Trilology of Trilogies

Posted by on May 01 2012 | Motion Pictures

(Trois Couleurs: Rouge, Krzysztof Kieslowski 1994, France/Poland/Switzerland, 99 min., French w/subtitles)

Some film trilogies are deliberate creations: meticulous superproductions with elaborate thematic and narrative designs that aspire to the density of novels. Others occur more organically, with filmmakers gradually improvising after an unexpected breakthrough.

An exemplar of the latter type is Abbas Kiarostami’s informal Koker trilogy. The opening feature, Where Is the Friend’s House?, offers a straightforward but meditative fable about a young boy’s search for a classmate’s home. When an earthquake nearly destroyed the village where Friend’s House was shot, Kiarostami embarked on a quest of his own, returning to Koker to learn the whereabouts of the boys who starred in the film. He fictionalized this search in the faux-documentary Life and Nothing More… and further fictionalized the making of that film in Through the Olive Trees. As described by the Pacific Film Archive, “Expecting to find death, Kiarostami found life, and proceeded to transform it into cinema.” The Koker films garnered an enormous reputation but have remained difficult to see, not least because Through the Olive Trees was acquired and then withheld from release by Miramax. At the time, Miramax was focusing its attention on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy — a multinational monument to the history of art house cinema and a forward-looking dream of a European Union. Crisscrossing the continent and musing on fate, discipline, and love, Kieslowski’s triptych scales impossible emotional heights. It also looks particularly interesting today as the eurozone that Kieslowski celebrates teeters on the economic brink — a fate also shared by Freedonia, the make-believe country inhabited by the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, the beloved conclusion to their informal trilogy of anarchic, animal-inflected comedies conceived directly for the screen.

Films and Screenings

— Kyle Westphal, Chief Projectionist

(Leo McCarey, US 1933, 68 min.)

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