cravings for human blood but Edward’s control is tested to the maximum when teenager Bella Swan moves to town. Edward’s penchant for being intuitive materialized into an ability to read minds upon being turned into a vampire. The only exception to his mind reading is Bella Swan, though the cause for this is unknown. He stays away from strong sunlight because his skin would give him away: in the sun, his skin sparkles. Edward is 17 years old – and has been for about 90 years now.

A timeline of the Cullens and their ancestors can be found at which traces the events in the life of the clan forward to 2006 and backwards to the birth of Dr. Carlisle Cullen in London, England, in 1640. And even further back to 300 when Stefan and Valdimir form a coven in Romania. It’s a complex story, in three volumes so far and more to come.

Traitor: US Drama/Thriller – 114 mins – With Don Cheadle. Probably its last day here. See it while you can. Another serious look at the world of moral uncertainty amid the war on terror. I am a lot more fond of this movie than most reviewers. I think Don Cheadle gives another outstanding performance in this film – really a great person to watch. And I found the story (by Steve Martin – yes, him) very engrossing.

James Berardinelli, Reel Views: Traitor is an uncommonly intelligent espionage thriller that explores the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by agents who go deep undercover in the service of their country. For movies that revolve around terrorist organizations and acts, there are typically two approaches: a gung-ho, "John Wayne" style and a story that seeks to humanize the terrorists. Traitor takes a different, less straightforward trajectory that exhibits the complex motivations of the terrorists as well as those who oppose them without resorting to caricatures on either side. The film's villains are not cookie-cutter bad guys and the FBI agents are neither bumbling nor infallible. Caught in the middle of everything is a man trying to save innocent lives but whose actions end up taking them as well.

. . . As a thriller for adults who don't require manic chases, frenetic shoot-outs, and ten cuts per second, Traitor is smart, effective, and at times suspenseful. It's one of a very few terrorist-themed movies that presents its situation without resorting to exploitation or oversimplification.

The story: Straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, and all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Cheadle). A mysterious figure with a web of connections to terrorist organizations, Horn has a knack for emerging on the scene just as a major operation goes down. The inter-agency task force looking into the case links Horn to a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice, and a raid in London, but a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his quarry is a disaffected former military operative – or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue. Mixed or average reviews: 60/60 out of 100. I suggest you go. At Airport Plaza only.

Twentieth Century Boys: Japan Fantasy – 142 mins – In a Thai-dubbed version only, and that is a real shame, as the plot is confusing enough and the number of characters staggering without this added hurdle to understanding. A live-action film based on a very popular science fiction mystery manga created, written, and drawn by Naoki Urasawa. The main character is Kenji, who once aimed to be a rock star but now works at a convenience store. He stumbles upon a cult behind a series of mysterious incidents that have bizarre similarities to a book that Kenji himself wrote as a child. The long series of manga seems to have been inspired in parts of the story by the works of Stephen King, and I find many allusions to “It” and “The Stand.” However, the story draws allusions mostly from rock and roll, with its title based on T. Rex’s famous song, “20th Century Boy.”

The movie has a star-studded Japanese cast. This is the first part of a trilogy, and at the end there’s a preview of the second part. At Airport Plaza only.

Son of Rambow: France/ UK/ Germany Comedy/ Drama/ Family – 96 mins – Delightful! A real charmer! And there were only four people in the theater when I saw it. What a shame! In English and a little bit of French with Thai subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 66/68 out of 100.

Son of Rambow provides a nostalgic look at the comradery, the coming of age, the bittersweet vulnerability, and the fantastic humor of childhood. The films two boys have, along with writer-director Garth Jennings, turned a coming-of-age story into a treatise on both the fragility of artistic vision and the danger of popular opinion.

Film Threat: Director/screenwriter Garth Jennings delivers a nostalgic ode to childhood that reminds us of what it’s like to be a kid. It’s charming and touching, and the best part is, it manages to be so without saccharine sweetness.

As part of a Plymouth Brethren family, young William Proudfoot is supposed to keep away from the corrupting influence of others, which makes for a lonely existence at school. While the rest of the kids are doing “normal” things—like listening to rock music and watching television—Will creates a vivid fantasy world for himself. He is alone in this world until he gets mixed up with the school bully, Lee Carter. Will inadvertently sees a copy of Rambo: First Blood at Carter’s house, and the odd relationship between the two boys quickly turns into friendship when they decide to film their own home movie version. The stunts that the two boys enact are achieved with the imperviousness and dumb luck that only kids possess. However, when other students—especially a popular foreign exchange student—get involved, the integrity of the secret project is corrupted.

