Monday, June 16, 2014

Blue is the Warmest Color

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche.
2013. Rated NC-17, 179 minutes.
Adele Exarchopoulos
Lea Seydoux
Salim Kechiouche
Aurelien Recoing
Catherine Salee
Benjamin Siksou
Mona Walravens
Alma Jodorowsky
Anne Loiret
Benoit Pilot

Adele (Exarchopoulos) is your typical high school student. She seems to be a fringe member of the in-crowd. this isn't some all-powerful elite crew like in movies for teenagers. It's just a group of girls who seem like they're the cool kids. They hang out together at school, talk a lot about their sex lives and exert a bit of peer pressure on each other about it. So when they tell her that a cute guy has a crush on her, the news comes with advice on how she should handle the stiuation. She pursues him and sure enough, winds up in bed with him. In the immediate aftermath, we see that something's amiss. She seems conflicted about the event. Her issue isn't whether or not she should've done such a thing. We can presume she was not a virgin before this. It appears she's not sure she really enjoyed it and doesn't know why.

Things would soon change. Adele decides to hang out with a gay male friend from school. He takes her to a nightclub full of guys where she stays for a while. Eventually, she wanders off on her own and finds herself in a lesbian bar. There she meets the blue-haired Emma (Seydoux), a budding artist and college student. The two hit it off right away. Emma pursues our heroine and before you know it, the two are in a committed relationship. We follow them for an unspecified number of years, well into Adele's adult life.

One thing that sets this apart from other movies about same sex relationships is that that is not the focus of the narrative. Early on, there is some hesitance on Adele's part as she comes to grips with her sexuality and a bit of cruelty suffered at the hands of her school friends when they only suspect she's a lesbian. However, that passes quickly. For the rest of the film we focus on fairly universal themes. Adele struggles with her place in Emma's life as Emma advances in her career as an artist, has friends more sophisticated than her, and an uncomfortably chummy relationship with an ex. She fears being left behind as Emma outgrows her. At times, she also feels neglected. On the opposite side of the coin, Emma is driven, climbing the ladder of success, and proud to have Adele in her corner. Unfortunately, she's somewhat oblivious to Adele's concerns. Adele hasn't verbally communicated her feelings and Emma hasn't picked up on them. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux give wonderful performances conveying their characters' emotions and motivations.

Normally, watching a three hour movie has me looking for things that should've been cut. I'm speaking to you, Peter Jackson. In this case, I actually found places where things could be added. Most important of these is finding out how Adele's parents feel about her relationship. I've already mentioned that the fact the couple in question is a lesbian one is not the movie's main focus. However, judging by the reaction of Adele's friends, the climate toward homosexuals isn't completely friendly, either. This is confirmed by the fact that Adele hides the fact that she is in a lesbian relationship when she introduces Emma to her parents. She presents it as a platonic friendship between two straight girls. Following this scene, her mom and dad just disappear from the movie. I'm not saying they have to disapprove of their daughter's lifestyle to create some massively melodramatic scene, but they should at least have knowledge of it and acknowledge it in some way. Without their input, there seems to be a gaping hole in the narrative of Adele's life. This is especially true when, just a short while later, we're shown that she has moved in with Emma. We're left to assume her parents are still in the dark about her relationship. This doesn't seem logical unless it were something that was expressly communicated to the viewer.

Delving into the parents' feelings may have placed more emphasis on the fact that our lovebirds are of the same sex than what was wanted. However, that is clearly the visual focus of the film. There are a number of sex scenes and they are almost all lengthy and graphic. It gets dangerously close to all out porn, if it isn't already that. It's hard to believe we aren't seeing actual sex. The way these scenes are shot, I wonder how it's possible that they are not doing what it looks like they are. Even during the one hetero sex scene we're shown something not seen in American movies outside of the adult industry: an erection. Cinematically, if there is a place to shave the runtime, it is here. Most of these scenes can be cut in half, if not reduced by two-thirds and change absolutely nothing about the movie. Of course, my inner-pig won't let me actually suggest that, so deal with it.

When the closing credits roll, we realize we might not be at the end. Ignoring the obvious, that we're told this is chapter one of two, the film concludes in such a way that suggests there could be more. I say could because if this were to be a standalone film then it functions as a fully self-contained unit. We've ridden the roller coaster of a relationship and come to a satisfactory finish. On the other hand, we can see there is possibly lots more to tell. What closes the movie could be interpreted as the chance for a new beginning, or at least a restart. We enjoy the ride we've had up until now and hope there is more to come.


  1. I really do need to see this at some point. I was considering it for my Blindspot challenge but eventually took it off and kept the list to English-speaking movies just to avoid over-complicating things during my first attempt.

    1. I highly recommend it. Just make sure any children or others who may be offended are either sound asleep or safely off the premises.

  2. Good review Dell. One of the most beautiful movies about romance that I've seen in quite some time.

    1. Indeed it is. Every level of it just works.

  3. Great review man. I really adored this film, particularly the way it ended. I so agree with you: the end of this film is a new beginning. It could've kept going, but I love where it cut out.

    1. It's just a great stopping point. It manages the trick of making us want to continue the story even though we're satisfied with what we have.