Ktismatics

15 February 2008

Blanc by Kieslowski, 1994

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:05 am

blanc statue

blanc binoculars

blanc comb2

blanc ring

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22 Comments »

  1. That one was a good movie. metaphor of Western EU’s sadism to the East, and an amusing SM sex comedy. also very touching, on a number of levels. Julie Delpy was gorgeous.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 15 February 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  2. I’ll put up that last shot of Julie Delpy in the prison, where she’s caressing her ring finger. I agree: it’s a better movie than Bleu. It’s sort of the inverse of Bleu, in which the French woman really does have the goods and sacrifices her autonomy for the sake of the other poor slobs joining the EU. In this one it’s the humiliated Polish guy dying to his old aesthetic and downtrodden Eastern self and becoming a good capitalist, destituting the haughty alabaster Western minx and thereby rekindling her desire. And his own desire too, of course: he is brought back to life, made hard again by money and power and the ability to manipulate human lives. She loves it; at last they have egalite in their cruelty.

    I have to admit, Parodycenter, while the details differ I saw certain parallels between this story and the ongoing soap opera in which you play a lead role. I for one hope that story has come to an end.

    The scene where Karol holds the comb in front of his eyes — what do you make of it? Right after that we see the scene again where we watch Julie walking down the aisle of the church after her wedding, being greeted outside the church. This time she turns to Karol and they kiss, not cursorily but lovingly, passionately. He has finally found a place in his own wedding. But the comb in front of his eyes — it seems to me that he’s seeing Julie behind bars in his mind’s eye, which neutralizes her sadistic power over him and makes them equal = egalite = blanc. Or has he barred her existence in his fantasies altogether, erasing her at the very moment when he achieves equality with her, so that again he is alone?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 15 February 2008 @ 5:19 pm

  3. I have to admit, Parodycenter, while the details differ I saw certain parallels between this story and the ongoing soap opera in which you play a lead role. I for one hope that story has come to an end.

    You mean that I should evolve from BLANC to BLEU, from vengeance to Christian forgiveness? But if I evolve, I might lose my parodic edge, my style, my differentia specifica. You may be right, but it’s an ongoing struggle. And when you think about it since the borders have fallen (even as the Western burgeoisie might not yet be able to face up to it) it’s wiser to act in the spirit of communion. I guess Jonquille is better at setting borders, I am more like you, underneath the cynical performance I tend to act sheepishly, believing along the lines of preppy 1950s Americana that the world and the people in it must be NICE. Politically I remain a cynic; I think there will be a nasty confrontation between the US and Russia (Kosovo, nuclear shields) and the consciousness to stop it is not yet present. BTW the job is going surprisingly well but about that I will have to correspond privately.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 16 February 2008 @ 12:23 am

  4. But the comb in front of his eyes — it seems to me that he’s seeing Julie behind bars in his mind’s eye, which neutralizes her sadistic power over him and makes them equal = egalite = blanc.

    Interesting purely in cinematic terms that visual trope certainly prepares you for the image of the bars in the end but I wonder if the comb isn’t also saying something about the doubly-bound view of Europe *from the Eastern and the Western perspective simultaneously and how that is caught up in a paradox? What would be the psychoanalytic symbolism and the philosophy of combing? Hair is an important trope throughout. First the Polish guy makes his hair slick when transforming into the capitalist. Then Delpy is seen with unkempt hair in prison.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 16 February 2008 @ 12:32 am

  5. Karol’s hairstylist job is stereotypically effeminate/weak but also emblematic of his old-Europe artistry, which he abandons in pursuit of capitalistic manly strength. His slicked back hair reminds me of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecco in Wall Street. Yes he slides the comb from side to side, first blocking one eye then both eyes. I’m not sure he ever blocks his right eye alone, which is also the side of the screen he occupies in his wedding march up the aisle. So either she/France is blocked or they both are. And when both eyes are behind the comb then it’s as if he is seeing the world from behind bars.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 February 2008 @ 1:07 am

  6. Dejan I wrote to find out about your job but you still seem to be incommunicado email-wise. Haven’t you paid your bill yet?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 February 2008 @ 1:08 am

  7. So either she/France is blocked or they both are.

    I was thinking about the double-bind view that the comb affords, like the Gestaltist figure with double meaning, as a metaphor of the ”porous membrane” between Western and Eastern Europe. Depending on whether you’re looking with your left or right eye I mean. The prison bars are simultaneously the closing and the opening. Something like that. I am additionally wondering about the meaning of the Pole’s fascination with the sculpture, I recognize her from somewhere as being one of the symbols of the French Revolution, I am not sure. She is a bit like Medusa, transfixing him with her stone-cold gaze. And the girl is named Dominique, appropriately for their S & M relationship.

