Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a high school student in France, embraces unexpected self-discovery when she is attracted to Emma (Léa Seydoux) – an exuberant, blue-haired art school student. Over the period of several years, we witness the two womens’ passionate, explosive relationship.
Exhaustive, draining, and controversial for its NC-17 level sex content, director Abdellatif Kechiche’s three-hour lesbian romance vows to create believable, truly living characters defined by multiple truths in the many-shaded, messy business of loving someone. These simultaneous textures of simplicity and complexity round out an unforgettable character study that rightfully won the Palm d’Or at Cannes in 2013.
Like the 2013 French erotic thriller “Stranger by the Lake,” it’s fair to say that “Blue is the Warmest Color” occasionally crosses the line into the realm of pornographic content in its two extended and very explicit sex scenes, but it’s a diversion used for mostly good reasons. Adèle’s intense first sexual experience with a woman serves as crucial emotional contrast to her lifeless and unenjoyable sex with a man that we witness earlier on. I’m not sure whether every instance of nudity and sexual content is beneficial to the film (some shots seemed designed only to fulfill a voyeuristic desire), but this unrestricted level of intimacy does a great deal in enforcing our understanding of Adèle and Emma’s physicality that becomes so important when their relationship is challenged later in the film.
We’ve seen Léa Seydoux before in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Midnight in Paris,” making Adèle Exarchopoulos the true revelation of Kechiche’s unforgettable romance. Exarchopoulous acts without acting – much of the focus is on Adèle simply living: eating spaghetti, sleeping with her mouth open, showering, walking to school. Exarchopoulous makes this all possible by giving Kechiche uninhibited access to her existence as a person and as a character. The actresses are so essential to the film’s allure and ultimate success that they both received Cannes’ top prize along with Kechiche. The French title “La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2” suggests there is more to Adele’s story. Bring on another three hours.
Available now on Blu-ray/DVD & Criterion
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