Review: Blue Is the Warmest Colour
by Fabien Lemercier
- Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux smash the barriers of social romanticism in the exceptional feminine "love story" by Abdellatif Kechiche
"Touching the very essence of the human being" is the challenge of "cinéma vérité", or cinema revealing the candid truth, always confronted by Abdellatif Kechiche in a career already rich in rewards after only four feature films. But with Blue is the Warmest Color [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile], in competition at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, the filmmaker clearly soars to an even higher altitude by getting as close as possible to the hearts and skins of two young women from very different social backgrounds. Weaving a hyper-sexed romantic work of extraordinary breadth without ever departing from his stylistic line giving priority to life and the intensity of the sequences, nor renouncing profound reflection and social analysis, the director offers the almost unknown Adèle Exarchopoulos and rising star Léa Seydoux two enormous roles which they assume with incredible audacity. But beyond these performances nourished by the embraces, laughter and tears of youth, the film asserts itself as an ode to the simplest form of freedom and the most difficult to achieve, that of assuming who we are, without having to justify it.
"What's my gender?" For the adolescent, questions about identity are ultra-relevent and Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a school-girl from a working-class family in the suburbs of Lille, is of an age when the appetite for love and sexuality awakens. With a fondness for literature in an environment in which culture is virtually non-existent in conversations among girl-friends and at family dinners lulled by TV, she sooon feels uncomfortable in an adventure with a boy. For her life has changed since she happened to come across a girl with blue hair who unexpectedly invites herself into her erotic dreams. Somewhat lost in her desires and in a more or less unconscious search for this apparition, she is soon to find her and overcomes the aggressiveness of some of the school-girls ("You'll never lick my pussy, you dirty dyke") before launching herself into the unknown territory of feminine homosexuality. Emma (Léa Seydoux), the girl with blue hair, in her fourth year at the Fine Arts Academy, falls for Adèle's charm, gently keeping her at a distance at first ("I'm one of those grown-ups who hang around in gay bars. I think we're rather different") before yielding to the alchemy of torrid bodies. Then begins the life of a couple that will gradually be fractured over the years by their vocations (Adèle a teacher, Emma a designer) and the gap that separates them in terms of ambitions, original backgrounds, education and their ways of envisaging happiness…
While remaining true to the fundamental corpus (the discovery of passion between women) of the comic strip Le bleu est une couleur chaude on which he based his film, Abdellatif Kechiche evacuates almost all the aspects of lesbian militantism and the tragic dimension from his adaptation, in order to concentrate more fully on the sociological theme so dear to him: the social gap and "melting pot" territories (body to body, the pleasures of shared eating, demonstrations, parties and dancing, small classes in school etc.). His directing, which has become expert in the art of close-ups and movement delves deeply into the characters and examines the details of their feelings in long captivating sequences. The mastery and powerfulness of the sex scenes in particular go well beyond their pornographic dimension, simply offering portrayals of palpitating nature in its simplest expression. A transmutation also achieved by the transmission of numerous references in ideally rendered scenes of daily life, including The Life of Marianne by Marivaux (the tale of a woman advancing towards and against everything), Antigone (the "little" heroine one day deciding to say no) and Sartre's Existentialism and Humanism. A whole which makes Blue is the Warmest Color a very great film, achieving spontaneous fusion between body and soul.
(Translated from French)
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