Monday, June 30, 2008


A minimalistic style, Robert Bresson makes you feel the power of human soul, human hands, human emotions – repressed emotions, rusting intellect, objectless love – and brings to life Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” on a smaller scale, but as intense as the book. And, in my opinion, also a little frivolous compared to the book.

Michel is the Raskolnikoff: he is the man who thinks he can take law in his hands, since he is “intellectual”, and he can do what he wishes to. He should at least be better than so many others he silently detests. What makes the novel and the film script diverge widely are the acts which Raskolnikoff and Michel commit: while the former commits the murder of an old woman, an usurer, the latter becomes a petty thief, a pickpocket. In the former case, it’s one act against someone taken symbolic for the world’s insensibility, and greed, and power. In the latter case, it’s an obsession against the world itself, and a chain of actions from which the perpetrator finds himself unable to extricate. Raskolnikoff’s redemption lay in the soul, in his being cured of anarchy, of being in love with the people as they are, with himself, with Sonia. Michel’s redemption, to me, lies more in getting the love that he always was hungry for, and which he could have got earlier if not for the fixated obsession. Of course, the book has a strong antithesis in the lawyer who confronts and plays the cat-and-mouse game with Raskolnikoff; while the film seems to have all its sympathies with the anarchist, and in fact has a brilliantly, erotically charged sequence of men being looted on a train, a sequence which I would have expected more in some film rendition of Artful Dodger (“Oliver Twist”) rather than here.

As a film, it stands brilliantly on its own, mainly because of the character played by Martin LaSalle – the brooding, nervous, obsessive character of Michel. The brilliantly choreographed robbery scenes and the vulnerable beauty of Marika Green add to the film, though to what and in which degrees depends on how much you can bear an anarchist interpretation of one of the greatest anti-anarchist arguments by Dostoyevsky. The character of the heroine in the film again leaves a lot desired for – while Marika Green certainly looks the vulnerable working class, she doesn’t look the girl to fire the spark of reform in a man, much less a man whose rot is more moral, more inner, more mental than most whose vices are more picked-up habits, extraneous. I did love the film for its minimal use of dialogues, its quintessential French-ness, and the erotic pleasure with which most scenes are shot (not only the robbery scenes, but also the final scene in the prison between LaSalle and Marika, where once again human hands are the focus). And I equally hated it for the lack of sincerity with which it was made: half-hearted character interpretations of Jacques (Michel’s friend) and the police inspector make serious flaws in the composition of the film.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Blanc (in English, White) is easily the film lacking layers in Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy. Though interestingly it is the film having the most rich storyline out of the three. Both Bleu and Rouge have stories that are simple if you consider a story by the number of events that happen and the number of twists that the tale takes. Yet, both are exceedingly rich in metaphors, in cinematic challenges achieved, in the psychological depths that they enter into through their characters and of their characters, and both are extremely thought-provoking.

Not so the case with Blanc. It is kind of a very black comedy, and a complete inverse interpretation of the old phrase, "Everything's fair in love and war". Instead of the camera hiding layers this time, it's the protagonist, the inscrutable, calm, seemingly coward but clinging-on kind of person, Karol Karol, the Polish hairdresser, who hides layers, who makes the viewer queasy right from the start that something is up in this brain, this is no ordinary person who will take his destiny lying down. And the object of his love and lust is so typically the Parisian dumb gorgeous model, Dominique Vidal, that you feel hate for Karol Karol for having a noble sentiment for such a woman, and at the same time you yourself would like to strike down that vindictive woman who is so fair otherwise, and to the world.

The real charm that Kieślowksi manages to weave into the movie is the absolute "whiteness" of the character Karol Karol. He doesn't seem to ever have any semblance of dignity. He happily becomes a beggar, is packed in a trunk, beaten up by thugs, beaten up by the real estate scamsters later, and fakes his corpse; and has impotent sex with Vidal; and yet, he never fails, he just moves on. The lack of dignity does not bother him at all, he has accepted it already as part of his bargain. Except an inordinate lust for Vidal, he does not show any emotions on his face, and just cooly bargains through everywhere - whether it be the number of heads he has to do, or the plot to sell to the scamsters. Spotless white, even though he crosses borders with fake passports. He makes a lot of money, maybe from something illegal, but he uses it all not for himself, but for a very 'white purpose'. Many people search for the "whiteness" in this film in the same way they have looked at Bleu's blue and Rouge's red. But instead here we have the stunning reclining figure of Vidal in red silken sheets, the neon sign that blazes happily for a new Poland though the village seems to be as sleepy as it ever must have been (brilliant political satire by Kieślowski over the failure of any good times turning up in the aftermath of cold war), and a lack of any uniform color scheme if you except the drabness. And yes, it strikes me then, except Vidal, everything in the film is so very drab. The village, the hairdresser pal who takes Karol in, the enigmatic friend Mikolaj who wanted to kill himself (is he a toned-down version of the Judge of Rouge?), the railway station where Karol begs or the railway station where Karol meets by appointment to take the life of Mikolaj, the prison to which Karol slips in at the end - yes, the whiteness is in the drabness, the single-minded intents of all the characters. Karol is after revenge, Vidal after easy money and easy men, Mikolaj after forgetfulness that never comes, and the hairdresser pal after customers. White of purpose!