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Entries in Kieślowski (6)


The Big Animal

In all likelihood this is the only Polish film that has ever featured this mammal; but it is undoubtedly the only one to feature the adoption of a Bactrian camel by a Polish couple sitting at dinner one late evening. Despite their reputation as beasts of the sand dunes, some species of camels (specifically Bactrian camels, which are native to the Mongolian steppe) can live in colder weather, but are not quite as fond of it – as far as we can ascertain what camels are and are not fond of. Why a camel rather than another exotic animal completely out of place in Northern Europe? Were this camel trotting about, say, Central Park in today's political climate, one might cynically speculate as to the cultural associations that spring to mind (my godfather once quipped that such a tale would surely become a bestseller, especially if it featured a cross-park chase scene). As it were, a Bactrian camel is probably one of the more peaceful, low-maintenance animals you will find. It can eat and drink sporadically, acclimate to almost any type of weather, carry up to half a ton on or between its two humps, and does not need much exercise. When it does eat, it enjoys cud and other delicacies and generally minds its own business, masticating slowly with its double-jointed jaws. Its appearance on endangered species lists stems from its paucity in the wild, as the vast majority have been domesticated and are considered to be good pets. And who's to say that a good pet in China and Mongolia cannot be a good pet in Poland? In a way, a camel in a Polish village makes as much sense as an elephant in a city zoo, a point made during the course of The Big Animal.

It is never quite explained how, one evening, the adoptive parents Zygmunt and Maria Sawicki (Jerzy Stuhr and Anna Dymna) hear a noise in the modest, average garden of their modest average house, and how the source of that noise is none other than a large camel grazing on their lawn. The most logical idea would involve a runaway from a circus, as circuses are the refuge for everything not accepted by mainstream society. The looks they exchange suffice to tell us that the same thought has passed through their minds, but it remains unspoken. Soon thereafter, Zygmunt, who seems like he always really wanted a pet, is parading the unnamed mammal about town on a leash to the mockery and amazement of the locals. Yet what is most interesting is that the motive for such behavior appears to be altruistic: Zygmunt is convinced that his modest, average garden is no place for a beast that large (Bactrian camels are often the size of a bigger horse), and he very responsibly leads it to graze in the countryside. Yet that is not how the public sees it. That same day, he returns to his job as a bank clerk gorged on the wonder of nature's details and spouting platitudes which elicit a swoony response from an attractive young female colleague. Not that, mind you, Zygmunt notices. No, he is far too busy fending off suggestions that this curious addition to the village will net him a pretty penny. "How could I sell it?" he says, horrified at the idea. "I'm just happy it's there." An unusual but sincere sentiment, although no one believes it. 

Zygmunt returns from a long day to find Maria and the camel sharing space tentatively; after all, a modest average property has its limitations. "He just looks at me sometimes," she complains to her husband, "and then he keeps chewing." Zygmunt implies with patience earned through years of marriage that this is exactly what camels do, and neither the chewing nor the staring should be particularly off-putting. "He's so harmless," he adds, stroking him cautiously, and then makes his way to his second job of sorts, clarinet in the local orchestra. Here is where Zygmunt shows signs of distraction and confusion ("I've had a long day," he reiterates, which a joking colleague embellishes by talking about a "safari") obliging the conductor by the end of the film to demote him to second clarinet. Little by little, the couple garners an unfounded reputation for arrogance, snobbery, and isolationist tendencies – although we can't really blame their neighbors who find the whole matter ridiculous. A lucrative one-time advertising opportunity arises that could pay the couple more than Zygmunt would make in a year, provided that he be willing to invest himself with Arab garb and pose with the still unnamed camel (as for names, Zygmunt finds Pampoosh and Fuzzy too emasculating, so Ramses is suggested). After much hemming and hawing, the Sawickis decide the money wouldn't be that much of a bad idea, but the shoot predictably devolves into a debacle and Zygmunt feels bought although he's really only being rented.

One glance at the black-and-white cinematography and you would think it remarkable that this film was made in 1970s Poland (when its events take place), a good ten years before Kieślowski dramatized each of the Ten commandments separately. But the film was actually filmed in 2000, although Kieślowski's script does date from less liberated times. Stuhr, who also directed, has a demeanor about him that reminds you simultaneously of this American actor and this British-born actor of Russian stock, and, accordingly, his presence vacillates from the humorous and boorish to the philosophical and profoundly insightful. There are also a lot of secondary subplots: a lottery drawing with the winner to get a new car, the equivalent of a horse or camel; a claim that Mr. Sawicki has to pay a camel tax – which of course doesn't exist, so he is charged for a small horse; a wonderfully peaceful scene showing the camel's immense size out in the open fields; and a hearing with the Animal Humane society. All of these scenes matter and are integral to making the plot advance. But the one question that Zygmunt never seems to answer is "why do you keep a camel?" And the only response seems to be "why not?" I'm sure Maria could give us a few better reasons.


