It’s been a long while since I’ve watched a three hour movie, much less volunteered that much time at the movie theatre with strangers in a dark room. But this was not time wasted while viewing Blue Is The Warmest Color yesterday during this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival. Rather, I am privileged to have witnessed this film in my lifetime, at this point in my life as I sense myself on the cusp of something big that I can not touch nor see, but feel.
The film starts off simply as we see the protagonist, Adele, leave her comfortable home for another day at high school. From what we can see, she lives a middle class life as an only child with caring parents, great friends, and love of literature. But it doesn’t take long for one to see that she yearns for more in her life, as though there is a hole in her that grows bigger. She fills this hole with food, aware that she is “voracious”, as expressed later on, and a quick fling with one of her male peers, and yet, she is unsatisfied and frustrated. Then comes 20-something art student Emma, brilliantly played by Lea Seydoux, and Adele is forged into a new relationship and way of life. She learns about herself sexually, intellectually, and grows into an adult. Through real love and heartbreak, Adele taps into the strongest parts of her being, even when she feels as though she can no longer breathe. It’s through her journey throughout the film that I am reminded of how life goes on, with or without our hopes and fears, and it’s up to us to take charge of our path or be left behind.
There’s so much to praise about this film. By the end, I was left mentally unnerved at how talented Adele Exarchopoulos is, who plays “Adele”. There is no other actress who comes to mind that could have bravely tackled this role. None. Adele is Adele.
Lea Seydoux is mind-blowing as Emma. I’ve seen her in Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, Midnight in Paris, Inglorious Basterds and liked her work, but in Blue Is The Warmest Color, her performance is a piece of art rendered onscreen for the rest of time. Her interpretation of Emma is fearless, bold, and heart-wrenching. She didn’t present Emma as a gross interpretation of what it means to be a lesbian. Seydoux showed us a young woman who loves another young woman from the first chance meeting to the reckoning that comes with fearing that you may be growing apart from the person you love.
All the supporting actors and actresses are also wonderful. Natural and free in body language, Adele’s peers and her students appear as a most delightful bunch of young thespians. It’s clear in judging the film that the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, did a superb job in his ability to obtain the performances that we see from all of the actors, even though there are reports of both Adele and Lea stating their distaste in working with him.
If you have a problem seeing graphic sex and nudity in a room with people you don’t know, then wait until this movie comes out on Netflix, Redbox, or On Demand and watch it within the confines of your own home. The nudity did not bother me, but I was not prepared for how raw the sex scenes between Adele and Emma would be. Pure and lengthy enough (some say ten minutes, but I think that it hovers around six and felt like thirty), Kechiche does not hold back and neither do Seydoux and Exarchopoulos. If you have ever seen The Dreamers and thought that the sex scenes in that film are graphic, then you are in for some surprises in “Blue”.
This movie is not all drama and sex, however. There are great instants of humor, particularly when Adele meets Emma’s parents for the first time and Emma instructs Adele on how to appreciate and eat oysters in a proper way. There are also lovely scenes between Adele and the elementary school children that she teaches in the second act.
It’s no wonder to me that the movie’s director and lead actresses all won a prestigious Palme d’Or award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s a film that one shouldn’t dare categorize as just “another lesbian love story”. It’s a love story that I’ve never seen on film, depicted in a way that American audiences rarely, if at all, see in theatres. It’s audacious, innovative, unaffected and will move you regardless of your sexual orientation.