Saturday, January 12, 2008

Edward Klosinski: Fade to White

I just learned today of the death of Polish cinematographer Edward Klosinski, who passed away on January 5, at age 65, after a relatively short battle with lung cancer.

Klosinski's 70-plus picture filmography includes such classics of Polish cinema as Andrzej Wajda's MAN OF MARBLE (1977) and the Palme d'Or-winning MAN OF IRON (1981), as well as Lars von Trier's EUROPA (1991). The news of his death carries an extra sting because he was a favorite collaborator of the man whom I consider the most important director of the last quarter-century, the late Krzysztof Kieslowski. Klosinski photographed "Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord thy God in Vain," one of the finest episodes of Kieslowski's THE DECALOGUE (1990) and, more importantly, he was the director of photography for the second film of his celebrated "Three Colors" trilogy, WHITE (1994), starring Julie Delpy and Zbigniew Zamachowski -- the brightest dark comedy ever made.

A compulsive smoker, Kieslowski died of cardiac arrest in 1996, shortly after completing "Three Colors" and embarking on a life of speculative retirement. Five years later, in 2001, his valued collaborator Piotr Sobocinski -- the cameraman responsible for two DECALOGUE episodes and the third entry in the trilogy, RED (1994), died unexpectedly of the same cause at age 43. Klosinski's death leaves only Slamowir Idziak, the gifted cinematographer of THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE (1991) and BLUE (1993), as a living representative of Kieslowski's final camera trust.

Julie Delpy in THREE COLORS: WHITE, photographed by Edward Klosinski.

Of the "Three Colors" films, WHITE has always carried the burden of being the odd one out; in contrast to the tragically wrenching BLUE, set in France, and the metaphysically momentous RED, set in Switzerland, it's a wry black comedy set in Poland -- and Nabokovian to the extent of featuring a protagonist named Karol Karol. Whether or not one finds Julie Delpy a comparable beauty to Juliette Binoche and Irène Jacob is a matter of taste, but she wasn't called upon to carry her film in the way her two colleagues were; her Dominique is an important supporting character, a bedevilling harpy rather than a heroine. The film is really about her miserable husband Karol, from whom she is separated and pursuing a divorce, and the Faustian friendship he strikes up with a businessman met in a tube station, a vaguely written character that becomes one of Kieslowski's most memorable personages through the performance of actor Janusz Gajos.

Klosinski photographed WHITE in a manner that is at once en suite with its companion films while also striking a distinctly different attitude, more earthy and realistic, depicting its director's homeland as a humble country that magic can reach only from within.

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