Will (Bill Milner) and Carter (Will Poulter) are like a contemporary Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as they traipse around the idyllic woods on adventures fueled by imagination. Will’s eventual seduction by the cool kids signals an end of their innocence, but even this is played in a light-hearted way. In a nod to the film industry, the school is represented as a microcosm of Hollywood--groupies are schoolgirls, and alcohol and drugs are Coca-cola and Pop Rocks.

Milner does a great job as lead, but it is Poulter who steals the show, bringing a range of emotion to his role as incorrigible troublemaker. The movie captures a time gone by and extols the importance of lasting friendship, but it is shrewd enough to temper the sentimentality with a sense of humor. Son of Rambow is this year’s diamond in the rough, a small movie that is big in heart.

Headless Family / Hua Luud Family / หัวหลุดแฟมิลี่: Thai Comedy – 89 mins – The usual, this time about a family that has a freak accident that leaves them able to detach their heads without ill effects.

The House Bunny: US Comedy – 97 mins – About an ex-Playboy Bunny. Okay, I’ve seen this now, much to my everlasting shame. I can confirm that it is unbelievably insulting, not only to women, despite it’s being written by women with a lot of women involved in its production, but also insulting to humanity in general. I suppose somewhere there is someone who likes this dumb blonde movie, but he deserves our fervent prayers. Mixed or average reviews: 55/52 out of 100.

007 – Quantum of Solace: UK/US Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – 106 mins – Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond and Judy Dench as M. A continuation of the 2006 Casino Royale, which was a reinvention of the James Bond film series for present-day audiences. Here, with a different director, I found the undertaking greatly diminished in charm and style and elegance, with the action sequences more mindless and muddled, and the plot vastly more convoluted and confusing. But there’s much to still like if you’re a fan of Bond films. Box office reports make it clear that Quantum, now in its fourth week, has not been displaying the staying power of Casino Royale. Mixed or average reviews: 58/55 out of 100.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, December 11

The Day The Earth Stood Still: US Sci-Fi/ Adventure – 103 mins – Keanu Reeves plays Klaatu, a mysterious alien who travels to Earth with a simple mission: to save the planet. He lands his vast space ship in Central Park, New York, and announces his plans to a fearful world watching from all corners of the globe. He will destroy everything then re-populate our planet with clones of the current species. All, that is, except humans who he feels are responsible for Earth's destruction and must be permanently destroyed. He unleashes swarms of dust size robots who sweep through New York and the surrounding area dissolving everything in their path. As mankind fights to survive, one female scientist convinces Klaatu to stop the earth’s destruction and give us a second chance.

Funny Games: [possibly] US Thriller/ Horror – 107 mins – This is scheduled for Thailand, but I am not sure how wide a distribution it will get. It is one of the more disturbing films of recent years, by the somewhat sadistic but quite serious film director Michael Haneke. It is, in fact, an English-language reshoot of one of his most famous films, the 1997 film of the same name, Funny Games, shot in German, French, and Italian, which a friend of mine saw and found so disturbing that it made him vow to never again see a film by this director. My friend claims that his films induce the viewer into complicity in the horrendous acts depicted in the story, making one feel very guilty and uncomfortable indeed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, December 5: No film shown. Holiday!

At Alliance Française on Friday, December 12: Les Brigades du Tigre / The Tiger Brigades (2006) by Jérôme Cornuau – 125 mins – France, Action/ Adventure. English subtitles.

With Clovis Cornillac, Diane Kruger, Edouard Baer, Jacques Gamblin, Thierry Frémont, Léa Drucker, Aleksandr Medvedev, Gérard Jugnot.

In 1907, an unprecedented crime wave strikes Belle Epoque France. To counter the criminals of the new-born century, the Interior Minister, George Clemenceau, nicknamed "the Tiger,” creates modern special police force called "les Brigades Mobiles.” The French call them "les Brigades du Tigre.”