La Double Vie de Véronique

Students of literature will readily admit that the theme of the double has been given, to put it mildly, its fair share of stage time.  I will spare you the dull modern interpretations of such a phenomenon because they invariably reflect their proponents' neuroses; what we can say is that the double has allowed writers to explore different realities for their characters without resorting to much-maligned 'dream' passages.  A more analytically productive approach, and one that covers more ground than merely the last century, is to consider the advantages and disadvantages of bilocation.  Being in two places at once may sound dandy to a child who wishes to play truant while simultaneously sitting at the back of a boring class, but with such a proposal comes dual responsibility (a topos taken to an extreme in this book reviewed earlier).  Another well-worn aphorism is that life offers us lucky souls a plethora of opportunities, the majority of which we must naturally forsake, otherwise we would not do anything at all.  The third possibility involves people who are and are not the same person – what we have called identical twins but which in the future could entail genetic replicas of the same being – often bestowed with the title "separated at birth."  Yes, the subject sounds quite hokey.  Nevertheless, there are moments in existence where we sense that our steps are not uniquely our own, where another path seems to parallel ours with fatidic residue.  A curious take on this sensation forms the core of this much-acclaimed film.

We begin in newly non-Communist Poland with Weronika (Irène Jacob), a young singer whose astral voice will haunt the whole film.  Her life is a plain but good one: choral practice, chats with her aunt, and in between, a blossoming love affair with a fellow called Antek.  Young, unkempt, and unremarkable apart from his motor scooter, Antek is only attractive to women of certain inexperience.  He looks at Weronika – a gifted and sensitive woman who is not hard on the eyes – like someone disappointed that she could have a life of her own.   Weronika is beautiful and has slept with him gladly, and those are the only two facts about her that matter.  Interspersed with vignettes showcasing her talent, Weronika is seen clutching her chest in agony and since she is only twenty-five or so, an explanation must be forthcoming.  We get it from her aunt: "Everyone in our family died while in good health; my mother, your mother.  It's about my will"; the subject, obviously one discussed regularly in their house, is taken no further.  Weronika makes a few mysterious comments about "feeling like [she's] not alone in the world," wins a singing competition in music-obsessed Poland despite her relatively modest credentials, and on the evening of her marquee performance, in front of hundreds and under the watchful eye of the old maestro who plucked her from among many other candidates, she starts to feel dizzy.  The solemnity that precedes her solo tells us that what we are hearing is the voice of an angel and also a prophecy.  Then something very strange happens: the other singer who had been passed over for Weronika looks to her left.  The look is voluptuous and evil and never explained.  Is she actually looking at Weronika, who is standing to her left but off-screen, or to someone else, to what lurks in the sinister shadows?  Soon thereafter Weronika collapses to the floor, and before she is pronounced dead we see the camera hover momentarily above the crowd.  It does not take much imagination to think that her spirit has left her body; where it goes, however, may or may not comprise the latter two-thirds of the film.

I have omitted one important detail: before her performance, Weronika wanders down to one of the prominent squares in this old city.  Here riot police abound against the protests of youth (the specter of Communism, as evidenced by the hauling away of a massive Lenin bust at the beginning of the film, has yet to be exorcised) and Weronika spots a tour bus of foreigners still inebriated by the fall of the Wall and eager to snap pictures of any type of manifestation of civil liberties.  Yet on that bus she sees something she cannot quite believe: a young woman who looks exactly like she does.  In many cultures the sight of your Doppelgänger means that death is near, and we are overcome with ill ease at what may take place.  That scene will resurface in part as the film draws to a close and the political undertone of such a juxtaposition is clear enough, but the artistic one is far superior.  What Weronika sees is an alternative to her own existence, and if the rest of the film drags a bit, it is in part because of the swiftness of its first third. The dynamic arrangement of Weronika's life, her seemingly unlimited potential, her unexpected demise, all this contrasts the slow labyrinth in which the girl she saw on the bus, a Frenchwoman called Véronique (also Jacob) finds herself.  

