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THREE COLORS: WHITE, 1994
Movie Review

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THREE COLORS: WHITE MOVIE POSTER
THREE COLORS: WHITE, 1994
Movie Reviews

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr
Review by Joshua Starnes



SYNOPSIS:

Second of a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society shows a man dealing with a Polish immigrant whose wife wants to divorce him because he can't perform in bed.

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REVIEW:

Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a little man, but that's not his problem. Well, not entirely.

His problem is that he lives in a world he doesn't really fit into, specifically France, with a wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), who he can't match as a husband or business partner. Some of it is his fault, but some of it is just the way he was made.

And that's really the point, as director Kieslowski's second "Three Colors" film investigates the Egalité in the French national motto. After all, what would Equality mean without a little unfairness?

It all starts with the court room Julie (Juliette Binoche) accidentally stumbled into in "Trois couleurs: bleu." But if there's one thing the "Three Colors" trilogy tells us, it's that there are no accidents. Everything (or more accurately, everyone) is connected.

Poor Karol is there undergoing possibly the most emasculating divorce proceeding imaginable, as his wife prepares to leave him because of his inability to fulfill his conjugal duty. And from that failure springs the end of Karol's life. While each of the "Three Colors" films deals to some extent with outsiders looking in at society, "Blanc" takes the idea to metatextual levels as it is an outsider even in its own film series. It's at the crux of Karol's problem, in fact, as he is a Pole living in Paris, unable too come to grips with its culture or laws or even its language.

It's the only film of the three that takes place largely outside France; after his divorce leaves him an alien without residence and thus destitute, Karol must find his way back to his native Poland [with some help from a useful stranger (Janusz Gajos)], somewhat comically shoved inside a suitcase.

While the other two 'Three Colors' films are straightforward dramas, 'Blanc' is more of a comedy. In typical Kieslowski fashion, it’s the 'comedy' that is probably the most subversive of the group, while the dramas tend to ultimately be heartwarming.

Once finally back in chilly Poland (which is always depicted in snowy winter in the film), Karol and the stranger in the subway decide to go into business together, each with their own reasons to build their fortunes back up, and both revolve around a person seeming to be murdered.

Though "Blanc" is nominally about equality (actually that's not fair, it really is in a lot of ways) there's a lot of capitalism in there as well. Karol equates wealth with stature; he may not be able to make himself taller but he can make himself a big man--even if it means he has to deal with the lowest of the low to do it.

It's capitalism as the great equalizer. Opportunities' abound for anyone who wants to take them and everyone is equal in the unfairness they face. A truism Karol knows is false from his days in France, but quickly forgets about as money and ego flow into his pockets and his plan for revenge against Dominique takes shape.

In classic Kieslowski style everyone eventually gets what they want, but no one wants what they get--a certain degree of shared, equal misery that makes "Blanc" possibly the least funny comedy ever attempted. Kieslowski never shies away from the darker side of idealism. Particularly, in "Blanc's" case, the fact that everyone is equal in the fact that they are ultimately alone. And yet it's so surprising how funny "Blanc" can be. And how uplifting its finale manages to come off considering it is in many ways bleaker than a Polish winter and monumentally unfair to boot.

Which is probably the point. Each of the "Three Colors" films suggests in its own way that the ideal it is investigating is ultimately illusory. A human idea created to fight back against a world that is naturally imprisoning, naturally unfair, and naturally selfish. Against that nature, Kieslowski sets human beings, who are capable of believing the illusions they create and by doing so make them real.

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