Ktismatics

29 January 2008

Bleu, 1993

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:54 am

Polish director Krysztof Kieslowski’s last films comprised a trilogy. Bleu, Blanc and Rouge, the French tricolor — liberté, egalité et fraternité. Bleu begins with a car crash that kills the woman’s husband and young daughter. She tries to free herself not just from her memories but from all involvement with life. But she can’t do it: the present and the past keep impinging on her. The blue glass beads from a ceiling ornament reflect sunlight onto her face, reminding her of her child — and of the music her husband, a famous composer, had left unfinished.

bleu blue light

Or, as had been rumored, was she really the composer? She destroyed the unfinished manuscript after he died, but a copy survived. Here, as at last she finishes the piece, we see her pen and its shadow, as if another ghostly hand were helping to inscribe the notes on the page.

bleu music score

Surface, reflection, depth, rising from the blue into the blue.

bleu pool1

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24 Comments »

  1. I think I wrote before that Lynch channeled Kieslowski in INLAND EMPIRE, but his turn is much more ambiguous than this fairly Christian story, which ends with the classical (Lacanian?) turn. I sense parallels with her condition and your alleged dysphoria? Any more thoughts?

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 6:25 am

  2. Jesus I gotta have thoughts too? That’s the danger of writing explanations of the screen grabs for the sake of those who’ve not seen Bleu — it’s a fine line between that and commentary, which might bring Ktismatics back from the dead YET AGAIN. I have more thoughts, but do I want to write them down? I even disgust myself with this pathetic vacillating bullshit. I’m going out for a walk now, but I shall return with at least a few thoughts.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 9:27 am

  3. Bleu takes shape as a kind of thought experiment. Suppose suddenly you were freed from your life? Your spouse and child are dead, you’ve sold your house and moved someplace nice where no one knows you, you’ve got enough money to get by — can you live a life of pleasant isolation? In Bleu the answer is no: life calls you back to itself, whether you want it to or not. But I think the Juliette Binoche character is complicit in heeding the summons Despite her best efforts to suppress, she FEELS, even if the feelings aren’t pleasant. She observes, reacts, creates, assumes responsibility. The lure of the world would be ineffective if she didn’t have an unconscious vitality that can’t help but respond to the lure.

    Now, do I believe Kieslowski is right about this? I find myself pulled back into ktismatics despite my conscious intentions, but what if I really took the blog down, got rid of my email address, stopped visiting the Parody Center, etc. — would the world pull me back to itself? I think about this sort of thing quite often and talk about it occasionally, so I’ll restrain myself here. What’s important, I think, is that asking “how does this relate to me?” is a legitimate response to this film, maybe to any film. There’s personal value to a movie like this that goes beyond its entertainment value.

    It’s also possible that Bleu should be interpreted politically. Its title does derive from the French political ideology of freedom. The uncompleted musical score in the film was being composed for the inaugural event of the EU. So maybe we should interpret Binoche’s character as representative of French high culture, wanting perhaps to retreat into isolation in the wake of historical tragedies, reluctant to engage the upstart and less-cultured EU member nations. But there is a call to freedom, evidenced first in the film by Juliette’s refusal to sign a petition from the residents of her apartment building trying to evict the whore who lives on the first floor. Minding your own business isn’t just an isolationist stance — it’s an ideological commitment to freedom that resists communal fascism.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 11:17 am

  4. Given Binoche’s affluence and the murkiness of egalite fraternite and liberte, I neither experienced her problems as interesting, nor did I find the pamphletizing for the European Union a very elevating theme. In fact 10-odd years down the road the film seems terribly dated. But perhaps in your current dysphoric predicament you can identify with Binoche’s condition. The music is great, though. I did enjoy very much the RED and the WHITE, the first one for its Lacanian meconaissances and miscommunications and the second for the sadomasochistic dynamic between the Polish guy and the French dominatrix.

    I was talking more about the fact that the ending of BLEU, being a very long tracking shot that connects all these people and their need for love, is highly reminiscent of INLAND’s ending, and the Polish connection (Lodz- where Steppling works at their prestigious academy) is obvious, however Lynch does a post-Berlin wall take on the situation so that it seems it’s an Empire of prostitution and exploitation rather than of any burgeois idealism. The heroine’s self-questioning and soul-seeking respond to Laura Dern’s as well.