Véronique is Weronika's foil: while the latter is a virtuoso, the former teaches music to children.  She too feels that something is amiss in her life, and when Weronika dies, she mourns against her will and reason.  Her boyfriend is pretty and feminine, the exact opposite of Antek, but she will find someone else in one of the more unlikely nooks of contemporary existence: a puppet show.  In a wonderful scene destined ultimately for children, we see an armless hand move across a magic box.  This hand belongs to the puppeteer who will enthrall Véronique because he can make lifeless dolls move like human beings, dance just like ballerinas, and for a few brief moments we are manipulated by his movements into thinking that what we are watching is automotive.  At length an old woman puppet appears and Véronique notices, in the reflection of a mirror on the side of the stage, the ecstasy of the manipulator as if she had seen the face of God himself.  The puppet is shrouded in white and rises again from the earth to music that sounds eerily like the arias that Weronika had mastered, becomes a butterfly, spreads her wings and then the eyes of Véronique and the Creator (Philippe Volter) finally meet. 

The true motives of the Creator, who goes by Alexandre Fabbri, will not be revealed here, but you may be reminded of a similar structure to another Kieślowski film starring Jacob; Preisner's score will also sound very familiar to Kieślowski connoisseurs.  But a little old lady stopping to regather her bags who rebuffs Véronique's offer for help may be the finest touch of all.  Old people want to rekindle memories not be reminded of their frailness.  And Véronique's vision of the old woman puppet becoming a butterfly demonstrates her own mortality and the cycle of rebirth in which we think we feel that we have been – or still are – someone else.  In Greek, we recall, butterfly and soul are both psyche, so should we really be that surprised at this double existence or are they but two of many Véroniques hovering about?  We'll let our Creator and puppeteer answer that.



Until a recent reviewing of this film, the middle part of a legendary Polish–French trilogy, I had an odd conception of what actually took place.  Both the beginning and the end were, I discovered, perfectly etched in my memory.  But of the middle part, when our down-and-out protagonist Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) escapes back to his native Poland and his fortune takes a sharp turn, I had but scraps.  I would like to think that this is owing to my internal ethical mechanism that purges me of the most superficial and materialist information to which I am exposed, leaving only the sweet and bittersweet traces of love, warmth, art, curiosity and nostalgia.  However much I wish to delude myself, my own disposition may indeed have had something to do with it.  But the main reason is because the film is really nothing at all without its climax, so perfectly woven and yet so cruel, and the whole tale resonates, stinks, and flashes with the slow destructiveness of revenge.

White is not about love, despite the fervid claims of Karol, who is impotent and married to the lovely Dominique (a nymphet-like Julie Delpy).  The film begins in front of a courthouse and ends with a strange exchange outside a prison, and both main characters have something to hide from their partner.  Karol is a hairdresser who has come to France to make his mark, leaving behind a rather popular practice outside of Warsaw.  We understand the changes that were occurring in Central Europe at the time (early 1990s), and sympathize with those who believed that the formerly socialist states might not survive the overhaul.  Karol, one of these sceptics, finds a way to Paris and then finds a French wife in Dominique.  One wonders what exactly Dominique might want with this small and scruffy Pole.  Looks notwithstanding, his French is limited to two- or three-word phrases that inevitably spurt out of his mouth once the other person has resumed talking, and we can suppose that advanced Polish was not an elective in her Paris lycée.  He is neither rich nor, as we are painfully informed, gifted in pleasuring his partners.  Love is blind, true enough.  But dumb, patient, and sexless?  The match is more than unlikely, it is nonsensical. 

You may retort that we are watching a fairy tale, and I concur.  Yet the result, while appropriate and correct, has little of the magical justice that a fairy tale espouses.  It then behooves us to determine why on earth this couple ever became a couple.  Dominique obviously has no interest in children, nor in learning Polish, but she does like both money and sex.  Karol was an award–winning hairdresser in the old country, and it is no stretch of our little grey cells to imagine that he could have saved up “quite a nest egg” (a line used in the film in a later context) in order to travel to France and set up shop under the Paris sky.  Just as easily, he could have made Dominique – who shows no signs of employment – a very generous offer in return for French citizenship.  This premise explains not only Dominique’s interest, but also why the dream wedding sequence that pervades Karol’s consciousness is just that, a dream.  They never had a white wedding, or anything more than a perfunctory mishmash of vows before a justice of the peace.  Once Dominique has Karol’s money, there is nothing left to do except throw him to the dogs.

