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photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM A first viewing of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy






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These remarks and those in Kieslowski posts to come are best addressed to someone who has already seen the films. If you haven’t, it might be better to do so before having your viewing experience ruined by these ruminations, which let slip here and there details you might prefer to watch first.

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The package came in the last post before the weekend: accidental, fortuitous, perfect timing.  When the cellophane sleeve came off and the four disks* were laid bare, it was obvious – knowing something about Three Colours – there might be a delicious prevarication (a) over whether to watch them in the order most people do and (b) one after another in quick succession or with sufficient gaps – days even – to let each one soak in.

* Number four in this Artificial Eye set includes a 1994 Documentary, I’m So-So, by Krzysztof Wierzbicki {1} {2} , in which you see Kieslowski smile. I have wanted to know if he always kept a straight face since watching the interview he gave which came with the Artificial Eye two disk set of The Double Life of Veronique: the film that was my introduction to Kieslowski. A few commenters have suggested I’m So-So doesn’t tell you much, but I think it does. If you think you might be into Kieslowski, don’t skip it.   I won’t give away what the title is about, except to say my version is “As well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

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Some might chose Decalogue first, but I felt, on balance, watching the ex-Poland films first, then some of the earlier Polish stuff, might be more instructive. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way. Decalogue was, if my memory serves me well, shown on British TV some years ago, and I think I saw one or two, which I found a bit heavy going, despite Decalogue being generally considered his masterpiece. In any case,  watching Kieslowski as a film student might ( Amator next….), whether I enjoy his films is irrelevant.  And of course, it can be a pleasure to watch a film without the subject matter being pleasurable. I want to know how he made them, why he made them, what it took to do it, and why he is considered a master.

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After watching Blue,  I felt it such an impressive film it would be a kind of sacrilege to watch one of the others until the buzz wore off.   In any case, thinking and reading about Blue afterwards took so much time, it was the next day before White.  Having watched White, it seemed a good idea to have kept it separate from Blue by a day. After White, which did not hold me as much as Blue,  I did not feel the same inclination to wait for Red, watching it the same evening. After Red,  I wished I had left it to another day! (For the re-match, it seems as if it might be Blue followed by Red and then White.

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There are many reviews and essays on Three Colours. This by Paul Newall is good, as is Reading Three Colours:Blue by Richard Rushton in Senses of Cinema. There is long academic paper by Tammy Clewell, The Shades of Modern Mourning in Three Colours Trilogy, which is not my favourite type of reading, but there are snippets here and there on various themes within mourning, which can be useful.

Wiki:Krzysztof Kieślowski gives the background.

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Sculptor: Krzysztof Bednarski

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The web is full of Kieslowski, so not too many links here, for those who might be coming to him, or like me, part of the way in. later, I might add a few more if I find any particularly good ones.

Senses of Cinema: Krzysztof Kieslowski by Doug Cummings

Culture.pl has a long profile on Kieslowski, with an annotated filmography

An interview with Kieslowski which covers Three Colours. It is not clear who the interviewer is or whether this is a transcript from a filmed interview.

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After some posts on watching Three Colours a second time there will one or more on Amator, or in its English rendering, Camera Buff.  There will be a good set of links to Amator because this is a film not much watched and which few would probably chose to buy if they were collection Kieslowski: it’s considered to be a weaker specimen of the species.  I haven’t watched Amator – on its way – but in debates with others about the nature of film and in particular the ins and outs of videoing someone you know in detail, it has come up as a way of helping to examine questions such as whether making a documentary of someone is by its nature exploitative and /or manipulative. I have already posted on Operation Filmmaker, a film by Nina Davenport, but have not really exhausted my thoughts on what that film might tells us about documentary: might bring some of it into the Amator post.

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November 15, 2008 - Posted by | film [its techniques], Krzysztof Kieślowski | , , , , , , ,

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