Blue is the Warmest Colour

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UK Release Date 22nd November 2013
Director Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring Seydoux & Exarchopoulos
Runtime 179 Minutes
Certificate 18
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 26th November 2013

Blue is the Warmest Colour arrives on our screens with a fair amount of baggage. The Palm d’Or for starters, not always a guarantee of a good watch. But mostly revolving around controversially explicit sex scenes and talk of a set that sounds a lot like Apocalypse Now but without the jungle. More than enough to pique our interest at any rate. 

We pick up the story of Adèle (the original title La vie d’Adèle: Part I & II is far more appropriate than the one it ended with), a bright teenager studying French with aspirations of becoming a teacher. A chance passing encounter with a blue haired girl, a disappointing sexual experience with a hot male senior student and a spur of the moment kiss with a female classmate all conspire to unsettle her idea of her sexuality. Tentatively exploring the gay scene in Lille with her gay buddy, she is drawn to a lesbian bar and discovers the blue haired girl once more. They form a wary friendship which gradually turns to passionate love affair and eventually domesticity. As ever though, the path of true love, well, it’s a tricky one, n’est pas?

The two leads have taken the majority of the plaudits for this movie and every single one of them is justified. Adèle Exarchopoulos is extraordinary as Adèle. At once young, un-made up and goofy, she is also beautiful and her transformation from 15 year old school girl to young teacher is amazing to behold. And it’s fortunate that she is so committed to the role and gifted as an actress because her character really does go through the mill. Intensely vulnerable but never weak, Adèle’s emotions constantly run on the surface and her innocent young love for the blue haired Emma is gut-wrenchingly authentic. As Emma, Léa Seydoux is a perfect partner for Exarchopoulos. Emma is more mature, more comfortable with her sexuality and at a completely different stage of her life when the two meet. Seydoux balances the emotions of her role perfectly, always just slightly more controlled than Adèle, Emma’s emotions are more in check but no less authentic. And when the two are together, their passion is as visceral as you will experience at the cinema. Much has been and will be made of their sex scenes and in truth, my one reservation about this movie is a constant nagging feeling that a woman would have directed it differently and I’d like to see that movie. But, they are an absolute emotional smack in the face, shaking you ferociously like no other romance movie has. The burning passion the two girls feel for each other is never in doubt and the two leads are the reason for this.

Having thrown you face first into their relationship, from tentative moments on a park bench through to passionate sex, it’s only a matter of time before the movie starts to wobble your faith in their relationship. Contrasting family meals give the first signs of trouble as Emma’s more liberal mother and step father accept completely Emma’s sexuality (the oysters served demonstrate not only the difference in families but also Adèle’s willingness to bend in Emma’s direction) whereas Adèle feels the need to hide things from her more traditional parents, as they sit down to a very working class pasta meal. Neither experience seems to directly affect the girls at the time but it’s a subtle signpost of things to come. 

The movie moves forward in time liberally, never specifically signposting jumps but the colour of Emma’s hair and Adèle’s increasingly grown-up appearance are indicators of reasonable amounts of time passing. A subsequent party with Emma’s artistic friends sows more seeds of doubt within Adèle as she witnesses Emma chatting very comfortably with another (pregnant) woman, and, feeling inferior to the sophisticated friends, finding her confused sexuality re-surfacing in a conversation with a male actor friend of Emma’s. Some time later a very poor decision sees the relationship explode in spectacularly intense style.

Blue is the Warmest Colour is a truly impressive piece of work and one that, if the tales are true, extracted amazing performances from its two leads at quite some expense to them. From a purely selfish point of view, I have to congratulate Abdellatif Kechiche for his work. I’ve never seen such an astonishingly real, raw and powerful piece of acting as I did with the two girls. Their emotions are displayed on screen for pretty much the entire 179 minutes of this, slightly too long, movie and they never miss a beat. Mostly filmed in close, unstable camera shots, the long shots generally inflict shocking emotional punches to the viewer. Adèle curling up on the bench she first sat with Emma on and just lying there in the beautiful sunlight is an image that will stay with me for a long time. Never has total impotent desolation at a lost love been so perfectly captured in such a simple and beautiful manner. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll have done the same, it may not have been a park bench but you’ll instantly recognise the moment. And the reason it is so powerful is all that has gone before. The long scenes spent with the girls, the stupid small stuff like Adèle sleeping and dribbling on her pillow (seen that much in Hollywood?), the poor reaction to lesbian rumours by some but no means all of Adèle’s friends, Adèle carefully and probably needlessly hiding her girlfriend from work colleagues, it all just adds to your feelings for both girls.

The fact that the Cannes jury insisted that both leads accept the Palm d’Or with their director is a fitting testament to the work they have done together here. Blue is the Warmest Colour is a wonderful, brutal and exhaustingly emotional movie. Adèle’s final scene sums it up perfectly; it flirts with an almost Hollywood end but this isn’t that film. Without spoiling it, it’s safe to say that the end offers no answers and although it doesn’t necessarily offer hope, it offers a continuation. Adèle doesn’t cease to exist when the credits roll, she’s still out there, just as confused, just as likely to blow it, trying to make her way and deal with her actions. Just like every single one of us.

Check out the trailer here.

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