Fine! I’ll watch an actually critically praised and award winning film that will likely scoop the best foreign language Oscar… wait, what do you mean it’s not even nominated? Not even a performance nomination? What… the… hell? So I admit I’ve seen worryingly few of the films that are nominated for Oscars this year. In fact I’ve only seen 2 films nominated for Oscars and both are in the special effects category, so they don’t really count… but really? Blue is the Warmest Colour isn’t up for a single one? Click the link to allow me to tell you why it probably should be. I mean, the other films in best foreign language may be better… I dunno… but this film is exemplary.
Blue is the Warmest Colour follows a, initially, 15 year old girl named Adele (Adele Exarchoupolos) who is just reaching a point in her life where she is attempting to find where she fits in. She begins dating a boy at school, which is going well until she sees a mysterious blue haired lesbian girl in the street. This girl, Emma (Lea Seydoux), works her way into Adele’s mind until she feels compelled to seek her out. When her curiosity leads her to a lesbian bar she meets Emma for the first time and they strike up a friendship, which leads to a relationship. The film then spans several years of their life as their relationship grows and develops.
Where to start? I almost typo’d Sartre there before correcting it. That would have been a good point. The characters bond over philosophical discussion many times. The very first scene of the film shows Adele’s class discussing the meaning behind a book they’re reading which regards regret and the feeling of loss associated with not taking a chance. The regret of not doing what you wish you had done. This begins the film’s thematic strong points. As the film progresses various philosophies and debates are brought up which contain relevance to the story. These scenes may be mirrored multiple times in different situations to provide layers to the ideas and themes the film is presenting.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche utilises repetition to frame the social differences between Adele’s home life, Emma’s home life and their eventual life together over the course of three meals. Each contains a similar set up but the conversations, the directions of the discussions and the emotional states of the main characters are all presented differently. A dinner at Emma’s parents involves discussion of art and philosophy coupled with Adele trying oysters of the first time, which she had previously stated as detesting. A dinner at Adele’s parents involves a Spaghetti Bolognese, her mother’s go to recipe already seen earlier, and discussion of boyfriends and work. Her parents believe Adele and Emma are just friends, a sign Adele may not be sure they’d accept them as lovers. Later, a dinner at Adele and Emma’s home features Adele cooking her own take on her mother’s bolognese whilst everyone discussing art and philosophy. All attention is on Emma who Adele cannot get a moment with. The only connection she makes is with a young actor, himself finding that he is stuck in a role where he must pretend to be something he is not. A role Adele is pulling off by acting happy for Emma’s friends.
One thing that is refreshing from this film is how it isn’t about a gay couple fighting back against oppression. It isn’t about characters being scared to reveal they’re lives to the world. There is one scene where Adele’s school friends turn on her when they believe she may be gay, and the dinner scene, as mentioned, involves her parents being clueless to her relationship status. That is 2 scenes in a 3 hour long film that are concerned with the sort of drama pretty much every other gay film would jump straight to. What Kechiche has done, in adapting the Julie Maroh comic, is kept the focus on the life of the relationship itself. Over the approximately 7 years of the relationship there likely would have been other events such as those two scenes, but they wouldn’t have been important to the story being told here. What’s important is Adele finding a truth about herself and the journey it takes her on. This is essentially a straight love story film between two women.
Now, regarding it being a straight love story film… that sex scene. Or rather sex scenes. Oh man, the films one weak point. I feel like I may have to hand in a man card here, and believe me I realise how odd this will sound coming from a guy but, man there was too much lesbian sex. There’s 5 sex scenes, 4 between the two girls, although one is technically a fantasy, and one goes on for around 6-7 minutes. It is also quite clearly shot from the point of view of being a male fantasy. At first there’s moments of tenderness but before long the girls are pretty much fisting and going ass to mouth. There’s a scissoring scene and… you’ve gone to find the clips on the internet haven’t you? OK. What I’m getting at is that these scenes go against the naturalistic and emotionally focused scenes the rest of the film is made up with. They feel different, like the director had a fantasy porno shoot he’d always wanted to do and this was his chance.
The rest of the film is shot so softly and with such excellent command of the pace of each scene that the previously mentioned scenes really feel like they’re from somewhere else. I swear to God about 60% of the film’s shots are close ups of the actors faces as they emote and react to each other’s performances. Both Lea and Adele do a superb job in playing their respective characters as believable people. It would have been so easy to have made Emma the overly cool, near manic pixie dream girl character. Instead she is kept grounded. A mystery at first and gradually we learn as much about her as we do Adele and she fleshes out into being a real person. I’m frankly baffled that neither one of these girls has an Oscar nomination for their performance this week. They’re spot on. Although Adele could learn to close her mouth when she eats. Seriously girl, have some manners. No idea if Emma eats with her mouth open, there was a leg in the way at the time. OH NO HE DIDN’T!!!
Ahem. So, Blue is the Warmest Colour is an excellent film. How excellent? Very excellent. It has honestly been a long time since I’ve seen a film that, barring a few moments as mentioned, manages to maintain such a strong focus of vision without wasting a minute. The film may be 3 hours long but it is a superbly paced and incredibly performed 3 hours. The French title for the film is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2. The director has stated that he’d like make a sequel to this but very much doubt it will happen with ether Lea or Adele reprising their roles. Both have been vocal about how difficult and near abusive he was to work with. Lea has also stated that it may have been hard, but life is hard and she still loves the directors work. She just didn’t so much like how he treated them. I don’t think I’d want to see any following chapters without the same leads. These roles are theirs now. I do wonder if either actress will be able to escape the film’s impact. This is a film that will be discussed for many years.