Original Name: La vie d’Adèle
Date: November 2013
Release Year: 2013, Director: Abdellatif Kechiche, IMDB Link
I realize that I’ve only been writing about mainstream movies for a while. So, for a change, here is an artsy French film that won this year’s Palm D’or. This movie also gave rise to a lot of controversy due to its explicit lesbian sex scenes. I am always intrigued by gay love films- for some reason they always turn out to be far more interesting, original, and deeper compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Blue is the Warmest Color didn’t disappoint me in that regard. Although the story follows the classical template of a generic relationship story, the direction and acting brings out a powerful tale about the purest and yet most complex of all human emotions; love…
Blue is The Warmest Color tells the story of Adele (actually, the correct translation of the title of the movie from French to English is “Life of Adele”), who is a high school teenager with a sexual identity crisis. She dates boys but soon realizes that she is more attracted towards women. Her life turns inside out when she meets Emma, who is an older woman majoring in art. Emma’s blue hair, her outgoing personality and her passion about art captivates Adele, and they soon fall in love.
And I mean LOVE, they completely lose themselves- within their eyes, hands and bodies. For a large portion of the film, you feel that they do not exist as individuals but rather as a joint life form that feeds on their mutual compassion. The rest of the movie focuses on different phases of their relationship and how Adele finds her true self-identity.
First of all, I would like to say that the film’s original title “Adele’s Life” is a perfectly fitting title for the movie. The film itself is nothing but a spyglass directed towards Adele’s personal life. You can’t help feeling like you are not only watching a movie, but you are actually witnessing a human being’s most private moments. Director Abdelatif Kechiche took extreme measures to preserve realism in the movie. There are many scenes where we watch Adele doing simple everyday tasks such as staring from the window of a train, sleeping, walking to school etc. The redundancy of such scenes increase the length of the movie (which I am going to criticize later), yet also they strengthen the bond between the audience and Adele.
Of course we get to see the critical stuff too; her first time kissing a girl, her sex life, her depression, her loneliness.. Basically all the private emotions that a person can undergo in a lifetime, we get to witness to them. To me, that was one of the strongest points of the film. By the end, you bond with Adele so much that she starts to feel like an actual person. I found myself wondering and thinking about her from time to time, even though I knew that she is a fictional character. Yes, the directing and writing in the movie is that good..
The lead actress Adele Exarchopoulos (yes, she shares the same name with the character she plays) displays an absolutely phenomenal performance. I do not remember being blown away like this by a female lead, like, in a long time. First of all, she has one of the most expressive faces I have ever seen. Her eyes, cheeks and mouth, they POUR emotion from the screen right into your heart. There are a couple of scenes where she cries in an uncontrollable breakdown, and seriously it might actually be the most nerve-wracking and realistic crying I have ever seen. Moreover, she is only 20 years old! What I see here is a potential star with infinite acting talent. I would be shocked if her popularity is multiplied by a factor of hundred in a couple of years.
Well, let’s not forget our dear Lea Seydoux too. I am used to seeing her in cold-blooded, femme-fatale type of roles, but she is so different here. She wears almost no make-up (other than her fabulous blue hair of course) and she is mostly energetic and charming here. Her acting doesn’t fall short to Adele’s, but she is used more as a plot device rather than a fully developed character. Indeed, her attitude and feelings toward Adele is the major driving force behind the story. She is like a sculptor, in the sense that Adele is her statue.
I also enjoyed the symbolism and small directorial tricks that are scattered across the movie. One of my favorite scenes is the garden scene where they celebrate Adele’s birthday. A small outdoors movie screen is used as a decoration, and during Adele’s conversation with the guests, you can actually see that her mood matches up with whatever that is playing on the screen! Simply brilliant.. Another trick is the transformation of Emma’s hair throughout the story. When they first meet, she has blue hair complimenting her charming and mysterious personality. As time passes and the relationship gets more monotonous, her hair is reverted back to it’s plain form.
As far as the theme goes, it is a classic love story within a “coming of age” type drama. Since we have already seen thousands of movies that are based around similar themes, it is really difficult to argue if this story is telling anything that we haven’t come across before. I guess it is more about how the message is transmitted rather than the message itself. The depiction of love in the movie is so intense, it is almost heartbreaking. It is amazing to see that the most joyful thing that can happen to a woman can also turn out to be the most destructive thing in her life.
Ok, then what else is keeping this movie from getting a perfect score? As a lot of other critics mentioned, the movie certainly has a pacing problem.. I have absolutely no problem with longer movies, but Blue is The Warmest Color doesn’t really justify it’s enormous 3 hours length. I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss any scenes from the movie, but with a careful editing the length of the movie could certainly be cut by, at least, 30-40 minutes.
I guess I have to talk about the sex scenes, since it is the most striking feature of the film. They are about 10-11 minutes long in total, and they are VERY intense and graphic. Not pornographic really, but they can certainly be classified as soft-porn. Actually, it might be the first major movie ever that contains tribadism (a sex position exclusive to lesbians, where two women rub their genitals to each other).
A substantial number of critics claimed that these scenes are over the top and unnecessary. I disagree. I think those sex scenes serve a very important purpose in the film. The love and passion between the couple is so strong, without these scenes their relationship would look dull and uninteresting to the audience. Also, these sex scenes make the aftermath between Emma and Adele (the scene where they see each other at the cafe, much later in the movie) ten times more powerful. It almost makes you wonder if the entire purpose of those sex scenes were to serve as a build-up for that scene at the cafe.
Blue is the Warmest Color, is a beautiful movie, with mind-blowing acting and very tasteful directing. I recommend it to anyone who has fallen in love at some point in their life… yeah, I know that is pretty much everyone. Alright, let’s wrap up this review with a nice quote from the movie.
Emma: Here, I made a painting of you
Adele: That is strange, she (the painting) is me, but not me at the same time…
Definitive Scenes: Adele wandering in the lesbian bar, The verbal fight between students at the school exit, The first kiss between Emma and Adele, their first sex, The birthday celebration in the garden, Emma’s confrontation of Adele, The Cafe scene towards the end, the whole final sequence in the art gallery.