Alliance description

The film, set in 1912, is about the exploits of France's first motorized police brigade. IMDb viewer: a lavish and rather enjoyable French movie spin off of a much-loved TV series, a sort of “Les Untouchables” about an elite quartet of crime fighters taking on Russian anarchists, crooked politicians and embezzlers in 1912 in the run-up to the signing of the Triple Entente between Russia, France and Britain that would make the First World War an inevitability. The film suffers from the lack of a memorable Al Capone-like opponent and there are no shootouts at train stations (though it does all revolve around a coded ledger) but there is a particularly good one at a farmhouse that draws a crowd of approving visiting aristocrats to watch as if it were a grouse shoot and a rather spectacular assassination at a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's “Ivan the Terrible”. But rather than a straight-out gangster movie, this is a period conspiracy thriller that naturally takes a slightly leftist leaning despite the heroes being the mobile brigades who tended to lean more to the right, and there is a sense of the film trying to have its moral cake and eat it at times with the characters' divided political sympathies occasionally seeming more like demographic-appeasing on behalf of the producers: Clovis Cornillac's cop even delivers a speech about what standup guys anarchists are just to reassure the modern target audience in the banlieues that these cochons are cool anti-establishment types.

At Alliance Française on Friday, December 19: Diva (1981) by Jean-Jacques Beineix – 117 mins – France, Action/ Drama/ Mystery/ Romance/ Thriller/ Music. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.

With Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, Frédéric Andréi, Richard Bohringer, Thuy An Luu.

Jules is a postman who’s mad about Opera. His is crazy about Cynthia Hawkins, a Diva who refuses to have any album of her own; so he tries to record her voice illegally but he is in trouble with pirate disc dealers…

Alliance description

Variety: Diva is an extraordinary thriller and first film from Jean-Jacques Beineix, complex, stylish and fast-moving.

The story [from the novel by Delacorta] involves a young mail courier (Frederic Andrei) with a passion for opera. His idol, Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez), has made a career of avoiding the recording studio but the industrious young man manages to covertly make a high-quality tape of her Paris performance. At the same time, a prostitute hides a cassette recording she's made in his delivery motorcycle putting the finger on a drug kingpin before she's killed.

His only ally is a mysterious, shadowy character, Gorodish (Richard Bohringer), who lives with a Vietnamese nymphet (Thuy An Luu). Character has been popularized in a series of French novels and provides an element of fun to the picture, popping up to help the hero throughout the story.

The director dots the tale with bizarre types who continually cross each other's paths and wind up doing more harm to each other than to the young postman. The novel touches, bizarre chases and plot twists, breathtaking camerawork by Philippe Rousselot and tension-filled editing, make Diva a superior piece of entertainment.

Roger Ebert: Here is an exhilarating film made for no better purpose than to surprise and fascinate. … The plot is both preposterous and delightful, put together out of elements that seem chosen for their audacity.

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is now beginning its “A Month of Krzysztof Kieslowski” featuring the Three Colors Trilogy, films of which I am very fond, 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 December 6, 7 pm: Trois Couleurs: Bleu / Three Colors: Blue (1993) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 100 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.

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. Generally favorable reviews: 77 out of 100.

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.

Saturday, December 20: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.

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 Française description

James Berardinelli, Reel Views: "Blue, liberty; White, equality; Red, fraternity... We looked very closely at these three ideas, how they functioned in everyday life, but from an individual's point of view. These ideals are contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically, you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty, equality, fraternity?"

- Writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski

Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three.

This time around, the protagonists are a young woman named Valentine (Irene Jacob, who starred in Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique) and a crotchety retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Valentine, a fashion model, meets the judge after running down his dog in the street and taking the injured animal to the address listed on the collar. Kern is initially indifferent to his pet's predicament, telling Valentine to keep the dog if that's what she wants. She does; however, the animal eventually runs away and finds its way back to the judge's. When Valentine goes searching, she inadvertently learns Kern's secret - he enjoys spying on people by illegally tapping into their phone conversations. Told in parallel with the chronicle of the unusual friendship between Valentine and the judge is the story of two lovers that Kern spies upon. Auguste and Karin seem devoted to each other, but fate has already cast its die against them. For Auguste's life is eerily similar to that of Kern thirty years ago and, like the older man, he is drawn by forces beyond his control towards Valentine.

Thematically, Red is the strongest of the three films. Its construction allows hardly a moment to pass when the viewer isn't considering how fate manipulates the lives of Valentine, Auguste, Kern, and Karin - not to mention the characters from Blue and White (reprised oh-so-briefly by Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Zbigniew Zamachowski, and Julie Delpy). Then there's the meaning of platonic love (or "fraternity") - friendship completely divorced from sexual overtones. Kieslowski shows exactly how multi-faceted any relationship can be, and what occasionally must be sacrificed to the basic human need of finding a kindred spirit.

