Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bleu. Blanc. Rouge.

I watched this French trilogy for the first time almost 4 years ago, and since then I consider it to be one of my favorite works. I watched the first movie again today, and I found myself following it with the second and third movies in one sitting. The titles of the movies are based on the colors of the French flag, Blue, White, and Red, to represent the French revolution motto: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity (liberté, égalité, fraternité). The common thing among the 3 movies is that they revolve around characters who are trying to deal with their personal losses and tragedies. The movies are directed and co-written by the talented Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Decalogue; The Double Life of Veronique).


This one is starring the beautiful actress Juliette Binoche. The movie starts with a car accident, in which Julie (Juliette Binoche) loses her husband - a celebrated European composer - and her daughter. Due to her major loss, she starts to isolate herself from her life commitments, surroundings, and personal belongings, and even from love, believing that this total withdrawal from life would heal her heart and make her live peacefully and liberate her from the past. A line in the movie that perfectly expresses her state at that time: "I want no belongings, no memories, no friends, no love. Those are all traps." However, as her life progresses, her attitude starts to shift. Only through those people from her past and present life who care about her reaching out to her, facing her husband's past, completing the composition that he left and around which the movie and soundtrack revolve ("Song for the Unification of Europe"), and welcoming love again in her life, she could actually recover her life again. Only be exposing herself to her past memories and current obligations can she redeem herself.


The sweet looking French actress Julie Delby (Before Sunrie; Before Sunset) is starring in this drama-with-a-tang-of-black-sarcastic-comedy, along with the Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski. The story starts with a hearing in the courtroom that Dominique (Julie Delby) resorted to in order to get divorced from her Polish husband Karol on grounds of his sexual impotence. During the hearing, and afterwards, Karol was severely humiliated. He even became a metro beggar. However, he still loved Dominique. He decided to get back to Poland and start a new life there. Since his passport was lost, the only way to get back is to get himself into his friend's bag! The powerful and satirical scene of the bag on the airport conveyor adds to Karol's humiliation. After he went back and after he built his life anew in Warsaw and got wealthy as well, he started to think of a way to get even with his ex-wife (thus, Equality) and revenge his humiliation. Ironically, capitalist post-Communism Poland allows Karol to regain his dignity and potency!


Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a young model who's living on her own in Geneva, while her boyfriend is staying in London. Their regular phone calls show how jealous and obsessive he is. One night, while Valentine is driving her car, she ran over a dog. She examined the dog and through a tag around its neck, she identified to whom it belongs to. Later on, she goes to the dog's owner in order to return it, and she gets to meet a retired judge who withdrew from life and whose favorite pastime is to eavesdrop on his neighbors' phone calls. As she gets to know this man and through their long conversations, she discovers a lot of astonishing links between his past and her destiny. Although she strikes up an accidental bonding friendship with the retired judge (Fraternity), their relationship could also be seen as a non-declared passing platonic love relationship, despite the big age difference and all their differences. A very witty and intriguing story, and considered by many to be the masterpiece of the trilogy!

Trivia & Observations

While the afore-mentioned principles are the basis of the French revolution, we find that two of the movies are not even shot in France (Blanc mostly shot in Warsaw, and Rouge in Geneva). It goes even further than this as most of the dialog in Blanc is Polish. This could give and emphasize a sense of universality of those principles. Furthermore, the three stories show the need for human touches and for connecting and interacting with the surrounding people in our lives.

There are some common scenes and crossover shots among the three movies. For instance, in Bleu, when Julie goes to the court to look for her dead husband's mistress, she tries to get into the courtroom, but she couldn't. But when she opens the door for a second, we hear a man defending himself. In Blanc, it turned out that this man who was defending himself in the court is no one but Karol, Dominique's wife. The two stories crossed paths at this incident.

Also, in Rouge, there are seven people who survived a sinking boat, among them are the six main characters of the trilogy. So they're sharing a common destiny, which could imply the saving and progress of humankind through following the principles mentioned earlier. This scene comes a few minutes after another scene in which the judge's dog had seven newborn puppies.

Another scene that appeared a few times in all the movies is for an old crooked woman who can barely walk, reaching a garbage bin to throw an old bottle, which could signify people who try to get rid of their past tragedies. In Bleu, Julie didn't see her as she was daydreaming while sitting in a park. In Blanc, Karol saw the old woman, but he smiled at her cruelly. But only in Rouge that Valentine goes to the old woman to help her throw the bottle, emphasizing the principle of fraternity. The ending of the the three movies is also common, in which the main characters are crying and having tears running on their faces.

The soundtracks of the movies are so intriguing. While in Bleu the music is composed with an orchestratic flavor since the main character is a musician and a widow of an applauded composer, in Blanc there's a Tango theme, and a Bulero theme in Rouge. While the Tango dance is based on the male leading the female, this could be decrypted by the finale of Blanc where Karol has finally had his revenge over Dominique and he's now leading a free life, while his ex-wife is arrested.

While each of these movies can be seen on its own without the others and without feeling there's something missing, seeing them all together forms a beautiful image that is considered an artistic masterpiece in the European cinema through its history.

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Blogger DoDo said...

u should consider working as a critic in ur spare time :)

Your highly comprehensive review succeeded in engaging me in the middle of the scences... it made me feel the pain of the characters, share their joy, and justify their tears...
Moreover, the mapping of general ethics and human bonds to the events of the three movies is quite peculiar... rarely that one can find movies with such depth & intricate details.. ( I liked the "red" part of the trilogy the most... sounds very intense)

btw, the trilogy ranks 17 in the Arts & Faith Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films ...

so2al ba2a :) where can i get the "Red" movie? (other than using peer-to-peer agents)

9:24 AM

Blogger Khaled said...

I didn't know there is a ranking for spiritual movies! I just had a look at it after I read your comment.. and it does indeed include some really great movies. Ironically #7 (The Decalogue) is also directed by Kieslowski. Also #39 (Big Kahuna) starring my favorite Keven Spacey is a very well-done movie that is mostly shot in a hotel room. As for #78 (Waking Life) is a cartoon masterpiece that discusses very serious issues in a very attractive and dreamy-like ambience.

I got this movie through a peer-to-peer agent, but it wasn't easy as the movie is not common.. so it's your only way out.. ma3lish :)

9:30 PM

Blogger سامية said...

I really enjoyed that review ya Khaled!

You know what? I still haven't seen the last two! I remember after watching Blue, that I was so overwhelmed to the extent that I felt I needed to isolate myself from it for a while. It was so "full" and intense... like having an amazingly deliscious, fullfilling, enriching yet quite heavy meal. So that's why I couldn't watch the other two right after , but then for some reason, I never did. Now you've certainly encouraged me to go for it.

And we should "make" time for our movie nights ya Khaled! It's been so long and we have so many good movies which we still need to watch :))

1:43 PM

Blogger Neveen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:15 PM

Blogger ensana said...

Thank you for sharing it with us:)

4:18 PM

Blogger Khaled said...

Samia: being the procrastinator that I am, I had to watch the 3 movies in one sitting so that I don't get lazy in watching the rest of them and hence lose the line attaching them all together. Indeed they're very intense and full of material to ponder..

And yes, we have to make time for our movie nights. I really miss those nights.. and leave the basbousa and 3osmanleya to me ;)

4:43 PM

Blogger Khaled said...

ensana: thanks for your comments :) I just checked your blog, and your email address looks so familiar to me. I believe we exchanged a few emails a while ago..

4:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very impressive, but three successive movies in one night is too much I guess. Very impressive, but three successive movies in one night is too much I guess.

6:51 PM


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