    Right now I am working on cockteasing Jonquille with a particularly vicious post on Michelle Pfeiffer, but I will be back soon with profundities on Eastern Promises. My hero and cyberpunk icon Shaviro just outdid himself with a text on Whitehead’s God for atheists.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  5. This sort of response supports my sense that the world is not calling me back to itself, that what I hear are echoes of my own voice as it bounces through empty corridors.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 1:30 pm

  6. And I get a sense that we don´t need to talk about movies in order to talk about your feelings or conditions, so why don´t we skip the mediation of the movies in order to directly address those issues, ha doctor?

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  7. Bleu is about those feelings and conditions, whether or not you relate to the main character, don’t you think? The character is a conduit for expressing the feelings and conditions that are presumably universal, and is a way of personalizing the thought experiment. It’s not about me or you or Jonquille, or Michelle Pfeiffer or Shaviro, or even White or Red, or even Inland Empire — unless you feel that IE is about whether it’s possible to step away from involvement in the world, whether the world continues to call you back into itself. In a way I suppose IE really IS about that, but in a horrifying and obsessive and depersonalizing way.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  8. Clysmatics the bottom line is that I would like to help you somehow out of your condition, recognizing on the one hand myself in you, and on the other hand a certain type of a highly intelligent and creative person who is thwarted by a deadly Woody Allenesque ambivalence. There are also echoes of my father´s life. His own indecision and depression ended up causing his brain stroke. But here the power of the internet medium fails and flops and my quasi-therapeutic ambition as well. Especially since you have this, erm, hysteric mechanism running whereby you sort of demand love by having it denied. If it feels more meaningful right now to do your own work, then you really should stop blogging, at least for a while, although on the other hand I tend to think there must be jouissance in the blogging or you woudn´t have done it in the first place. For a while I thought cooperation is the solution, the interaction, but that seems to trigger off precisely this ´´love me but don´t love me´´ mechanism and then you issue demands for solitude, and so on ad infinitum. This is why I ultimately think you need a firm hand, and Jonquille´s interventions in this regard have been a blessing.
    YEs of course we channel our own content through the movies, but that doesn´t mean the movies don´t have their own content, as I´m sure you realize, and as analysts we should try and put our own content in brackets, at least partially, beause other readings and meanings are possible.
    I don´t know why I wasn´t moved by Binoche´s condition, but I wasn´t. It seemed an unmoving bit of selfrevelation for her to find out that she never really loved her husband, that she was trying to love herself through him, that such a thing leads to affectlessness, depression and numbness. I found it hard to believe that an intelligent person like herself would need to undergo such vital trauma in order to learn that lesson. And then it was resolved kind of too easily, with her finding a new lover and through this, also, selfless love. Then I thought all this was already said in A SHORT FILM ABOUT LOVE, so it was a kind of a repeated statement. Not that I am much happier with the Buddhistlike ending of INLAND, but at least it´s more ambiguous.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 3:10 pm

  9. Yes I’m tired of myself too — it’s why I wanted to put up pictures, describe the pictures, think about the movie, maybe talk about the movie, and not think so much about whether I liked the movie, could I see myself in the movie, do I have issues like the person in the movie, etc.

    “It seemed an unmoving bit of selfrevelation for her to find out that she never really loved her husband, that she was trying to love herself through him, that such a thing leads to affectlessness, depression and numbness.”

    I missed that revelation entirely. I’m also not persuaded about her new arrival at selfless love. To me she ended up re-entangled in the same life she had stepped away from. She came to realize that her husband was unfaithful, which she wishes she had never found out. But now, almost against her will, she finds herself helping her husband’s mistress and her baby. She accepts the love of this other man, who she has known for a long time, who loves her but maybe is exploiting her to claim credit for her music, whom I believe she does not love. She’s been dragged back into an ambivalent relationship with life; in a sense her experiment at discovering freedom has failed, and now she’s trapped in her own ruthless responsibility. She understands, she accedes, but she does not exult. She assumes RESPONSIBILITY for her painful life enmeshed in the world, even if this responsibility costs her freedom and simple pleasure.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 3:41 pm

