Blue is the Warmest Color, the latest film from French director Abdellatif Kechiche, is a study of a young woman’s sexual awakening and heartbreaking tale of love, betrayal and regret. At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, it became the first film ever to given the Palme d’Or to both its director and two lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. Although the film was widely acclaimed, it was not without controversy. A series of passionate love scenes drew fire from some people over the extensive nudity, while others decried Kechiche’s orchestrated sex scenes as being a male fantasy of how lesbians make love. Additionally, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux criticized the director and the work environment he created, including a grueling 10-day shoot of the sex scene that occupies 7 minutes of screen time.
Having scene the movie, I can attest that the sex scenes are graphic and in the case of that now infamous scene, go on a little long. However, don’t let the nudity deter you. Blue is the Warmest Color is a beautiful and moving story with two star making performances. Front and center in the film is Exarchopoulos, whose character, also named Adèle, occupies nearly every frame of the movie. This is her story and Exarchopoulos doesn’t deliver a false note. From the opening scenes when she’s a teenager, tugging on her jeans as she runs for the bus, to the final frames when she’s in her twenties and more mature, the journey that Exarchopoulos takes you on is so authentic, you may find yourself recalling your own youth.
Seydoux is equally strong, playing Emma, Adèle’s first true love. We first see Emma in a stunning moment, crossing the street. Seydoux’s magnetic presence grabs you, and just like Adèle, you’re stopped in her tracks. Through the course of the film, Seydoux gives a mature, honest performance that will break your heart.
Whatever the conditions Kechiche brought to his set, the final result is a poetic motion picture that takes its time in telling the story. Indeed, we don’t meet Emma until nearly an hour in, something unheard of in any Hollywood movie. But he eases us into Adèle’s world and helps us fully understand the changes she’s going through. Although the movie runs 172 minutes, it is not slow at all. Blue is the Warmest Color is an engrossing work of art, one of the best movies I saw from 2013.
After a limited release in the States (it is rated NC-17, so it was never going to make it into any Cineplex), Blue is the Warmest Color is currently available to watch streaming on SundanceNow.
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