Amidst these street urchins, Karol is found by Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), who suggests that he return to Poland and work for him there.  Well, that’s not quite how the matter is phrased.  They take a walk by Dominique’s apartment, and he catches sight of his wife in the window with, Mikolaj informs him, no real intention of going to sleep.  A phone call confirms Mikolaj’s supposition, and Karol’s trust is won.  Then Mikolaj asks Karol for a favor in repayment, a favor so painfully clear to the viewer that we understand the significance of white’s symbolism.  Now, color coordination with symbolic meaning is a lowly pursuit best reserved for interior decorators with no imagination.  Yet the white in this sequence harks back to the whiteness of the wedding that never took place, the naïveté and innocence that Dominique is supposed to embody, but which more accurately characterize her husband.  White then becomes the symbol of purity in post-Communist Poland, of the ubiquitous snowfall that makes everything shine and glisten as if there were nothing filthy or reprehensible underneath.  Karol does proceed, in rather spectacular fashion, back home and begins to take advantage of the new economic freedoms granted to him and his countrymen.  Soon the old Karol, the stuttering doormat and cuckold, is replaced by an oily tycoon with infrastructure and influence.  The transformation is as preposterous as Karol and Dominique’s marriage, so we should not be surprised at the end when both absurdities merge into a coherent allegory.  And Karol’s sentimentality in the final scene, at once utterly sincere and utterly fraudulent, is not to be missed.    

A Short Film about Love

The original version of this film was filmed for Polish television, about twenty minutes shorter, and, most incredibly, a product of the twilight years of a communist regime.  It was also the sixth component of one of the most magnificent cinematic experiments in recent memory which, like all masterpieces, seems more remarkable with time – and not only for its creativity in the face of Philistine censors and shoestring budgets.  One could imagine all kinds of lurid tangles for the sixth commandment (in the Catholic tradition); yet we do not get lurid tangles, or tangles of any sort.  There are no enraged husbands, no murderous mayhem, no handy weapons or crimes of passion.  Instead, there are two lonely souls, lonely for albeit for very different reasons, and a strange date during which one soul is opened to the other, who in turn finds the whole confession gauche and amusing.  Stranger still is the fact that adultery is neither committed nor intended.  This is well in keeping with Kieślowski’s general artistic credo for the Decalogue of simplicity and clarity in unorthodox situations.  The Devil may well be in the details, but he never gets past the surface.  And we dive well below a superficial demonstration of those actions and thoughts that we should not nurture.

Our protagonists are Tomek, an orphan (Olaf Lubaszenko) on the cusp of manhood and the object of Tomek’s desires, a dishy and impulsive forty-year-old (Grażyna Szapołowska) living in an interchangeably gray-brown socialist apartment building across the way.  Tomek has few interests to pass his time: he likes to learn languages (Portuguese, English, French, or so he says), although his pocket money comes from clerking at a local post office where he is granted a certain amount of latitude.  His only acknowledged friend is a coeval sent off on some military expedition, leaving Tomek with his friend’s interchangeably gray-brown room and his officious and elderly mother.  She soothes his introversion and his obvious unfamiliarity with women with wisdom like: “Women allow themselves to be kissed and pretend they are liberated.  But in reality they prefer men who are gentle,” which might be the most appropriate one-word description of her lodger.  She even tries to cajole Tomek into watching a gala event for hormonally overloaded teenage boys, the Miss Poland competition, granted, on a small black-and-white television.  When Tomek quickly retreats to his room, we rightly suspect that he has found something more interesting than girls (a near impossibility for a young heterosexual his age); what we do not gather is that he has replaced all the women in the world with one woman.  In other words, he has fallen in love.

