By Simon Miraudo
February 10, 2014
Abdellatif Kechiche‘s controversial Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Colour details a relationship forming and curdling in graphic fashion (much like in the way the director’s own relationship to his stars has curdled so publicly in the months since its big win). Adèle Exarchopoulos astounds as the teenage heroine, also called Adèle, experiencing a sexual awakening at the hands of budding artist Emma (Léa Seydoux). As the years pass, they realise their relationship has little going for it besides good – no, great – sex. Maybe that counts for more than they know.
Shot when she was just 18 years of age, Exarchopoulos brings uncommon depth (and unequalled courageousness) to her part. The extended, unblinking, invasive, fleshy sex scenes are the picture’s calling card, and Exarchopoulos certainly holds nothing back. Similarly revealing are the fight scenes that inevitably follow. (Cinematographer Sofian El Fani’s predilection for close-ups captures everything in hugely-intrusive fashion.) It’s almost too obvious a cliché to say that she “bares all” in Blue is the Warmest Colour, though I don’t quite know how else to describe her singular achievement here. Perhaps Kechiche asked too much of her. Nonetheless, she and the slightly more cinematically-seasoned Seydoux, leave nothing on the table.
At 179 minutes, the movie suffers not exactly from over-length but a general aimlessness in the final act (much like Adèle does, I suppose). To think, Kechiche and his co-writer Ghalia Lacroix are simply adapting the first two chapters from Julie Maroh’s comic book of the same name. If they’d filmed the whole thing, we’d probably still be sitting through the endless result now.
The now-infamous sex scenes set tongues wagging on the Croissette, and though I can’t speak to their veracity as far as actual lesbian lovemaking goes (Maroh, for one, calls bulls**t), I can say they are key to the picture’s success; their prominence, and the massive pleasure our leads derive from them, instrumental in imparting the overall message: That sex – and sexual orientation – could still be a major taboo in our society is somewhat silly, considering it’s one of the boldest and best expressions of love humans have in their arsenal.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour arrives in Australian cinemas February 13, 2014.