Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Abdellatif Kechiche, the director, has created something of a sensation with this film, which is based on a comic book of the same name by Julie Maroh. The two actresses and the director jointly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. The story is about a wealthy artist (Lea Seydoux as Emma) and a working class high school girl (Adele Exarchopoulos as Adele) falling in love, which the film depicts graphically in extended love scenes.
Adele is young and impressionable, and is immediately awed by the experienced, educated Emma who is concerned about art, philosophy, and literature. In contrast, Adele has not yet launched her career as a kindergarten teacher, but she has always loved to read, and can converse intelligently with Emma and her associates in the art world. Eager to learn, she asks probing questions (“Are there arts that are ugly?”) The film is a coming-of-age story about Adele, but it is also a comment about uneasiness when people in different age groups from two different classes of society come together. For instance, when Adele meets Emma’s family, she is introduced to raw oysters, and they can be open about their relationship. When Emma meets Adele’s parents, they have spaghetti and they keep their relationship a secret. Consistent with her age, Adele has a slight rebellious streak; it is important to her to make her own decisions, and she is impetuous at times. Emma is more settled within herself, and has been brought up to be patient and refined in her interactions with others.
The two women are passionate in their attraction to one another, and easily fit into a pattern when Adele moves into Emma’s house. Inevitably, some friction begins to develop when Emma has to work overtime on a project and Adele feels a bit lonely, and resents Emma’s pressuring her to develop her talent for writing. She makes some bad choices, and Emma is swift and sure in the actions she takes.
In many ways, this is a fairly traditional story of love and working through its problems, with the added complications of age and class differences. The strongest part of the film for me is the poignant display of so many deep emotions, particularly the depiction of the aftermath of betrayal, the soul-wrenching pain and hopelessness that people experience and their reactions, which brings out aspects of their personalities unseen before, especially in the thrill of love. The fact that it is a Lesbian relationship is really beside the point unless that is what interests you. Obviously, given the Cannes award, the filmmaking and acting are outstanding, but it is curious as to why Kechiche extended the sexual scenes so long, especially since the actresses complained about that post-Cannes. They say they will never work with Kechiche again. The filming of these two attractive women is beautiful, but when we hear what they went through in filming, the impression is tempered with some concern.
By Donna R. Copeland
ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS LEA SEYDOUX
Blue is the Warmest Color
It seems that every year now we have a film that falls outside the normal MPAA rating system and becomes somewhat of a niche film because of its sexual content. Blue is the Warmest Color, however, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in the summer before ever receiving that NC-17 rating. Now, half a year later, Blue is the Warmest Color has become known as the lesbian French film and it certainly wastes no time getting to the sex scenes as the lead character begins the journey to discover herself. However, I failed to see the true beauty, ground breaking themes or overall outstanding achievement that has been internationally celebrated. Blue is the Warmest Color, however, will not be eligible at the Oscars because France decided to submit a different film for their country's entry.
Adele (Exarchopoulos) is a junior in high school that is very unsure of herself except when it comes to books; she loves to read. However, with boys there is something missing. Adele meets Emma (Seydoux), who has blue hair and is instantly transfixed by her maturity and artistic nature on canvas and in life. The two begin a friendship that turns serious very quickly. Ridiculed at school for her choice, we watch as Adele grows up but once again begins to search for meaning in her life. “With you it’s all or nothing,” Emma says, and Adele will make decisions that have devastating effects on those she cares about the most.
At three hours long, director Abdellatif Kechiche spends 53 of those minutes developing Adele at her younger age. The relationship doesn’t actually get started until the first hour. Fascinated by Exarchopoulos's lips, Kechiche uses extreme close-ups throughout the film; it’s almost jarring how close we get to the characters during conversational scenes. I found it interesting that Adele expresses herself so transparently that every character in the film can instantly read what she is thinking, feeling or trying to hide. For much of the film we see Adele looking around aimlessly; even when she is happy or content, her expression asks “what is about to happen?”
There are few films that focus on the relational love between two women, so it’s impossible not to compare Blue is the Warmest color with the Oscar nominated American film The Kids Are All Right starring Julianne Moore and Annette Benning. The themes of cheating with men are very similar as is the sorrow and repentance period expressed in both films. ‘Kids’ is a more accessible film, not just because of it’s lack in hardcore love scenes, but because there is more humanity and understanding to it. Having shot over 800 hours of footage, Kechiche still doesn’t edit this version down enough. Scenes like the outdoor dinner party or the Latin dance sequence run entirely too long. The explosive scene at 2:10 minutes finally allows the two actresses to let go and show their talent on film and is the entire film's most memorable scene.
Final Thought – Disregarding the blatant sex scenes, ‘Blue’ doesn’t offer anything strikingly groundbreaking or new.
By: Dustin Chase