    I will write through hotmail or something for now suffice to say the job is working, I think the company is interested in innovation, and creativity. All other technicalities are less significant at this point if this barrier has been removed and my brain has managed to push through ideology.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 16 February 2008 @ 1:22 am

  8. I’m happy for you about the job. And yes, you’re right, the comb is a porous membrane, not completely blocking transit between both sides but still constituting a barrier or a protection one side from the other. Maybe some sort of partial distancing is necessary in order to achieve egalite between the two sides; destroying the distance entirely results in an S&M imbalance. The sculpture I don’t recognize, but surely she represents classic Western purity, though he’s had to piece her back together in order to sustain that image. And she does seem to sit in judgment, placed high in his room, keeping him under scrutiny. But she’s not a severe militant figure — her bonnet is frilly, her face is placid. Not maternal, but not possessed of Dominique’s feral heat. More like Dominique in jail at the end, a quiet and gentle and tamed version of Western purity.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 February 2008 @ 1:43 am

  9. To comb one’s hair in France is a symbol for straightening up your style and for women it is something she’s supposed to do in order to be accepted in society. It might symbolize the contrary of sexual liberation or freedom, a return to traditional relationships and order.
    I wanted to see white, red and blue and did but somehow when I did I was distracted.

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    Comment by Odile — 16 February 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  10. Dekalog next, please.

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    Comment by "Ron" — 16 February 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  11. Thanks Odile. We know that Karol and his wife Dominique ran a hair salon together in Paris, but the only scene taking place in the salon is Dominique setting fire to the draperies. I believe the only head Karol coiffs is a man’s — the fellow Pole he meets in the Metro who smuggles Karol back into Poland in his suitcase. There’s a violent foreshadowing here: first Karol cuts the man’s hair, then the man asks Karol to kill him because he can’t make himself commit suicide. And we discussed the comb possibly representing the bars of a prison cell, as Karol through his vengeance arranges the incarceration of Dominique. In the first screen capture we see Karol piecing together the broken statuary, a work of fond craftsmanship concealing the results of a prior violence. So maybe there’s a sort of bipolarity to the tools of cosmetic beautification, which can either disguise or inflict violence and destruction. The societally accepted practices conceal underlying urges that aren’t so easily contained.

    Now “Ron,” I appreciate the courtesy at the end of your request, but do you think I choose films for the pleasure of my readers? If you must know, the Decalogue is in my Netflix cueue, but first things first: I’ve seen Bleu and Blanc so I must also see Rouge. I saw the first 3 installments of Decalogue before, which piqued my interest in the Tricoleur series. I remember the first one, about the scientist dad and his son, and I remember either the second or third one, about the pregnant woman whose husband may be dying in the hospital, but I can’t remember the other one. Am I to infer that you prefer the Decalogue to the Tricoleur in Kieslowski’s oeuvre?

    I have Body Double by De Palma ready for viewing tonight or tomorrow, so we’ll see if anything in that movie prompts me to do some screen shot grabbage for the blog. Any other recommendations?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 16 February 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  12. But she’s not a severe militant figure — her bonnet is frilly, her face is placid. Not maternal, but not possessed of Dominique’s feral heat.

    Yes a cold narcissistic beauty, fragile in her might. And a bit of a Medusa. By the way the sculpture is MARION, symbol of revolutionary France.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 17 February 2008 @ 10:58 am

  13. To comb one’s hair in France is a symbol for straightening up your style and for women it is something she’s supposed to do in order to be accepted in society. It might symbolize the contrary of sexual liberation or freedom, a return to traditional relationships and order.In the first screen capture we see Karol piecing together the broken statuary, a work of fond craftsmanship concealing the results of a prior violence.

    It is also an act of trying to mend the results of narcissistic defragmentation (ref. Kernberg’s theories of narcissism), here represented by a kind of a castrational anxiety that romantic ideals might collapse – note the abrupt cutting (also, of the credit card in the French scenes, when the Pole loses his financial privileges). If you stretch the metaphors a bit it becomes even more interesting: in strictly Freudian terms hair is of course all about sex, and Kieslowski draws a lot of Oedipal innuendo from the ongoing game of dominance and submission in this regard. It seems like both the pole and Dominique are in dire need of paternal protection, and they interchangeably play top-bottom games. The ending might be playfully suggesting that their equalization-through-punishment is a way for them to finally stop treating each other Oedipally, while it might also be suggesting that this Oedipal tension is necessary to stave off death (whiteness) so that we may expect the game will continue ad infinitum. I liked this unresolved and somewhat cynical note much better than BLEU’s embrace of ”love thy neighbour” replete with EU propaganda.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 17 February 2008 @ 11:16 am

  14. I saw all three of them a few years ago, and can’t remember anything about them at the moment. I’d have to watch them again for anything to come back, and I am fairly sure I don’t intend to. They were impressive, but not nearly earth-shattering for me to re-tool my schedule.

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    Comment by Jonquille de Camembert — 17 February 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  15. Well thanks for letting us know via comment that you don’t intend to comment, hence reasserting the importance of your opinion even when having none, or something. Did you finally see the Eastern Promises?

