Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)

1994

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)

Critics Consensus

Taking a lighter tone than the other films of the Three Colors trilogy, White is a witty, bittersweet comedy with heavier themes on its mind than one might at first realize.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 44

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 19,902
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Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc) Photos

Movie Info

The second feature in filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy, the black comedy White features Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol Karol, an expatriate Polish hairdresser whose French wife (the breathtaking Julie Delpy) divorces him after just six months of marriage because of his impotency. Penniless and devoid of his passport, Karol must journey back to Poland by hiding in a trunk. Upon his return, he slowly begins amassing a considerable fortune, ultimately hatching a perverse plot for revenge. Often unjustly dismissed as the weak link in the trilogy, White grows in strength upon repeated viewings. An allegory about equality, the film is mordantly witty, a cynical look at power, marriage and capitalism.

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Critic Reviews for Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (13)

  • A bleak but ultimately hopeful comedy which, if it hadn't got to be called White, might very well be dubbed Black.

    Aug 9, 2012 | Full Review…

    Derek Malcolm

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • he love that figures centrally in White appears more as a postulate than as a realized fact. To achieve something more durable and persuasive, real characters are required, not allegorical stick figures.

    Aug 9, 2012 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • The entertaining second seg of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy is involving, bittersweet and droll.

    Mar 26, 2009

    Lisa Nesselson

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • It's often cruel, of course, and cool as an ice-pick, but it's still endowed with enough unsentimental humanity to end with a touching, lyrical admission of the power of love. Essential viewing.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • How could the creator of Blue, the story of a woman who grieves by moping around Paris in a chichi haircut, possibly have followed it with such a rich, light-handed marvel?

    Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 4/5
  • Kieslowski, who so keenly satirized the crippling excesses of communism in his earlier work, unflinchingly has a go at training-wheels capitalism, but not without affection for the thawing tundra of his beleaguered mother country.

    Jun 12, 2002 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)

