Three Colors: Blue, 1993. 10/10

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Juliette Binoche movie. Three Colors: Blue has got to be about her best, and an extremely poignant depiction of loss and redemption. Julie’s (Binoche’s) husband Patrice (Hugues Quester) and young daughter die right off in a car accident–Julie(tte) is injured, but physically recovers quickly. Her husband was a reknown composer who has left behind a considerable estate, and an unfinished composition.

The completion of her husband’s work coincides with her psychological and emotional rebirth. She’s helped by family friend Olivier (Benoit Regent). There’s two women who play significant roles in helping her along, in completely different ways. Lucille (Charlotte Very) is a neighbor that Julie helps avoid eviction for alleged prostitution. And Sandrine (Florence Pernel), unknown to Julie until after her family’s death, was her husband’s mistress.

It’s indicative of the movie’s theme of love that Sandrine becomes the most powerful catalyst to Julie’s reemergence. Julie is the ultimate good person–nearly saintly. Except for a mugging victim whom she’s too frightened to help (but she wants to), she spends plenty of time bailing people out of their own misery or predicament.

None of Julie’s epiphanies come easy. She works at and works through suffering and only then reaches a greater sense of security and peace. For at least the first half of the movie she seems on the brink of catastrophe, but, as she reconnects with people, her strength builds. I think, that for plotting purposes, the accident occurs correctly at the beginning; after all, the plot is the pathway of her grief. Her personality is so intriguing, however, it leaves me wondering what Julie was like before the accident, in her normal family relationships and routines.

It’s a bit of a mystery what sort of life was lost. We can accept that it was conventional and comfortable (with Sandrine as a hidden snake in the grass); what we have is someone who has been evicted, so to speak, from that domestic garden. Now, here, she’s tossed into a twilight zone. What keeps the movie from being too bleak, is that, although she’s lost her past, she can have a future.

The lines superimposed on the ending montage, which shows snippets of most of the characters, is a beautiful and very elegant description of love. “Love bears all” pretty much sums it up. Julie inhabits the Parisian street scenes and interiors with a mixture of tension and nonchalance, and witnesses the more dramatic, almost surreal stuff in her vulnerable and acutely aware state: the new-born mice, the swimming pool, the sugar cube dipped in coffee.

The only strand that’s more or less left in the dust is her child. Admittedly, the first thing we’re drawn to is the girl’s blue glass mobile (both in the old house and in her apartment), and we’re left with Sandrine’s baby in the womb (a rebirth of Julie’s child in another sense). Still, it seems that Julie’s grief, and the plot, primarily attends to Patrice.

Binoche could probably bring off this role without speaking, the plot is fairly simple, but this is an ‘art’ film that is remarkably artless. That is to say, instead of symbolic, mythic, or surreal elements, there is an almost devastating reality faced throughout. This definitely has a psychological and emotional undercurrent, but never for a moment are things fantastic, otherworldly.

Binoche’s character has a coolness about her which is nonetheless brittle; while she obviously internalizes her grief, she lets it transform into warmth: checking up on the guy collapsed on the street, going to Lucille’s tawdry strip club in the middle of the night to get her over a scare, and, especially, the acceptance, then whole-hearted consideration for Sandrine.

A family gets in a bad car accident, only the wife/mother survives–how does she cope? That’s it for the premise. She could’ve become depressed, become an addict, been suicidal (an early scene in the hospital shows this possibility), remained incapable of new relationships (that’s the case for much of the movie), etc. So, she’s experienced some of these traits, but, since we’re dealing with an individual, her experience and the outcome are unique. That’s what gives it authenticity–not just realism.

The supporting female characters are very different; in age, appearance, and lifestyle. Both are drawn to Julie for their own reasons. We see the love in friendship, then, as well as romantic love from Olivier (and, the imprint of Patrice’s). In Sandrine’s case, it’s complicated; the momentarily cool meeting; a depth of sympathy and understanding, and, ultimately, Julie literally giving up the kitchen sink for Sandrine and the baby.

The performances are very complimentary, the cinematography manages to convey both a strange aloofness from Julie while serving as an expression of her moods. The editing, pacing, and plotting keep us closely engaged. Three Colors: Blue is an excellent thoughful experience that will stay with you. 10/10.

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