Blue Is The Warmest Color: Parts One & Two (2013)
December 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
(10/10) Adele (Adele Exarchopolous) is a girl on the verge of graduating from the French equivalent of high school with a concentration in literature. Complex five hundred page books mesmerize her; she has the Buena Vista Social Club documentary’s poster on her bedroom wall and generally seems interested in the nature of cultures and people. She chitchats with friends between classes, sneaks into bars occasionally (though she is underage) and is generally a normal young adult. However, Adele is troubled by a mysterious sense of longing and isolation. She has lots of pals, some of whom are very close, but she can tell she is different. They all see her undeniable and unequivocal physical beauty, yet inwardly she can’t see much of anything, sampling different writers, musicians and ways of going about developing her interpersonal relationships.
Part of this process is exploring her sexuality, as she finds relationships with men unsatisfying, if not completely off putting. Adele winds up getting involved with the lesbian scene by way of her gay BFF, who takes her out clubbing with him, only to find her sneak off to follow a group of lesbians to a different bar, where she is, in a sense, reborn. There she meets an older, blue haired art school student named Emma (Lea Seydoux) whom she shares a bond with that transcends the confusion that had previously alienated her from her peers. Emma allows Adele to be comfortable in her own skin for the first time. Though, Adele seems to always be ready to reaffirm her own lack of self-assurance. While Adele deals with the initial stages of a newly discovered sexuality, Emma must conceal any personal frustration, a she is older and went through the process a while ago. It reminds me of Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” wherein Emma is Lestat and Adele is Louise.
Adele Exarchopolous captures the complexity of a person who can afford to remain quiet and a bit passive because of her beauty, yet is not immunized from judgment or scorn. It’s a difficult balancing act, from watching her initially portray a confused teenager who gradually morphs into a jaded adult closing in on thirty (meaning no longer a child in any sense) faster than she anticipated.
The film traces the course of their Sapphic romance and by extension, Adele’s transformation from confused teenager into an adult, who, while not perfect, seems much more accepting of herself. Obviously there are incredible shades of gray to this, which is what makes the film so truly mesmerizing.
The script is chock-full of long, detailed conversations about the kind of mundane things normal people talk about. Watching the relationships develop and undulate in nearly real time, scene for scene, gives each mundane moment a level of gravitas and realism often missing from ‘slice of life’ movies. This also causes a one hundred and seventy nine minute run time.
Three hours later and I can see how proper storytelling condenses years of experience into less time than it takes to watch a mid-season game between two out of contention sports teams, yet feels as if you’ve walked alongside the characters for the fictional world’s entire multi-year span. Blue won Cannes’ top prize, the Palm d’Or and I can see why. Bravery in film making is not unappreciated in certain circles.
Three hours is an important part of the experience, because the film is actually a two part series that was edited together for one long film going experience. The story of a high school junior (or France’s equivalent) opening herself up to her burgeoning sexuality and following her down the roads it takes her is neither exploitative nor particularly titillating. There is plenty of nudity, graphic sex and the like, meaning the film rightfully earns its NC-17 rating, but it is part and parcel of watching someone grow. Adele imbues her character with an astounding degree of unpretentious emotional nakedness, wherein the words and actions, even if technically simulated, never feel larger than life or a caricature of similar coming-of-age moments most people experience.
Writer-Director Abdellatif Kechiche captures his characters’ sadness, joy and neutral functionality with equal parts intense intimacy and verbose patience. The film never seeks to shock or exploit, but merely to train a camera on all aspects of a story that might normally be glazed over, if not entirely excised, for the sake of economy and political correctness.
Blue Is The Warmest Color is the work of a master storyteller and brave auteur. It deserves all the awards it has garnered and proves, once again, that the French do certain things better- like award winning gay love stories.