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    Comment by parodycenter — 17 February 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  16. ‘Well thanks for letting us know via comment that you don’t intend to comment, hence reasserting the importance of your opinion even when having none, or something.’

    I did no such thing. You need not expect to get deep gratification from every moment in life just because you’ve seroconverted to drone music and are in a state of constant piss-off.

    No, I’m about 250th on the list for ‘Eastern Promises’. It’s moved in two weeks from 475th, so I’ll see it sometime after the Oscars, which I won’t watch. I did just watch ‘Hangmen Also Die’, having seen about 8 Fritz Lang films in the last 6 weeks. He’s quite extraordinary the way a sledgehammed comes down all of a sudden, this is especially effective in ‘The Big Heat’, and even makes Glenn Ford perform effectively.

    My remark about the trilogy was meant to echo Odile’s, which surprised me in its probably de facto similarity.

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    Comment by Jonquille de Camembert — 17 February 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  17. Well excuse me if at the age of 35 I still feel myself legitimate in the role of the angry young man, postponing for a few more years what Annie Ross rendered so majestically in that immortal song: THE PUNISHING KISS (and this is that American salon genre you favor, darling, only I think Annie Ross is much more exciting than Cole Porter)

    I favour a good punishing kiss
    It helps pass the lonely afternoons
    Another stiff drink
    Wipe off that lipstick
    For when you reach a certain age
    All the most villainous men
    Can be found on Channel Ten
    And I make them dance
    In attendance
    We will be back
    In a minute or two
    And he will punish that girl
    Oh I forget the reason
    Just look at me I’m lost in a social whirl

    She was never so witty
    Always struggling to be full of fun
    On weekdays from midday to one
    In a little black cocktail dress everyone hates
    She’ll be saving the world in-between fashion plates
    I know what she gets up to in the back of that black limousine
    And I find myself shouting at the screen
    I think that it’s time to turn over
    They say it’s harmless I know
    A hundred and ten percent certain virtually real
    If you need something to feel

    Then favour a good punishing kiss
    It helps chase the wasted afternoons
    The flowers and the pearls
    The long lost relations
    That love sick tom boy comes in bloom
    All the pointless heartache
    That seems to belong in my blue bloom

    Can’t stand the suspense
    The endless embraces
    When each episode
    Lends the silly pretence
    Say I can turn away
    When I will never miss
    It starts with a joke
    And ends with a punishing kiss

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    Comment by parodycenter — 17 February 2008 @ 7:33 pm

  18. That was quite tedious. I bet you have Bette Davis Eyes Imitation Maybelline to go with it and prune-mouth.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 17 February 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  19. I was referring to the:

    ”For when you reach a certain age
    All the most villainous men
    Can be found on Channel Ten”

    but that’s because you’re shoving ageism down my throat all the time, you neurotic bitch

    anyhow I thought you’d love Kieslowski for the music at least? It’s really good in all three movies.

    by the way turns out dr. Fossey never supported the bombing of Serbia, and that’s something Alphonse accused her of repeatedly. She did put in a strange Scarlett O’Hara argument about the right of wimmin to self-determination (and you know what I just don’t see either Texas or Alabama secedin’ any time soon!) but that’s vastly acceptable in comparison to Cobra’s calculated denial of the Communist roots of evil. By the way just read that a major Republican candidate is backed by the Albanian mafia.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 17 February 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  20. by the way turns out dr. Fossey never supported the bombing of Serbia, and that’s something Alphonse accused her of repeatedly

    Arpege Klein is only interested in little cozy bar-people things. Pretends she’s all about big world events, but would rather talk in low-bar language as long as it’s a matter of slinging around ‘I’ve-read-this-theory-about-the-other-theory’ sort of thing that Roger and Childie both specialize in, being blogger-identified to a farethewell both, and good riddance! People do choose their own toilets.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 17 February 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  21. I’m late to the party again, I see. I like these Kieslowski movies, White better than Blue, yet to see Red. The music in White featured a sprightly yet somewhat mournful tango number with a distinctly bohemian air that served as Karol’s Polish theme song.

    I’m also interested in Kieslowski’s project of building personal stories around universal themes in both the Tricoleur and the Dekalog. I want to rewrite my idiosyncratic reading of the Genesis creation story in fictional form, so I’m studying how Kielsowski makes the links between the grand and the personal narratives. The statue of the French revolution is a nice little touch. I had a brief correspondence with Robert Coover, godfather of postmodern fiction whose novel The Universal Baseball Association I referenced in my nonfictional Genesis book. He said that he came up with the idea for his baseball novel after reading a gnostic interpretation of the Genesis creation myth, with each chapter of his book corresponding to a day in the creation.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 February 2008 @ 12:07 am

  22. building personal stories around universal themes

    I like the idea as well, and feel that you should proceed with it

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    Comment by parodycenter — 18 February 2008 @ 9:28 am


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