This love is not, however, golden in its crown.  His beloved, whose name is Magda, is blissfully unaware of his feelings for her, and even if she were to learn of them could hardly be enamored with a virginal and unconfident boy who, well, spies on her.  I think all young men have watched beautiful women from afar at some point in their lives.  And it is this proximity to a princesse lointaine that fuels notions of life’s breadth, of how things will work out with an as yet undetermined female in an as yet undetermined future.  Another film suggests an elegant metaphor for this search, but Tomek’s choice is made: there can be no one for him but Magda.  The difference in age notwithstanding, Magda is as promiscuous as Tomek is innocent and pure, as open-windowed and open-legged as Tomek is hidden crouching in the darkness with his telescope pointed firmly in her direction (and yes, that sentence gets the point across).  She is no one’s wife, so the adultery of that sixth commandment might refer to the fact that Tomek’s friend, now duty-bound and uniformed, once spied on Magda as well.  For adolescents and younger men, cheating on your friend’s unattainable love is as real and unacceptable as cheating in the flesh.  Tomek also uses his jobs as postal clerk and milkman to interfere in her love life in more ways than one, leading to a confrontation and a date which, we presume, will end in cruelty and perhaps more impulsive decisions.  A wonderful scene in which Tomek tries to pull a cigarette out of the pack with his mouth and ends up with two, hesitates a moment, then decides to light only one, is only one example of his failure to become a man in the conventional sense.  A man who will take Magda to a lustful realm of pure delight?  A hairy-chested lout with a bad temper and breath full of illegal ingredients?  Tomek might have more going for him than he thinks.



You and I both know red as death and revolution.  It is the most elusive color, the most eye–catching and ornamental, the symbol both of decadence and, in latter days, of the earthbound proletariat.  And if we discard the small cross in the center of the Helvetian banner, red is the one hue common to the flags of this trilogy’s three settings, France, Poland and Switzerland.  But what distinguishes red is its general lack of natural occurrence.  Apart from our blood exposed to oxygen and a few random fruit and animal species, true nonsynthetic red is always the exception or locus of exception.  Our eyes, accustomed to blues, whites, greens, and browns, immediately veer towards such patches of brightness.  And when red surrounds Irène Jacob, the star of this film, they tend to stay there.  

She may from certain angles remind you of Juliette Binoche, but bears an uncanny likeness to this British actress.  She is Valentine Dussaut, wafting through the aptly named Swiss town of Carouge, attending college and ballet classes and modeling shoots, and ending up on a billboard for chewing gum.  The billboard, a profile surrounded by a swirling red mantilla and the reddest of backgrounds, boasts the inscription: “Whatever the occasion, the freshness of life.”  She is indeed like the chewing gum she advertises: fresh, sweet, untouched, and magnetically alluring in her ingenuousness.  She has a boyfriend who doesn’t love her, probably because she picked the one man who would not lie prone at her feet, and she exudes a loneliness that belies her youth and opportunity.  She is in many ways magnificent; what she is not, however, is convincing as a character since her small worries do not translate into tragicness.  So to keep our attention rapt, she must encounter someone who knows much about loss and pain, and she must become his heavenly foil.    

Ironically, it is she not the viewer who commits a clumsy crime by staring red down.  Her car injures a dog who happens to belong to an old judge (Jean–Louis Trintignant), a crusty curmudgeon in whom youthful passions flicker only rarely.  She brings the dog to its owner who suggests, to her humanitarian chagrin, that she keep it.  Although I shall maintain my policy of non–disclosure, I add that we come to see that this meeting is not coincidental.  She and the judge, whose name is later revealed to be Kern (German for “core” or “nucleus”), strike up a relationship that cannot be anything more than paternal on his part, yet she can certainly help him overcome his cynicism and hatred for the petty malice that usurps real life.  Since he has been hurt by a past betrayal, his vice is spying on others and finding out their secrets, a very consistent psychological phenomenon.  Most of his victims he treats as test animals and removes himself entirely from any threats of compassion. Yet he has a bit of empathy for one of his neighbors, a young law student named Auguste.  When Auguste, who of course drives a red jeep, catches his girlfriend with someone else (this is a long and dramatic scene, and unintentionally comedic), this faithlessness brings Kern to admit his crimes and throw himself at the mercy of those whose lives he has invaded.             

While the judge is the engine of the film, Valentine is its throbbing red heart.  Unlike the trilogy's other young female protagonists, she does not have sexual urges, but pants and bends to her ballet lessons while following some disturbing news in the papers, first about her brother then about the man whose dog she almost kills one night.  Kern intuits that one of the two junkies shooting horse (under the rubric of “After Zurich, Geneva,” referring to this rather unfortunate social experiment) is her brother, and also guesses why he might have resorted to such escapism.  Throughout the film, Kern knows precisely what he shouldn’t know, and his hunches invariably turn out to be correct.  How is it that someone so brilliant could possibly have missed the infidelity that took place right under his very nose many years ago?  Did he learn from this experience and become an astute emotional detective?  That is one explanation; but the film proffers another which shall not be mentioned here.         

