Release: Friday, October 25, 2013 (limited)
A film already mired in controversy surrounding it’s director and one of the lead stars, Léa Seydoux, stirs up a conversation I don’t think a great many of us have had at the theaters, perhaps ever. I think that’s because most conversations had when filing out of the exit doors don’t involve primarily talking about the sex scenes. If a movie was good, they’ll be remembering other things about the story, plot, etc, and maybe, yes, if there is a bit of that in there it’s an afterthought; but here is one that has already ignited a strong debate simply over it’s sexual content.
Understandable in some ways.
Blue is the Warmest Color subsists on a healthy diet of passionate (and quite frankly committing) love scenes, ones that become starkly contrasted against moments of suffering, loneliness and heartbreak, as well as anything and everything in between. Throughout this sprawling epic one comes to realize the ultimate circle of an intense love affair. Along with it, all the pains and the pleasures. Feelings on both ends of the spectrum are treated with Abdel Kechiche’s undivided attention. And it’s only fair that we give ours to them.
At the center of what’s being pitched as not your traditional relationship, is the fifteen-year-old Adele, a high school student who appears to distance herself from most people. We don’t at first know what the reasons are for her aloofness, but over time we can tell she is certainly conflicted with getting intimate with another person — in particular, this one guy in her class all her friends are urging her to start talking to. Finding herself practically cornered, Adele ends up sleeping with Samir (Salim Kechiouche), though soon she’ll encounter a blue-haired girl one day at a crosswalk. Her life will be irrevocably changed.
The moments throughout Blue that play out subtly are intentionally kept to a minimum, yet when they do happen they are brilliant. The moment the two find each other’s eyes for the first time is one such pivotal scene, setting the course of the rest of the film.
Perhaps its the fact that this is a foreign production — one that has garnered the supposedly straight actresses and its also-supposedly misogynistic director praise of the highest order at the Cannes Film Festival in the form of Palme d’Ors all around — that gives the proceedings an organic, dramatic feel; a delicate warmth and stone-cold conviction, flourishes that likely could have been stamped out if handled by American filmmakers. One can certainly argue that this film is a style all to Kechiche’s own, though. Whatever that quality might be is difficult to describe exactly, but the emotions contained within this sweeping chronicle of love feel earned rather than just given.
Adele finds herself overwhelmed with desire the night after she first sees her, and this prompts her to go out looking for the woman in night clubs around the area. (An argument for stalking could be made.) When she enters a lesbian club deep into the evening, she finds her again. It is here we get our first impressions of the pair’s on-screen chemistry — intoxicating right from the get-go. The girl’s name is Emma, and as a fourth-year fine arts student, its clear there’s some age difference between the two. Confident, stylish and matured, Emma finds herself also drawn to Adele’s touch. What starts off as a mutual attraction quickly evolves into a torrid love affair, making for some of the most immersive scenes modern filmgoers are likely to ever find.
Some part of me wants to label a couple of these extensive sex scenes as gratuitious. Similar to the way in which slavery is depicted in Steve McQueen’s haunting biopic 12 Years a Slave, the content at times reaches shocking extremes. But this part of me is the part that is awkward and uncomfortable. This is the part of me that doesn’t quite understand the dynamics of these relationships (perhaps relationships at all, for that matter), and since these cumulative 30-ish minutes of sex have been bashed by the gay community as being “clearly sex scenes filmed with heterosexual actresses,” it seems that perhaps even the director himself doesn’t, either. Admittedly there are a few shots that remain in the final cut that seem like they could easily have been done away with in previous edits, but they remain; a time or two the camera lingers on a particular body part for a second or two unnecessarily.
Regardless of one’s personal views, these moments are the reasons why Blue is an inherently controversial post on DSB. They also account for the rumors circulating that those involved in its creation had terrible experiences with it all. It’s a shame, this gray area.
A film that dedicates itself to raw truths about love shouldn’t get drowned out by the news of what goes on behind closed doors. Certainly at this point the controversy far outweighs the product. At least, to certain people it does. However it’s not appropriate for me to really weigh in on that myself, nor would I really be able to. From a filmgoer’s perspective, Blue is the definitive story about love. Forget about things like Titanic and Pearl Harbor — epic love stories tied into historical tragedies for the sake of widening the potential audience. Forget how convincing Anne Hathaway or Rachel McAdams or Julia Roberts is in any rom-com. Forget the classic, timeless fable that is The Princess Bride. Exarchopoulos and Seydoux’s relationship with their audience is about as intimate as the one they share on-screen, and the experience here is greatly improved because of it.
Boasting performances that would seem to transcend what’s required of method actors, Blue is ingenious in its expansive run time because it allows a single relationship to naturally grow and shrink over time, providing us with more than simply a snapshot of life on the big screen, something which most movies don’t have the luxury of affording due to more modest time constraints. This is a film that likes to take its time, sampling and appreciating the little things in life along the way.
Sometimes it’s the little things that end up consuming a great deal of who and what we are.
Recommendation: I find that I simply cannot dish out a perfect rating for this one based on the graphic nature of some of the scenes. This is like asking whether or not I would have given one to The Passion of the Christ (had that story actually been more than just simple torture), given all of its bloodletting. That’s not to say this film is one-dimensional, in fact it’s the furthest from it. But in all good conscience I can’t call what is ostensibly an adult film a “Must See” film. Still, it’s one that a great many filmgoers should see because it features one of the most open and honest relationships ever put to film. I applaud everyone on that, despite the film’s many issues, on and off the set.
Running Time: 187 mins.
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