Red also toys with foreshadowing in a very literal sense. A shot of Valentine used for a billboard ad presages something that later happens to her in real life. It is this moment, more than any other, which crystallizes everything that the Three Colors trilogy is attempting to convey about life and destiny. While Red lacks the emotional depth of Blue and the dark humor of White, it more than makes up for these with its textual and stylistic richness. The red-saturated visuals by Polish cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski are crisp and consistently atmospheric, and the score by Zbigniew Preisner is at full power (after being shunted into the background in White).

The performances are without flaw. Irene Jacob is mesmerizing as Valentine, a woman unknowingly trapped in fate's web. As is true of the other female leads in the Three Colors trilogy, her acting ability matches her screen luminance. Jean-Louis Trintignant presents a multi-layered character whose final secrets are not revealed until late in the film.

Red virtually demands more than one viewing for an appreciation of the picture's ambitious scope. Repeated examination of Red's narrative and thematic structure makes it apparent what Kieslowski has accomplished not only here, but through his entire trilogy. This is one of 1994's exceptional motion pictures.

Roger Ebert: One of the opening images in Red is of telephone lines, crossing. It is the same in life. We are connected with some people and never meet others, but it could easily have happened otherwise.

Looking back over a lifetime, we describe what happened as if it had a plan. To fully understand how accidental and random life is - how vast the odds are against any single event taking place - would be humbling.

That is the truth that Kieslowski keeps returning to in his work. In The Double Life of Veronique, there is even a moment when, if the heroine had looked out of a bus window, she might have seen herself on the street; it's as if fate allowed her to continue on one lifeline after choosing another. In Red, none of the major characters knows each other at the beginning of the movie, and there is no reason they should meet. Exactly.

The film opens in Geneva, in an apartment occupied by a model named Valentine (Irene Jacob). She makes a telephone call, and the phone rings at the same time in an apartment just across the street, occupied by Auguste, a law student. But she is not calling him. Her call is to her boyfriend, who is in England, and whom she rarely sees. As far as we know, Valentine and Auguste have never met. And may never meet. Or perhaps they will.

One day Valentine's car strikes a dog, and she takes it to the home of its owner, a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant). He hardly seems to care for the dog, or for her. He spends his days in an elaborate spying scheme, using wiretaps to monitor an affair being carried on by a neighbor. There is an instant spark that strikes between the old man and the young woman - a contact, a recognition of similarity, or sympathy - but they are 40 years apart in age, strangers to one another, and have met by accident, and . . .

The story becomes completely fascinating. We have no idea where it is going, where it could possibly go. There is no plot to reassure us. No goal that the characters hope to attain. Will the young woman and the judge ever meet again? What will come of that? Does it matter? Would it be good, or bad? Such questions, in Red, become infinitely more interesting than the questions in simple-minded commercial movies, about whether the hero will kill the bad guys, and drive his car fast, and blow things up, or whether his girlfriend will take off her clothes.

Seeing a movie like Red, we are reminded that watching many commercial films is the cinematic equivalent of reading Dick and Jane. The mysteries of everyday life are so much deeper and more exciting than the contrivances of plots.

We learn something about Auguste, the law student who lives across the way. He has a girlfriend named Karin. She specializes in "personal weather reports" for her clients, which sounds reasonable, like having a personal trainer or astrologer, until we reflect that the weather is more or less the same for everybody. But perhaps her clients live in such tight boxes of their own construction that each one has different weather.

Valentine talks to her boyfriend. They are rarely together. He is someone on the phone. Perhaps she "stays" with him to save herself the trouble of a lover whose life she would actually share.

She goes back out to the house of the old judge, and talks to him some more. We learn more about the lives he is eavesdropping on. There are melodramatic developments, but no one seems to feel strongly about them.

And Valentine and Auguste. What a good couple they would make! Perhaps. If they ever meet. And if, in the endless reaches of cosmic time, there had been the smallest shift in the lifetimes of Valentine and the Judge, they could have been the same age. Or another infinitesimal shift, and they would have lived a century apart. Or never lived at all. Or if the dog had wandered somewhere else, Valentine would not have struck him, and met the judge. Or if the judge had had a cat . . .

Think about these things, reader. Don't sigh and turn the page. Think that I have written them and you have read them, and the odds against either of us ever having existed are greater by far than one to all of the atoms in creation.

Red is the conclusion of Kieslowski's masterful trilogy, after Blue and White, named for the colors in the French flag. He says he will retire now, at 53, and make no more films. At the end of Red, the major characters from all three films meet - through a coincidence, naturally. This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you're watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be.

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 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 [hits] 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.