While Valentine is a red, February 14th–type of a name, her last name may be (very) loosely rendered as “of the leap.”  The leap of faith one makes in believing in someone and giving oneself to that person soul and soul cage?  Whatever the symbolism, making her a model, albeit somewhat of a clueless one, viciously jars our reality because runway models do not elicit much sympathy.  There is also the dream that Kern has of her being happy at forty or fifty and her fears that he might be a clairvoyant.  “I have the impression,” she says as innocently as possible, “that something important is happening around me.  That scares me.”  Then a frightful storm breaks out and something or someone seems damned.  She crushes her plastic cup and realizes something very important is being kept from her.  Kern finally divulges what has made him tick all these years, and concludes that, despite the massive age gap, Valentine might be the woman he was destined to meet.  How curious it would be if she were this woman and then ran right into the young, recently dumped law student!  Is this an overlap of time and space?  Whatever it is, the result is harmonic and euphoric, as stunning as the poster of Valentine that collapses under the weight of the hail that threatens Carouge in the final scene.  There, a fire starts, as if God were casting plagues down upon the land.  And if not He, then maybe some other, lesser hegemon.   


The hyphenated bond of Franco–Poles, from this composer to this extremely accomplished scientist to the late director of this film, is corroborated very surreptitiously by the two nations' most fundamental symbols: turn the Polish flag on its head, make it somewhat more squarish, and it will comprise two–thirds of the French tricolor.  That is not to say, of course, that Poland is two–thirds the country France is, although their populations and areas would suggest those figures are not far off; rather, there seems to be a strange nexus of creative energy hovering between the two states that has persisted throughout the course of modern European history.  France admires Poles for their resilience and intellectual activity in the face of ever–vacillating borders and governments, and Poland gazes with unenvying pride at the French and their ideals and freedoms.  And although the comely trilogy Trois couleurs, of which Blue is the first and most serious part, is a Polish product, this opening color is most definitely French.

French, despite the fact that the film's primary conceit is the creation of a symphony for all of Europe.  This was the task assigned to famed composer Patrice de Courcy, a noble name, who does all of Europe the disservice of getting himself into a fatal car accident at the beginning of the film (he dies, says an eyewitness who approaches the wreck, repeating the punchline of the joke that distracted him in the first place).  He also takes his seven–year–old daughter with him to the grave, leaving his wife and her mother Julie (a peaking Juliette Binoche) completely and utterly alone.  They have fabulous wealth and reputations, so she will not endure the banality of indigence; but her solitude could very well be the death of her.  So although she initially wishes the music destroyed, when a copy turns up she decides to make the most of her melancholy and finish the symphony.  A woman finishing the symphony of Europe!  Indeed, and no one seems to raise one woolly, traditionalist brow at this circumstance.  Things have definitely changed (and for the better).  

There are, as always crop up in these studies of the habits of lonely artists, complications.  Julie is according to most tastes radiantly attractive in mind and appearance, so she must have a doting admirer (Benoît Régent).  She must also find out something about her husband that she may have expected or wished to ignore during his lifetime (we will skip this section).  And finally she, like all interesting fictional characters, must not be quite what she appears to be.  These are the prerequisites for this type of allegory, the finest kind: that of the nature of art itself.  That Julie takes more than an acute interest in concealing the fact that she has anything to do with her husband’s work, and that such completion comes so naturally to her that she might have considered a career in the field herself had it not been for her child let us concatenate all the links that Kieślowski provides because they all fit quite nicely together.   
You will find, if you use the intergalactic weapon known as Google, that Kieślowski thought blue, apart from the obvious mood associations, was for Julie the color of emotional freedom in the spirit of the revolutionary liberté that spawned the flag.  She has lost her family and is now left with her (husband’s) unfinished business.  We will take the director at his word and add that since, to paraphrase this Franco–Irishman, the artistic spirit is inherently reductive, Julie is weirdly stripped (one of the supporting characters is, among other things, a stripper) of all shackles that might prevent her from achieving the unity of Europe in her music.  Sorry, I mean her husband’s music.  That music, by the way, is the work of Kieślowski’s fellow countryman Zbigniew Preisner, noted for his haunting accompaniment to this work of genius, as well as to just about every one of Kieślowski’s films up to the director’s death in 1996.  The soundtrack, which left me with a splendid impression when I first watched Blue in the mid–1990s, now sounds frantic and thunderous, a tad too unwieldy for its own good.  But who said writing for all of Europe was supposed to be easy?