Three Colors: White (1994)

threecolorswhite1The Three Colors Trilogy is made up of the three colors of the French flag. Thus, the second installment, between Blue and Red is of course White. It is considered by some to be the weakest of the three films, but that is rather unfair because it is still wonderful in its own right.

The other films are pensive, thoughtful pieces of drama, but White is actually quite funny in a dismal sort of way. You see, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a Polish hairdresser, who is going through divorce proceedings because his beautiful French wife says she doesn’t love him anymore. He has to sit through the court hearing being delivered in a foreign tongue, and he has to go through public embarrassment in front of everyone. It’s a humiliating situation and the worst of it is that he still loves Dominique (Julie Delpy). He loses all his money, his credit is invalidated, and she takes about everything else. At least Karol has his giant suitcase, but that’s about it.

threecolorswhite2That’s where a fellow named Pole Mikolaj finds him slumped up against a wall in the subway station. He’s pitiful, but they strike up a conversation in their native language, and he agrees to help Karol stowaway to get back to Poland. There’s nothing left for him in France after all, so he hides in his suitcase and his new friend takes it through customs. It’s utterly ridiculous, but they play it straight. Then picture this. You’re stowing away inside a suitcase and then some thieves steal it to get the payoff inside. Imagine their surprise when they find not valuables, but a human being. And the jokes on them because that human has absolutely nothing to steal. All that’s left to do is give him a firm kick in the rear and leave him for dead. If it wasn’t so depressing, this would be absolutely hilarious, and it still is pretty funny.

Next Karol tries to make some quick money, because hairdressing may be in demand, but it’s not a great moneymaking proposition. He ends up being hired as a bodyguard, and he’s a very awkward sort to be packing a firearm. His next scheme is to double-cross his boss by buying up plots of land before his bosses can. They looked to sell if for profit to big corporations, but Karol beats them and they cannot touch him. They’ve no way to get the money from him, and all of the sudden, it seems like he’s doing very well.

threecolorswhite3The time has come for one last vengeful trick and the joke’s on Dominque this time. He still loves her, but Karol enlists the help of Mikolaj and a few others, to help him get back at his wife. It works better than he was expecting, in fact, maybe too well. Dominque still has feelings for him, but now he may never be able to see her again.

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films usually have a sensuous and mysterious woman in the lead, whether it’s Irene Jacob or Juliette Binoche. Julie Delpy is a similar type of beauty, and yet she is less the focal point compared to Karol Karol. In a sense, you give up some of that enigmatic aura of the aloof goddess, but Karol is an extremely funny character, even visually. Thus, White is not quite like Blue or Red, but they are interconnected and it’s still thoroughly worthwhile. Different is often a strength, not a weakness, and in this case, it is a good thing.

4/5 Stars

Before Midnight (2013)

Before_MidnightWell, I was expecting great things from this film as the third installment in an intriguing romantic trilogy. I will admit that at first I thought it was decent but I was not blown away.

My favorite moment had to be near the middle when Jesse and Celine took a walk through the ancient streets of Greece. Their conversation was reminiscent of the previous two films and I appreciated that.

However, the beginning of the film was filled with family moments, discussions with friends and little time of Jesse and Celine alone like the years before.

When they finally were alone they were quick to argue and lose their tempers over familial issues and seemingly petty problems. Even to the end of the film, their relationship seemed perhaps more creaky than it had ever been.

However, over time I realized that these things that I did not like made the relationship of Jesse and Celine all the more realistic. They are not the starry-eyed kids or the young lovers meeting up for romance. They have children, strained relationships with former spouses, more wrinkles, full time jobs, and 40 years under their belts, and that is the way that real life often is. So I’ve been told.

I’m not sure if Celine and Jesse will ever be brought back to screen, but I know that I was ultimately satisfied with the place we left them at. As Ethan Hawke said it all began as a story about what might be, then it was a film about what should be, and Before Midnight was the film about what actually is. Linklater did us a favor by not giving into the conventions that we are so often used to, because he was never one to do that before, sunrise or sunset. His lovingly crafted romance would not sink to that level and should not sink to that level. It remained true to itself and even if it was not what I wanted, it was what was called for.

Who knows, 9 years down the road we might get another installment, until then I will be content with the love story Linklater, Hawke and Delphy so graciously gifted us. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s genuine and that is far better.

4.5/5 Stars

Before Sunset (2004)

Before_SunsetIn this sequel to Before Sunrise we come back nine years later.

There is a certain degree of eagerness and nervousness as we wait to hear what happened in the months following Before Sunrise. We find out that Jesse and Celine did not actually meet 6 months after their first encounter. In all reality, what were we expecting? I myself had a secret hope that they would meet again. It’s the romantic in me, but that’s not how life ends up working out. Jesse showed up but the sudden death of Celine’s grandmother detained her. That’s one of the plights of this human existence.

Now Jesse is a writer who made a book about their evening together and one day in Paris while promoting his book there is Celine smiling through the window.

Here they are back together again nine years later with 1 hour to catch up before Jesse has to take a flight back to the States. With the passing of the years we now find ourselves watching an older, wiser, pair. They are both married now.

Jesse has lost the long hair and he is not quite so young in the face but it is still the same guy. Celine is still very pretty but more mature than the young French girl from the earlier film. Most importantly of all they still have a knack for deep, highly personal conversations.

A lot is covered as they chat through the streets of Paris. My most favorite moment however comes when Celine plays Jesse the Waltz she wrote. It is a beautiful little ballad in its own right and it shows her personal connection with Jesse that still lasts over all these years. What he encapsulated in his best selling book she documented in a song. We leave them once again as two slightly different people who still have a penchant for conversation, love and sentiment.

The film starts and like a blip on the radar it is already finished. In some regards it is rather disappointing, but not as unsatisfying as this short rendezvous must be for Jesse and Celine.

I have no bitterness, my sweet
I’ll never forget this one night thing
Even tomorrow, another arms
My heart will stay yours until I die

Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my blues
Let me sing you a waltz

~A Waltz for a Night

4/5 Stars

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before_Sunrise_posterThis is a fascinating film not just about love and romance but higher, deeper concepts altogether. Without knowing the idea already existed, this is the film I always wanted to make in my head!

Two people meeting in a place under unusual circumstances (on a train in a foreign country), and then building a bond over a single day that evolves into something really special very, very quickly.

This is exactly happens with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who do a wonderful job playing two genuine people who have their own set of ideas, aspirations, fears, memories and unique personalities to go with them.

They spend an evening in Vienna and create a memorable flashbulb moment out of it. One instant that sticks out in my mind is when they are sitting at a restaurant with many conversations going on around them. However, the two of them have pretend telephone conversations with other people. Through it Jesse and Celine learn how the other feels about them. It is so beautifully captured because they do not have to say it directly, but through this roundabout way they know.

Perhaps this film sounds like a bore to some and it may in fact be because a lot of it is talking. But Linklater and his collaborators frame it in such a way that I was very much engaged. Isn’t a lot of life talking anyways? In that way it had a spontaneous, realistic feel and that is thanks to a solid script along with the candid delivery of the leads. When I first saw Julie Delphy I had no idea she was French and it took me a while to catch on. She and Hawke play well off of each other and it is interesting to be able to eavesdrop on their conversations.

Before Sunrise was a pleasant surprise because it failed to fall into many of the normal conventions of romantic comedies and instead it rose above the mediocrity to tackle the ins and outs of love and life through frank and wonderfully unadulterated conversation. I cannot wait for more of Linklater’s trilogy.

4.5/5 Stars