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The Essential Kieslowski

A Short Film About Killing

That famous softie Stanley Kubrick once gushed that Krzysztof Kies-lowski’s films “have the very real ability to dramatize their ideas .?.?. with such dazzling skill, you don’t realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.” Kubrick was describing The Decalogue (1989), the Polish filmmaker’s 10-part masterpiece, but he could just as soon have been speaking about any of the Kieslowski features that LACMA will present over the next two weekends. “The Essential Kieslowski” showcases the popular Three Colors trilogy, three films (Blue, White and Red) about human connection that are widely available on video — and which are best viewed not in the liberté of one’s own home, but in the fraternité of a public auditorium. Also showing is Kieslowski’s first film produced outside Poland, The Double Life of Veronique (1991). All four films, made after the collapse of communism, invoke familiar Kieslowski themes (notably, the interplay of faith and chance in our lives), but it feels as if the fall of the Berlin Wall prompted the director to let down barriers of his own, as if he finally accepted himself as an artist instead of merely a craftsman. His parables became more novelistic, and these final features embrace a rhapsodic lyricism only hinted at in the films that came before. Kieslowski’s earlier works are more compact, more guarded in their introspection, but still full of wonder. Included here are two expanded episodes of The Decalogue (A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love), and the director’s most succinct accomplishment, Camera Buff, a modest 1979 feature about a man and a Super-8 camera that is a touching, human comedy — and one of the most insightful works about filmmaking ever made. Kieslowski died 10 years ago, but his films live on. As a character in Camera Buff observes while watching his recently departed mother’s image flicker on a screen: “People are no longer alive, yet they’re still here. It’s beautiful.” (Los Angeles County Museum of Art; thru May 13. www.lacma.org)

—James C. Taylor


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