Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” Review and Trailer

blue-is-the-warmest-colorfour-stars4Now here is a film that will cause a stir. And it should.

It is one of the most convincing love stories I have seen. Woven is a beautiful labyrinth of all of the stages of where a passionate love leads, which seems to be inevitably to its own self-destruction. The acting, by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, is phenomenal and convincing through and through. Tales of the difficulties they went through to achieve satisfactory takes by Abdellatif Kechiche duly noted, the performances were raw and powerful. The morality of his directing style should be discussed, but I’ll discuss that elsewhere or, failing that, let others who are more driven to do it.

It is a story, too, that evokes so many human elements that are universal. There were multiple times in the film that I could relate to elements of it on such a level that it took me back to various parts in my life. And that’s admitting that I’ve never been in a lesbian relationship – the relationship is not strictly relevant to lesbians, but one which anyone who has interacted intimately with other people can relate to.

Blue Is The Warmest Color is the story of a young girl, Adèle, in two chapters (hence the French title). To be vulgarly simplistic, the first chapter is that of sexual awakening and first love, and the second is that of attempting to live life in the wake of the destruction caused by that. The story is told through a varying elliptical passing of time, at times jumping from one day to the next, at others from one week to the next or even year, with often no introduction to this, although there could be said to be a shifting trend from shorter transitions to broader transitions.

We see the development of Adèle’s sexual understanding in the beginning. She starts by more or less having a crush on a guy in her high school, but never being very attracted to him, and then seeing for the first time the girl with the blue hair (Emma). Sexual confusion follows, with her feeling like she should be simply straight for the sake of society and her understanding of herself, but in actual fact is sexually aroused by the idea of this girl (as demonstrated by the masturbation/brief fantasy scene). This leads to inner turmoil and an experimentation with women.

She ends up meeting Emma at a gay bar, and they meet a few times after, for all purposes innocently. The innocence soon turns into passion, and after some time they are living together. Their relationship is torn apart by jealousy, insecurity, and betrayal, and the second half focuses on the two settling in the courses of their lives apart from each other, but not fully separate from the influences of the other.

My primary qualm with the film is of some of the choices made in the way it was shot and later put together. Primarily, this deals with sexuality of the film.

I’ll start by saying that I did not feel that the outright length of the sex scenes was inherently inappropriate. I’ve written about my views on sexuality in cinema elsewhere (http://filmbalaya.com/2011/10/03/the-5-uses-of-nudity-and-sex-in-film/), and I feel that sex can be used to great effect if used tastefully. At times, however, I had to question what the motives were of using this scene or that scene.

The most glaring scene that stands out in my mind is a shower scene near the end. I can appreciate the intimacy of a shower scene, but he must realize that the way the scene is shot and put together affects the effect of the scene. This particular scene was, out of the blue, one of a moderately slow tilt up from Adèle’s leg, along her body, to her hair, followed by some medium shots of her face as she washes herself. Those following shots were fine, but the tilt up felt like little more than a tantalizing display of her body, which did not do anything to establish any sort of psychological effect, any intimacy, or anything remotely useful. Rather, it felt voyeuristic in a way that was out of place, and in the end exploitative.

This appears at points during the long sex scene which is now well discussed. The scene, for the most part, is quite effective and really builds up their passion and intimacy. But at a certain point, after a climactic scene, it sort of drops off in its emotion and momentum… but the scene continues anyway.

My point here is that utilizing sexuality in cinema can be to great effect, but it must be used responsibly and with respect for the primal intimacy of the act – and at times in this film it wasn’t. This made me question the overall motives of the director making the picture, and occasionally took me out of the film’s emotional core.

The performances of the film are remarkable, and the love story is palpable. It’s an achievement, and will be discussed for many years to come. I just hope that it is discussed for the relationship realized in the film, and not the shock to Abrahamic morality from the presentation.

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