Friday, 29 June 2018

Movie Review: Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)


A romantic drama, Blue Is The Warmest Colour explores the intensity of first love through a lesbian relationship. The film is passionate, erotic and mind-numbingly long.

In France, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a high school student from a modest middle class family approaching her 18th birthday. As she dates an attractive guy from school, she starts to realize that something is missing, and fantasizes about a lesbian relationship. Her friend Valentin (Sandor Funtek) invites her to a gay bar, and that same evening she is drawn into a lesbian cafe, where she meets the slightly older Emma (Léa Seydoux), a confident college student and aspiring artist.

Despite Adèle still not fully coming to terms with her budding sexuality they start a steamy relationship and fall deeply in love. Adèle graduates from high school and starts work as a kindergarten school teacher. She meets Emma's friends and parents, and is generally intimidated by their level of cultural sophistication. Gradually, issues of compatibility and jealousy start to impact the relationship.

Directed, co-written and co-produced by Abdellatif Kechiche and based on a graphic novel, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a small love story amplified to an epic size and scale. Three hours is far too long to invest in the budding green shoots of first love and awakening sexuality, but Kechiche's intention is to get under the skin of Adèle and delve as deeply as possible into her soul. In this he succeeds, using an overabundance of close-ups and prolonging every scene to the point of exhaustion.

This includes the central scene of lovemaking between Adèle and Emma, more than ten minutes of intense passion between two women leaving very little to the imagination. The length and raw exposure of the sex scenes is in keeping with the context of the film, but the level of explicit imagery challenges the line between art and actress exploitation.

Elsewhere, Kechiche and his team of editors are just as patient. The many scenes centred on meals with family members and friends feature an overabundance of actual eating, the actors chewing away and swallowing with gusto, all in the service of prolonging conversations and adding depth. The many scenes of socializing feature laborious philosophical debates, not directly relevant to the film. The many scenes of Adèle teaching children in a kindergarten classroom feature many minutes of children being children, running around and enjoying their environment.

And numerous scenes just ride along with Adèle being Adèle, fussing around (always fussing around) with her hair, the diagonal strand of hair across her face stubbornly refusing to budge and becoming a distinctive feature of the film's first half. The actress Adèle Exarchopoulos is in every single scene of the three hour movie, and often her face is featured in close-up as the most prominent feature on the screen. Both Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux are almost haunting in their natural intensity, and miraculously carry the weight of all that Kechiche loads onto their shoulders.

Through the relationship the film explores themes of what makes a couple successful. Adèle and Emma fall deeply in love and are undoubtedly sexually compatible, but other stresses tug away at their happiness. Emma comes from a more sophisticated family, her friends discuss literature and philosophy, and she displays strong career ambitions to succeed as an artist. Adèle is younger, simpler, not nearly as artistic, and more than content with life as a teacher. The struggle between pure love and the life's pragmatism emerges as a central motif.

The film cannot help but eventually lose momentum. After a fiery argument, the resolution of the two character arcs meanders into much less interesting territory, and a final climactic coffee shop encounter attempts to recreate the erotic tension but doesn't work.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour undoubtedly succeeds in creating in Adèle and Emma two compelling characters who have discovered a life-altering and sensual love, and are changed forever because of it. First love often leaves a bittersweet legacy, as does the film in its weighty insistence on capturing every detail of life and love.






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