  • Aug 15, 2014
    "Into the white, the scent of fire behind. First steps to freedom are lighter than we ever knew." Yeah, I went with Caligula's Horse, despite me preferring my music old-fashioned, and despite the song being almost twenty years younger than this film, because "Blue" was too slow for me to want to think of Cat Stevens'/Carly Simon's "Into Wait", and too mediocre for me to want to think about a Pixies song other than "Where is My Mind?" even more. Now, this film, on the other hand, at least had the good sense to try and liven things up with some humor, or rather, what a slow-burn French art film would consider humorous. It can only be funnier than me boasting that Krzysztof Kieślowski is back in [u]white[/u], and that - don't you know - I'm not glad that he's back. I'm embarrassed to say that this film could have used some AC/DC, seeing as how it is well-known for its remarkably masterful classical score, but it doesn't even use the classical music as much as it ought to if it's aiming to, if you will, "color" things up. It's ironic that it took this series fading to white to get some color on it, and even then, this film is hardly all that entertaining, despite having certain lively touches. As much as I'm not fond about this film, I really didn't care for "Blue", whose strengths stood, though not exactly firm, with a major exception being a score by Zbigniew Preisner that, while criminally underused, was brilliant in its often achieving masterfully realized heights in traditionalist classical sensibilities, and seeing as how this film is much less weighty, Preisner's score is much less soaring, although it remains outstanding in its subtle complexities and beautiful tones which range from minimalist to lively, - if not brilliant in a manner reminiscent of "Blue" and, by extension, legendary classical masterpieces - yet are never less than thoroughly impressive. Still, considering that quiet dryness plays an instrumental part in dulling this film way down, a more recurrent, if arguably less impressive aesthetic attribute is Edward Kłosiński's cinematography, which utilizes a certain white palette, just as "Blue" utilized a certain blue palette, and proves to be just as, if not more beautiful than its predecessor, with a consistent dreaminess that, upon finding truly tasteful moments in lighting, is just plain haunting. The style is at least about as solid as it was in "Blue", but that wasn't the only thing that this film's predecessor had going for it, as it had occasions of moderate dramatic effectiveness which you'd think shouldn't be present in this more lighthearted affair, but is all but made up for once director Krzysztof Kieślowski's near-tedious thoughtfulness soaks up some subtle liveliness to what material there is. This is a minimalist film, even more so than "Blue" in a lot of ways, but its story of a wronged man seeking a new life, if not what he feels is brutal justice is an intriguing one, with some colorful touches that Krzysztof Kieślowski and Piesiewicz, as screenwriters, bring to life when they're not thinning characterization and bloating meanderings, delivering on some witty humor and sharp dialogue, whose recurrence is surprising and helps in keeping the film from being quite as dull as the more quiet "Blue". The film is still only startling in its level of dullness, but there are moments, maybe not of resonance, but of charm, and they go anchored by plenty of endearing performances, the most endearing of which being by leading man Zbigniew Zamachowski, who is both fluffy and grounded enough in his portrayal of a man overcoming shyness in the harshest of ways for you to place some investment in an otherwise thin lead. I try to subdue my compliments, but really, outside of the style, this film is way better than "Blue" in a lot of ways, having less pretense and more charm, less misguidance and more wit, and altogether less tedium and more entertainment value. Still, to say that this film is dull remains something of an understatement, because even though the final product surprisingly comes to the cusp of decency, it never quite escapes the aggravating grip of mediocrity, reinforced in part by familiarity. This film radically changes up formula after the formulaic "Blue", and might be a fresher piece for that, yet it's still far from being as original as it wants to be, hitting its share of conventions as an artistically spare dramedy which is ambitious in (the wrong kind of) style, but still thin in meat. "Blue" was minimalist in its intimacy, but its story still had some dramatic meat on its bones, and although there is some dramatic intrigue to this narrative, as well as a little more dynamicity, there's not much weight, and if there is, storytelling defuses it both through questionable pacing and even questionable tonal dynamicity. Mind you, the tonal inconsistencies aren't too drastic, seeing as how the film rarely transcends a bland thoughtfulness, no matter how lively it gets to be on paper, but if said blandness isn't detrimental enough to the tonal effectiveness, what dramatic momentum there is goes defused by a sense of humor that is itself uneven, ranging from subtle wit which is arguably too subtle, to fluff which is arguably too fluffy. By that, I mean that this film takes some liberties with probability, never getting all that grossly eccentric in its French flavor, but still a touch surreal, distancing you from the realism which needs to be in respectable supply in order to justify a naturalism that could never be too much more than problematic, especially in what it does to characterization. "Blue" was so intimate with its lead, but that lead was nothing too special, and considering that she was so underdeveloped and thinly drawn, - to where the still solid Juliette Binoche didn't have any material to deliver on dramatic dynamicity - it was a challenge, almost a chore to get invested in her, and here, we're looking at a more unique, dynamic and altogether fleshed out lead, who is portrayed with plenty of charm by Zbigniew Zamachowski, and yet, there's still something missing in his immediate background and gradual nuance, and that might simply be because so much of the meditativeness of this film is applied to nothingness. This film isn't even even in its style, and really, that's kind of a good thing, because where "Blue" was consistently a naturalistic meditative piece whose effectiveness was limited by its trying too hard to be subjective, the storytelling for this film is a lot more grounded, traditionalist and focused, that is, until it finds itself reverting back to aimless, almost tedious meditations upon meanderings, which isn't to say that it ever abandons something of a subdued directorial tone from Krzysztof Kieślowski which has plenty of material to soak up effectiveness, and plenty more lapses in material which lead to serious dullness whose lack of tonal dynamicity even leads to monotony. I was last person to expect this film to achieve decency, and although it doesn't quite get there, it comes closer than I feared it would, and yet, Kieślowski remains misguided, with an inconsistent vision which is still consistent enough in conventions, thinness and dullness for the final product to fall flat. To fade to white, outstanding, if underused score work and beautiful cinematography compliment the tastefulness of a direction whose highlights soak up enough color in the witty script and the charismatic performances to charm, almost to the point of saving the final product's decency, ultimately lost in the wake of the conventions, natural narrative shortcomings, tonal inconsistencies, probability lapses, thin characterization, and questionable style - made all the more distancing by a punishingly cold atmosphere - which make "Three Colors: White" a superior, but still-flat second installment in Krzysztof Kieślowski's misguided saga. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 12, 2013
