`Blue' Reveals the Moving Emotional Life of a Modern Artist
directed by Krzystof Kieslowski
at local theaters
With "Blue," Krzysztof Kieslowski begins his film trilogy "Three Colors," with "White" and "Red" still to come. Meant to symbolize the Revolutionary cry for "liberty, equality and fraternity," this film stays close to its French origins with the existential search for identity in a world turned upside down.
The film revolves around Julie, played excellently by the lovely Juliette Binoche, who finds herself alone after her husband and daughter die in a tragic car crash. Her husband Patrice (Hugues Quester), a world famous composer, was in the midst of writing a concerto celebrating the unification of Europe when he was killed. A reporter covering Patrice's death mentions the rumor that it is actually Julie who composed her husband's works. After the tragedy, Julie attempts to retreat from society, moving to a seedy section of Paris. She sells most of her material belongings, using the money to provide for the senile mother who no longer recognizes her.
But with recurring flashbacks of the music from the concerto, she cannot forget the tragedy that was her past life. Throughout the film different people seek her aid. These include Lucille (Charlotte Very), an erotic dancer who lives downstairs from her, and Olivier (Benoit Regent); Patrice's former associate and a one-time fling of Julie's. Refusing to be drawn from her self-imposed solitude, Julie only concedes to help when an emergency arises with Lucille and she must go to the strip club where the dancer works.
There, she sees news footage of Olivier who, unbeknownst to her, has undertaken the task of completing the concerto. The television footage also includes several photos of Patrice with a strange woman. Julie immediately contacts Olivier and confronts him about both of these issues. He convinces her to help him finish the orchestration. He also tells her that her husband had been having an affair for many years with a young lawyer named Sandrine (Florence Pernel). Julie finds Sandrine pregnant with Patrice's child, but instead of anger, compassion arises in Julie and she offers to provide for Sandrine and the baby.
So the film ends happily. But not before the audience sees some of the most beautiful, and very French, shots ever put on the screen. Whenever the concerto's music flashes into Julie's mind, the screen is either swathed in blue or focused on some minute object. One striking example is the shot of a steaming cup of coffee which has overflowed into its accompanying saucer.
Kieslowski creates ingenious images of the blue glass bead chandelier that is Julie's only reminder of her past life because it used to hang in her daughter's bedroom. He transforms a standard swimming pool into a sapphire lagoon, surrounding Binoche with a sort of liquid embodiment of creativity and imagination. The original score by Zbigniew Preisner exists as a work of art separate from the film. With riveting crescendos and crashes, the music monitors Julie's emotional trauma and captivates the audience.
All of this striking camera work and arresting music accentuates the central theme of an artist struggling with what life has dealt her. She finds herself incapable of escaping her own gift for composing, and in the end is able to rise above the tragedy and use her talent. Juliette Binoche is essential to all of this expression. She embodies the hardness of Julie's resentment with diamond-sharp precision. Her face shows the anguish, the anger and the vulnerability of the character perfectly. She shows how a modern woman copes with the liberty that in the past has been kept from her. Underneath the guarded, impassive façade stands a feeling, compassionate person capable of suffering and surviving.
The combination of all these elements on occasion makes the film seem exaggerated and incomprehensible. The flashbacks and recurring blue colors mark this as a film of imagination and wonder. The heightened reality of Julie's experience shows Kieslowski's method of expressing emotions by representation using methods besides dialogue of facial expressions.
Modern art embodies emotion instead of merely representing it. Kieslowski's film attempts to do the same, stretching the boundaries of what can be done in the film medium. Like Modern art, the film may be incomprehensible and somewhat frustrating for some. What it does not communicate in dialogue, though, it makes up for in beauty. It is candy for the eyes. "Blue" proves to be a touching, modern portrait of the artist.