Remember when Rolling Stone came out with it’s numbered list of 100 greatest guitarists, and teenage boys everywhere flipped out about how unjustly placed guitar king x was vs. rock god y? That’s the problem with definitive collections–that they claim to be definitive in a wholly subjective realm.
The Criterion collection wisely sidesteps this problem by refusing to order their films. Furthermore, Criterion isn’t collecting “great” films, but merely “significant” films, films that have had an influence on the medium or on culture. That being said, from what I’ve seen the collection has become much less sure of itself past the 60s, and seem to be working much more off of the premise of “Well, it’s set in Paris, so it must be a great film.”
Three Colors: White is the first film I’ve seen that I don’t believe in the Criterion collection, it’s a mean, silly little film entirely focused on what it means to be a big dick and be a man.
The film follows Karol Karol, a hairdresser whose wife divorces him because he’s struggling with impotency. Desperate, broke and angry, he returns to his native Warsaw and begins to cheat his way improbably into running a large and successful company. Oh, this isn’t about him getting his life back together, but really an elaborate way for him to get revenge on his ex-wife and regain his masculinity.
The film literally climaxes with him finally able to perform in bed, then skip out on his ex-wife, leaving her to be arrested under the suspicion of murder.
The film isn’t terrible: It’s an enjoyable black comedy and one that lightly gets at life in post-Soviet eastern europe. Its not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. Its just not a film that I could ever call “essential.”
A final note: Part of the problem is that I’m working off of Criterion’s collection on Hulu, which becomes thinner the more contemporary it gets because of the increasing difficulty of getting the rights. I may need to switch up how I watch films post-1980.