    Kieslowski knows as much about comedy as I do about stochastic calculus.
    Jonathan H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2012
    A slight departure from "Three Colors: Blue's" transcendent and melancholic tone, Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors: White", representing the middle color in the French flag which symbolizes the virtue of equality, is humorous in its study of sexual weakness and subsequent redemption. The film opens with a trial scene involving Karol Karol (Zbiegniew Zabachowski), a hairdresser who has, ever since his marriage with his wife Dominque (Julie Delpy), failed to sexually consummate their love. With his numerous insecurities and sexual inferiority plaguing their marriage and also are the things that are responsible for putting him on the pitiful end of a divorce, just like Julie's isolation in "Three Colors: Blue", he has withdrawn himself from the main stream of existence. But this time, this isolation is never a strengthened choice. Pushed into the streets with a frozen bank account and only a large, almost empty suitcase to live with, he is a definitive image not of emotional bravery (unlike Julie) but of defeat. But as fate permits it, he meets Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), initially a mysterious Polish lad who has soon became his friend. Unlike the previous film which broods about loneliness and repeatedly hints on isolated sadness, our protagonist here in "Three Colors: White" is also a lonely little chap but with a trusted pal. Although of course inserted by Kieslowski more importantly as an initial plot device (this film is, after all, the most plot-reliant of the trilogy), the Mikolaj character slowly transforms from being a hazy character with questionable intents into a surprisingly upbeat light that has been most instrumental for Karol's new lease on life, which is the same equivalent of what Karol is to Mikolaj. And in this friendship that was built in a time of utter tribulation, there's the cause of it all: Dominique. Julie Delpy, who I have first seen in "Before Sunrise" as the intelligently vibrant and sweet Celine, is unbelievably cold and indifferent as Dominque. At times she even looks and feels like a femme fatale. But Kieslowski, veering away from the shallow dimensions of character stereotypes, treated Dominique not as the aggravator of the situation but also as a victim of circumstances. Just like every wife, Dominique only wants sexual and emotional fulfillment in her marriage. But Karol, ever the shy sexual weakling, never properly took on the role of an accommodating husband. From what I've noticed, "Three Colors: White" was very well-known as a revenge film as much as it is recognized internationally as the only comedy film in the trilogy, albeit a dark one. For many, this certain 'revenge', planned by Karol to give Dominique her deserved comeuppance (the catalyst being the time when he has heard her pleasurably moaning on the phone, presumably while having sex with another man), is the poetic justice that the film is looking for on Karol's part for him to attain the signified 'equality' that the color 'white' is representing. But as I look more into it, the less I give a damn about Karol's so-called vengeance scheme. Sure, it was, for a moment, very enlightening and emotionally purging for us because we have rooted for Karol in the film's entirety. Yes, we are supposed to, but we're not compelled by Kieslowski to overly do so because he has never overlooked to give dear Dominique her own share of a beating heart. In the end, as I subconsciously decipher the pure significance of 'equality' in the whole film and as Karol gradually changes from a vulnerable sap into a relatively powerful businessman and a confident male, the more I think that it's not Karol's quest for revenge that is the real point of the film in terms of aligning itself with the color white's 'equality' symbolism but more significantly about how Dominique, being a good wife and all (the film shows how genuinely happy she is during their wedding), gets what she deserves: a Karol who's sure of himself, is sexually assertive, and knows what he wants. In a way, I even think that when Dominique finally found out about Karol's vengeful scheme, sure she was shocked, but she's also silently elated. With the way how her husband has handled and cleverly played the situation to manipulate the situation to his advantage and set it against her, she has realized ever so unconsciously that Karol, at that very moment, has finally become a man, the one that she's waiting to love. This therefore creates equality between the ever- loving feminine (Dominique) and the now transformed masculine (Karol), making their marriage worth all the emotional pitfalls, the agony of sexual misgivings, and the pain of relational apathy. So surprisingly, "Three Colors: White" is not just a one-sided tale of revenge but is also an exploration of the essential role masculinity plays in strengthening a marriage. Absurdist as the film may sometimes seems to be, Kieslowski still has offered a fresh take on the thorns and roses that populates not just the spacious boundaries of love, but also the bumbling and stumbling confines of life.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2011
    A breezy, light-hearted dramady concerning a recently divorced, devastated tramp (Zbigniew Zamachowski) who struggles to start a new life away from his ex-wife (Julie Delpy), who he still loves. Unlike 'Blue' (still a fine film overall), this movie flies. It is funny, has a lovable lead character, and is both a fascinating study of Polish culture as well as a far-fetched but totally entertaining revenge plot, which plays neatly into the film's central message of "Who are your friends, and do you try to 'get back' at your enemies?". This is widely considered to be the weakest of the 'Colors' trilogy, but I disagree. This is a very good film which works very well at a couple different levels, while never betraying itself or getting self-indulgent with its running time.
    Dan S Super Reviewer

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