Blue is the Warmest Colour

Review by Sophie Monks Kaufman @sopharsogood

Directed by

Abdellatif Kechiche

Starring

Adèle Exarchopoulos Léa Seydoux Salim Kechiouche

Anticipation.

This is pure good news according to everyone. (Apart from Léa Seydoux and Abdellatif Kechiche.)

Enjoyment.

There is no nook or cranny that this passionate love story does not permeate. Comprehensive and heartfelt.

In Retrospect.

Like love, it is less potent once the moment has passed.

Abdellatif Kechiche’s passionate lesbian love story is a screen romance that’s built for the long-haul.

Every so often justice is done and a film receives the attention and accolades it deserves. This Palme d’Or winning chronicle of the pleasure, passion and pain of true love is exactly that. The beauty of director Abdellatif Kechiche’s slow-burning and naturalistic depiction of a young lady’s evolution through matters of the heart derives from the fact that its structure and themes are so universal that it’s open season on finding a way to plug yourself into the drama.

Three hours fly by, in a large part because of the committed performance of young star, Adèle Exarchopoulos. In the graphic novel that inspired the film, her character’s name was Clémentine but here it is Adele, an amendment made by Kechiche so he could use footage shot when technically work was all over for the day.

The essence of a genuine 19-year-old exists in the character of Adèle, which makes sense after witnessing the drastic range of emotions she displays. No nose has ever run as excessively as Adèle’s in scenes when she is gripped by the fear that she will lose her lover. No painted A-list face has channeled such sincerity as the messy, unselfconscious, captivating Adèle. Her character lives for love, and this single-minded focus can be seen in her constant attentiveness to the external world and the way it connects to her blue-haired girl, Emma (Léa Seydoux).

Blue… spans many years, beginning when Adèle is a schoolgirl engaging in sexual experiments with a schoolboy. She lives with her mother and father and long dinner scenes of them hoovering up spaghetti in near-silence set the tone for a story in which appetites speak louder than words. The camera is Exarchopoulos’ most loyal companion, locking its gaze on to her face when she is still, following her from behind when she takes off, hair quivering in its own forcefield as she pounds the streets en route to school or a date. Whether Adèle’s face is blank or electrified by feeling, whether she is eating, reading, dressing or fucking, the camera creates a sense of great anticipation. This character is ripe and ready for shaping through experience.

Experience has a name and that name is Emma, an older, more refined and defined lesbian artist. Kechiche’s script was apparently on the slim side, leaving the actresses – who became great friends – to work up their relationship naturally. In its organic progression through flirtation, discussion and physical intimacy, the film shows up the million romances that rush through these stages, substituting signposting for sincerity. Here, there is no sense of urgency, just space and time and two women with only eyes for each other. No priority other than how two lives will develop around a bond.

Kechiche’s unerring confidence in the power of this simple story manifests in long takes of domestic and outdoor dramas. The passage of time is conveyed in subtle changes in lifestyle – now Adèle wears earrings, now Emma’s hair is no longer blue. Careers develop, other friendships ebb and flow, families exert definitive influence. In the microcosm of a relationship the rhythm of life finds a pulse. Food and its sloppy consumption remains important, as does – and if you haven’t read the salacious reams on this, bravo – sex.

In the context of so much naturalism, long, graphic depictions of carnality do not seem gratuitous or pornographic, they seem like passionate expressions of love. In an industry where sex usually plays like a ‘best of’ advertorial, seeing a passionate expression of love is cause for celebration. Parents, bring your (older) kids!

This being a well-rounded tale of love, the narrative also goes into mistakes, anger, jealousy and fights. After having spent so long flying solo with Adèle at the beginning her pain here is contagious. Exarchopoulos’ emotionally expressive face makes her a sympathetic conduit to the depths of anguish and a relatable reference for personal ravages. Adèle has described Kechiche as taking her from the shadow and putting her into light, in Blue is the Warmest Colour she has taken the most volatile, extraordinary and misrepresented emotion and placed that in the light.

Published 21 Nov 2013

Tags: Adèle Exarchopoulos French Cinema Léa Seydoux

Anticipation.

This is pure good news according to everyone. (Apart from Léa Seydoux and Abdellatif Kechiche.)

Enjoyment.

There is no nook or cranny that this passionate love story does not permeate. Comprehensive and heartfelt.

In Retrospect.

Like love, it is less potent once the moment has passed.

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