One of the more amusing phone calls I received in 1994 was from a guy who obviously knew his colors. His call was in reaction to my review of director Krysztof Kieslowski’s film “Blue,” which, as I explained, was the first of three films based on the red, white and blue-colored French flag.
Wrong. “Everybody knows,” the caller said, “that the French flag is blue, white and red.”
True enough. And that, of course, is the order in which Kieslowski has released his movies: “Blue,” “White” (see capsule review below) and the forthcoming “Red.”
Makes me wonder about some of my favorite other movie colors. A few follow:
Red - “Raise the Red Lantern” (1992) is Zhang Yimou’s study of 1920s China, a period in which polygamy reduced women to the status of chattel; “Red River” (1948) is Howard Hawks’ stalwart look at the struggle between an autocratic cattle driver (John Wayne) and his more sensible son (Montgomery Clift); “Red Dust” (1932) and “Red-Headed Woman” (1932) are two easy explanations for the popularity of early sex symbol Jean Harlow.
Orange - “Soldier of Orange” (1979) is the Dutch study of World War II that helped introduce Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbe to international audiences; “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) is Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ best-selling novel about a futuristic Britain and its teen criminals, starring a youthful Malcolm MacDowell.
Yellow - “Yellow Submarine” (1968) is the animated adventure featuring Beatles songs and surrealistic imagery; “Yellowstone Kelly” (1959) starred the thenpopular Clint Walker as the famous mountain man.
Green - “The Green Berets” (1968) is John Wayne’s effort to justify U.S. involvement in Vietnam; “The Boy With Green Hair” (1948) is Joseph Losey’s look at prejudice that starred child star Dean Stockwell; “How Green Was My Valley” (1941) is John Ford’s multi-Oscar-winning look at Welsh coal miners; “Green Card” (1990) is the light, charming romance between an illegal alien (Gerard Depardieu) and his wife-ofconvenience (Andie MacDowell).
Blue - “The Boy in Blue” (1986) is one of Nicolas Cage’s lesser efforts, a look at the rowing career of real-life Canadian Olympian Ned Hanlan; “Blue Velvet” (1986) is the bizarre movie that made David Lynch famous; “Blue Thunder,” along with “WarGames,” was one reason why 1983 was dubbed “the John Badham summer”; “Blue Hawaii” (1961) is one of the clonelike Elvis Presley features; “The Blue Knight” (1973) is a made-fortelevision adaptation of the Joseph Wambaugh novel, starring William Holden, originally a 200-minute, four-part miniseries.
Violet - “Violets Are Blue…” (1986) is a marriage-in-trouble story starring Kevin Kline as a newspaper editor, Sissy Spacek as a world-class photographer who is his ex-flame and Bonnie Bedelia as Kline’s down-home-if-beautiful wife.
Black - “Black and White in Color” (1977), a study of French and German troops fighting each other in World War I-era Africa, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film; “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) is the story of a high-school teacher (Glen Ford) who befriends a tough teen (Sidney Poitier), battles a gang leader (Vic Morrow) and eventually earns respect for his profession; “Blackmail” (1929) is an early Alfred Hitchcock study in murder and extortion and, incidently, was the first British talkie.
Gray - “The Long, Gray Line” (1955) is John Ford’s bio-pic of a West Point instructor played by Tyrone Power; “Gray Lady Down” (1978) is a save-the-submarine saga starring Charlton Heston.
White - “White Christmas” (1954) is, of course, the Bing Crosby feature about an entertainer and his buddy (Danny Kaye) who attempt to save the holiday inn of their wartime commander (Dean Jagger); “White Heat” (1949) is one of James Cagney’s best gangster movies, featuring the immortal line, “Top of the world, Ma!”; “White Hunter, Black Heart” (1990) is Clint Eastwood’s attempt to capture the essence of John Huston’s character, if not actual life; “White Mischief” (1988), a look at British colonists in pre-World War II Kenya, is notable for the presence of Greta Scacchi.
And one to tie them all together:
“The Rainbow” (1989) is Ken Russell’s atypically restrained prequel to his own “Women In Love” (1969), both being adaptations of the novels by D.H. Lawrence.
What’s new to view
The week’s releases (dates are tentative):
Wednesday - “A Troll in Central Park” (Warner), “White” (Buena Vista), “Ciao, Professore!” (Buena Vista).
This second installment in Polish filmmaker Krysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy, the first being “Blue,” involves a Warsaw hairdresser trying to rebound after being divorced by his French wife. After the serious nature of “Blue,” in which Juliette Binoche portrays a woman attempting to rebound from the tragic death of her family, the sometimes silly “White” seems fatuous. But there is some genuine angst here, and Julie Delpy makes the nicest-looking femme fatale since Uma Thurman. Rated R.
Ciao, Professore! ** 1/2
Italian director Lina Wertmuller, once considered one of the world’s best directors, offers her version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” Only it plays more like “Summer School.” Based on the novel “Io Speriama Che Me La Cavo” (“Me, Let’s Hope I Make It”), “Ciao, Professore” tells the story of a thirdgrade teacher who, through a governmental error, is sent to a town where the kids are all foulmouthed delinquents as only Disney would manufacture them. Sure enough, teacher makes the difference. The best parts involve Paolo Villagio, the popular Italian star whose style is singularly unaffected, and the kids are occasionally cute, too. All too often, though, Wertmuller merely uses her pre-adolescent cast to manipulate our emotions. Rated R.