  10. Thank you for your concern about my well-being, Dejan.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  11. On the other hand I have always thought that perhaps it is precisely this thrust INTO communication that you need, a dive into the relationship, as you just said yourself speaking about Binoche´s character, which is not ideal. Although you chastise yourself (I should ´´assume responsibility´´) I think this is more about ending the withdrawal and getting involved again, with the full knowledge that it won´t be perfect or ideal. If you wanted to give this advice to yourself through the movie, then it sounds kind of logical. And who knows maybe blogging does perform a therapeutic function this way. It certainly got me out of this paralyzing depression due to unemployment last year.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  12. he understands, she accedes, but she does not exult.

    But remember that´s sort of the Christian (and Lacanian) definition of love – the hand that comes out of the beautiful flower to grab you and interrupt your jouissance, your Desire, so that in essence you see the Other´s reality as it were. I think he said to love is to see in someone something that doesn´t exist or something like that. She sort of moves from patronizing people to accepting for what they are, even or despite of the possibility that they might be exploiting her. However if as she probably does she stands for EUROPA in this context then it´s such a hymn to European narcissism that it´s just politically repulsive. Simply because I think Western Europeans aren´t and have never been better than Eastern Europeans.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  13. I mean to say the question is left dangling in the air whether or not this is an instance of PHILANTHROPY, namely.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 30 January 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  14. You’ve accurately identified issues I’m dealing with in my annoying angsty state. I’m curious about what depressed your father, but I think I’ll take my therapy sessions private if you don’t mind.

    Good point about the less romanticized version of love being something that interrupts desire rather than fulfilling it. Binoche seems resigned to her responsibility, but she also experiences the immanent upswelling of music, of her creative force that she’s had to abandon along with all her attachments. This creative expression is directly linked to her responsibilities to people in the world — the upsurge of music always happens in conjunction with her memories of people to whom she has committed herself in this non-desirous love. I can’t decide about the Euro thing — Kieslowski’s Poland is Catholic rather than Orthodox, but I don’t think of Poland as any particularly Western. Maybe he had to bring the EU into it in order to get funding. But Catholicism is big on responsibility, duty, obligation, and that Catholic understanding of responsibility probably colored Lacan’s understanding of love.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 30 January 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  15. What I meant is that the resulting image is that of wise old loving creative and brilliant Europa descending from its arrogant but noble position as the patronizator of all those other less talented satellites and well, loving them for who they are. Since the film was made on EU funds, I´m completely sure Kieslowski had to ´´weave´´ that message into the plot. And that´s not SUBVERSIVE, Clysmatics.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 31 January 2008 @ 2:53 am

  16. Yes, I’ve been resisting this interpretation but it’s there. On the other hand, the Binoche character really was more talented than the rest, was “hiding her light under a bushel basket” as Jesus said. Isn’t there a responsibility of the more highly blessed to share what they have, for the sake not of their own freedom and fulfillment but for the sake of others? And is there an unconscious drive to do so, something just as primal as a desire for sensory pleasure, something that from the birth of the species, from the birth of the individual, links the self to the other?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 31 January 2008 @ 4:23 am

  17. I’ve started reading your hero Shaviro’s essay on Whitehead, which bears directly on the subject of Bleu: “Whiteheadian ‘coherence’ has to do with the way that things — or, more precisely, events — are entirely interdependent, yet also mutually independent. The world is both a disjunctive multiplicity of discrete entities, and a continuous web of interconnections.” The highly talented Wester individual tends to see him/herself as an entirely independent and autonomous self, a super(wo)man who transcends ordinary humanity altogether. But Binoche’s bursts of inspiration arise only as she is drawn back into relationships both past and present. Her genius is contingent on relationship; the gift of love is bidirectional

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    Comment by ktismatics — 31 January 2008 @ 5:02 am

  18. http://gawker.com/5002269/the-cruise-indoctrination-video-scientology-tried-to-suppress

    This link should work.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 2 February 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  19. No, rather here.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 2 February 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  20. I guess with the Scientologists on the case we can take it easy. Here’s a link to the KSW that Tom recommends with such force in this video.

