I met someone who watched The Wolf Of Wall Street with their parents and hasn’t recovered from the embarrassment of that. So I’ll state this right at the start – do not watch Blue Is The Warmest Colour with your parents. Unless you have the kind of relationship that allows you to watch an extremely explicit award-winning French drama together without feeling uncomfortable.
In which case, good for you.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche brings to the big screen the story – adapted from a graphic novel – of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school student whose life is fairly ordinary until she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux). Something about the blue-haired, older, sophisticated artist Emma stirs up feelings in Adèle that she has never experienced before. Their relationship becomes sexual very quickly and just as soon they settle into a life as a couple. Emma’s passions run hot when it comes to Adèle, her own art, and career. She is driven by goals that she thinks are loftier than Adèle’s more basic, middle-class ideas of having a stable career and making money. Adèle goes from living a fairly introspective existence to being part of an unusual couple and interacting with people from a world she isn’t familiar with. It’s all a little overwhelming but it seems like part of the growing up process to her, a process we are provided a window into in great detail.
At 179 minutes long, this is not a movie-watching experience to be undertaken casually. If you’re not into the characters you will never finish watching the film, because Kechiche’s camera lingers constantly – on Adèle when we first meet her, going through the motions at school and home, thoughtful and often distant, in search of something even she can’t define; on Adèle and Emma when they first get together and when they make love; on Adèle as she tries hard to figure out this new life; on Emma when she rants about the commercial pressures of being an artist; on Adèle and Emma when they fight bitterly… you get the idea. There is no looking away in this movie and sometimes the lingering camera, when seemingly nothing has changed on screen, makes things feel even more uncomfortable. It’s like silence – after a few seconds it starts to change shape and gain importance and size until it feels like the biggest thing in the room. Watching these characters so closely and for such extended periods of time is not a passive movie-watching experience and can feel exhausting.
Much has been said, since the film won the big prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, about the director’s rigorous and exacting filming process. The actresses – with whom he shared the award – have been quoted as saying that this was a fulfilling experience but they wouldn’t work with him again. Whether the message was lost in translation or mutated over time, it is clear that this is a film that asked both actresses to give it their all. And they absolutely do just that. The young Adèle Exarchopoulos is a revelation – her expressive face and quiet manner make her arresting to watch on screen. Seydoux is a different kind of powerful as the volatile Emma and like Adèle, she doesn’t leave any aspect of her character unexplored.
It would be unfair to label this a coming-of-age drama because while it does explore the themes commonly found in such cinema, this is a film that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Final Analysis: Blue Is The Warmest Colour is an intense study in human emotion. There is no grand plot and it is a lengthy film, but it is captivating and very easy to watch, once you get into the flow of things.
My advice: Watch this one for sure. Just not if you’re under 18, or with people under 18. Choose your viewing mates very carefully, because uncomfortable giggling will ruin the mood.