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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Three Colours and Lord of War

Finally after thinking about it for years, I have managed to watch all three colour movies of Krzysztof Kieslowski: Bleu, Blanc and Rouge.

1) Bleu (1993 movie starring Juliette Binoche):

Binoche plays Julie Vignon, a woman who loses her husband and young daughter in a car accident. After surviving the accident, Binoche wants to distance herself from her past life and that of her husband’s profession, who was a famous musical composer. No matter how hard she tries, she finds herself getting drawn back to her husband’s music. Eventually, she learns that true ‘liberty’ can be found by not running away from her past but by embracing it.

Technically, this is a good movie. The soundtrack and the visuals are very good. The blue colour is present everywhere, and is used very effectively to portray Julie’s husband’s soul (atleast I thought so). However, despite the good acting, I didn’t enjoy this movie too much. The weakest of all three colour movies for me.

2) Blanc (1994 movie starring Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy):

Delpy wants to divorce her Polish husband because he can’t perform in bed. So coldly she throws him out of the house, cancels his bank cards and sticks the cops on him. The penniless and passportless husband, Karol Karol, smuggles himself back into Poland to return to his old life. But quickly, he gets the idea to become rich through a series of street smart transactions and manages to use his wealth to take revenge on his ex-wife.

This is the most light hearted of the three movies and probably the most accessible. Needless to say, I liked this one the best.

PS: If you blink, you might miss Binoche making a quick appearance in the court room.

3) Rouge (1995 movie starring Irène Jacob):

The trilogy is concluded with Rouge and the major actors from the previous two movies make an appearance in this one as well. A Swiss model runs over a dog and when she goes to return the dog to the owner, she discovers the owner’s strange hobby – spying on his neighbours. The owner is a retired judge who has nothing else to do in his life. Initially, Valentine is critical of the judge but the more she gets to know him, the more she understands him.

This is a pretty interesting movie which beautifully layers three different stories together. Despite the complexity of the story and the beautiful visuals, I didn’t enjoy this one that much. Probably because since 1994, I have seen a lot of good French movies which have handled relationships in a better manner.

Anyway, I have to tackle Kieslowski’s Decalouge sometime in the future.

4) Lord of War (written and directed by Andrew Niccol): Rating – anywhere from 6 to an 8

Just before the final credits roll, we are told this ‘movie is based on actual events’. Also, the interesting observation is made that the 5 biggest arm supplying nations in the world are also the 5 permanent members of the U.N. That being said, the movie is not a global political movie but instead it is about the life of an arms dealer, Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage). The movie follows a similar pattern to other dealer movies, like Blow (drug dealing) – talk/about the first stages of the dealer’s life, show how the dealer got started, highlight some of his big transactions, throw in a love story with kids, a moral question, attempt to go clean and finally temptation to return back into the business for one final score. But despite all the formulas, I liked Lord of War a lot. One big reason is the voice-over narrative technique used. Yuri addresses the camera at the start and end of the movie. In between, he narrates aspects of his life, gives his views on gun/political issues and talks about his mistakes or shortcomings. But unlike High Fidelity, he does not address the camera directly. Instead, using voice over narratives, he informs us on the scene being shown and the political context. And Yuri makes it clear that at no point are we supposed to like him. He is just there to conduct business.

Another strong point of the movie is the few gutsy sequences used to show the evils of bullets (the opening credit sequence hits the point home). Instead of drilling us with sermons on the evils of guns, the movie lets us observe how guns effect life in third world countries. Also, there has been some good research done regarding the gun trade. For example, the gun trade dealings following the fall of the Soviet Union are accurate.

One of the negatives is that the movie predictably places Yuri in a lot of the typical hot spots of the 80’s and 90’s (Beirut, Ukraine, Colombia, Africa). Sure these were the places that were in most need of weapons at that point in time, but besides Africa, we are only given snippets of the other countries. One minor complain is that I wish the movie spent more time showing the political details instead of spending time on his life. Would the movie have been better if his wife/child subplot had not been included? Possibly!

Nonetheless, Niccol is a creative writer who stays a bit ahead of the times – in 1997 he wrote and directed Gattaca, a mix of 1984 and Brave New World; in 1998 he wrote The Truman Show, a movie made before the North American craze of Reality shows started; 2002 he wrote and directed S1m0ne, an interesting movie about a computer generated movie actress. On first instinct, I loved this movie and considered it one of the year’s best along with The Constant Gardener, Sin City and Batman Begins. But the more I thought about it, the more loop holes and problems I found with the story. So while I can’t give this movie a very high rating, I like its attempt. Despite not using any American dollars for the production, this is still a multiplex movie. It may not be a typical commercial movie but it still contains those contrived elements. Overall, a valiant effort like 2001’s Spy Game.

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