    From Wikipedia: “When a person dies – or, in Scientology terms, when a thetan abandons its physical body – they go to a “landing station” on the planet Venus, where the thetan is re-implanted and told lies about its past life and its next life. The Venusians take the thetan, “capsule” it, and send it back to Earth to be dumped into the ocean off the coast of California. Says Hubbard, “If you can get out of that, and through that, and wander around through the cities and find some girl who looks like she is going to get married or have a baby or something like that, you’re all set. And if you can find the maternity ward to a hospital or something, you’re OK. And you just eventually just pick up a baby.” To avoid these inconveniences, Hubbard advised Scientologists to refuse to go to Venus after their death.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 February 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  21. Thanks, KTIS, for KSW–I couldn’t find it to save my life, didn’t know what he was talking about. Not only is Hubbard a genius spiritualist, what with a command of probably locations after one’s death, WHAT a poet! to wit, “find some girl who looks like she is going to get married or have a baby or something like that,”

    Exactly–‘something like that.’ Simplement incroyable. I told the ballet people and others I thought ‘The Aviator’ wouldn’t have been a well-made failure if Cruise had done Hughes instead of DiCaprio. Because DiCaprio is just a fine actor–Cruise is crazy enough to just BE someone like Howard Hughes. He makes me believe in nothing at all about Scientology, but if he had done that role, I think I would believe in ‘channeling’. When he’s got a director behind him, he really can be effective at using his insanity, as in ‘Magnolia’, a film I despise as a whole but find brilliant in fragments (including Cruise’s incredible performance), and also in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, his borderline insanity is much more effective than anything his then-wife could pull off, although she is the much better and kinder person, of course. She’s also very generous with other actors, getting the B’way star Kristen Chenoweth a movie part and also speaking very generously about Naomi Watts when she was just picking up career speed. Nice lady, I wish I enjoyed her screen presence more, but I just can’t quite see what the fuss is. When Heath Ledger died a few weeks ago, she was, of course, very shocked and grieved like the other Australians (and many more), but I can just imagine Cruise thinking ‘He had NO excuse to use an Ambien [or whatever pills]! Just like that silly Brooke Shields thinking she had a right to be depressed after giving BIRTH!’ And how about all that ‘And you better know it…you better know it…’ He is out of his mind.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 2 February 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  22. I always enjoy Tom Cruise in the movies — his personal creepiness doesn’t distract me, and as you say doubtless contributes to his intensity as a performer. So: Cruise: gay? I’ve heard good things about Eyes Wide Shut but haven’t seen it.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 February 2008 @ 6:12 pm

  23. Re Whitehedian God I am still digesting the thoughts which I then intend to link to Carpenter’s STARMAN (upcoming discussion), so at this point let’s leave it at that. Binoche’s Nietzschean dilemma may be valid, but the way it was presented somehow didn’t convince me – maybe her performance, or the sense that you get the film was made for political reasons. I’m not sure. Not to diminish Kieslowski’s genius, mind you, but this is not his best film.

    I once went to the Scientology outpost in Amsterdam following this movie project I had in mind and the place was just disgraceful in every possible New Agey way, but then on the other hand looked exactly like a Madonna-sponsored pop Kablabla shop. These are all I think instances of digital capitalism’s false idolatries where the idea is to show how Catholicism actually likes the LBGB community and the vegans. Jonquille Cruise really looked fantastic in TOP GUN although I never could catch a glimpse of his gun to see just how fantastic it is, and by the way Kelly McGillis is a much more handsome and powerful actress than Pfeiffer. Too bad she fell into limbo so fast. I suppose already in TOP GUN they were using Cruise as an American cultural cruise missile, and the Scientology shtick I see as part of that same road.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 4 February 2008 @ 5:11 am

  24. I’ve seen of Kieslowski’s work only Bleu and the first 3 installments of the Decalogue. Based on this limited exposure I’d say he’s very much a visual storyteller, very much captivated by moral dilemmas, very concerned with human connectedness.

    Scientology seems very technological in concepts and jargon, which strikes me as a good accompaniment to the core premise of people being possessed by space aliens.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 February 2008 @ 2:24 pm


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