The film opens cross cutting between the arrival of a nervous-looking Polish man at a Paris divorce court with seemingly irrelevant shots of a large brown suitcase on an airport carousel. If you know a Kieslowski film, he rarely presents something on screen has no importance. The man, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), awkwardly asks the court guard for directions, stating he has been ‘summoned’. Summoned to an embarrassing humiliation. Struggling to speak French, Karol is informed that his beautiful wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) no longer loves him and has taken her proposed divorce to court on the grounds that he was unable to consummate the marriage.
Not only does Karol lose his wife, but also his profession (a beauty salon they jointly owned), his residency in France, his passport and the rest of his cash. The latter is revealed in a pair of amusing sequences, which sees one card eaten by an ATM and the second cut up by a bank attendant. Penniless and with nothing but the contents of a single suitcase, he resorts to the life of a beggar, performing songs on his comb at a Metro station. Talk about being down on your luck. All seems lost until he meets and befriends a fellow Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), who offers him a strange job – to kill someone who wants to be dead but lacks the courage to attempt suicide – and proposes an ingenious way of sneaking Karol back into Poland. There, Karol returns to working as a hairdresser at his brother’s salon, and seeks out Mikolaj to complete the proposed job. There his moneymaking schemes and personal agendas take an odd turn.
Blanc is never laugh-out-loud funny, but it is a consistently amusing little film. There are a number of bizarre sequences, and Karol’s success is inspiring in the vain of taking control of ones life when down on luck and spurred by an agenda. I think more knowledge about European National affairs in the early 90’s (especially in France and Poland) would assist in understanding this film more, because I sense that Karol’s successful dealings on the Black market; his abilities to negotiate deals on property and his swift rise to wealth, is demonstrative of a rejection of Communism and embrace of Capitalism. Blanc has been called ‘anti-comedy’ and there is an underlying dark sense-of-humor to the screenplay, almost as if Kieslowski is in tongue-in-cheek mode. The premise of revenge against the ex-wife does lack logic. Though, it is such good fun, that it doesn’t really deter from the experience. Karol’s life is like the dual sides of a coin; one side meaning he has no luck and loses everything, the other meaning he has luck on his side, and is set to gain everything he desires. One balances out the other. 'Equality' if you like.
The acting, again, is strong. Zbigniew Zamachowski's performance reminded me of a slapstick routine a little bit. He was so bumbling and awkward at the beginning, relying on this dumbfounded look and an inability to communicate through language. Eventually he walks around with newfound confidence, his head held high, his hair slicked back and his fancy suit. He is a completely different person. His radical change is accentuated to amusing levels. Karol is much more complex than you initially believe, and he expresses evident sadness and regret about his prank. While he wished to humiliate his ex-wife, who in some ways deserved her come-uppance, his love for her is so strong that he nearly can't bring himself to do it.
Julie Delpy's role is relatively brief, but she was excellent as the cold-hearted young woman, whose strange sexual urges (especially their brief fling in the salon) transcend meaning. Part of what makes this film so quirky, are these relationships. Just as bizarre is the charming friendship between Karol and Mikolaj, who assign one another odd tasks, to say the least. Another feature of the film I would like to mention is the score. As much as I loved Zbigniew Priesner's scores in both The Double Life of Veronique and Bleu, I think this is my favourite work of his so far. I found it to be really catchy and uplifting. Blanc is probably the lightest of the trilogy to watch, and as a result is also the least emotionally resonant. But, at a brief 88 minutes, it is a real treat and the perfect accompaniment for the Bleu and Rouge.