Now that university has ended for this year, I thought it was time to jump back to doing more retro reviews. It gives me chance to look back at a film that I might have seen a long time ago with some fresh eyes. And that’s what today’s choice is. I watched this film when it first came out in 2013 and I can’t really remember what my views on it were like. But let’s settle what they are now, one of the most controversial films of the 2010s, Blue Is The Warmest Colour.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour stars Lea Seydoux, Adéle Exarchopoulos and Salim Kechiouche and is written and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, the film follows teenager Adéle (Exarchopoulos) as she becomes enraptured with blue-haired tomboy Emma (Seydoux).
The script is one of the best things about the film. Written by director Kechiche, it manage to be both awkward and stilted but incredibly enthralling to listen to. The film is all about realism, it creates believable conversations and situations (sometimes to the point of being bland) rather than a glamorised Hollywood life. We see the duo move from home life to work/school and the trials of grappling with your sexuality at a time where trying to fit in is a vital part of life. The subtext is in the pauses and shy looks, adding to a much deeper storyline and character development.
This may be due to the two lead actors selling the hell out of it. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos have great chemistry first as friends then as lovers, both deservedly being nominated and winning several Best Actress and Supporting awards. But it’s Exarchopoulos who comes out on top between the two. As Adéle she moves through awkward teenage years to her young adult life and eventually into her job as a teacher, and fields a variety of different emotions. For a first time actress it’s an incredibly tall order, but Exarchopoulos manages to pull it off.
Another thing to note is the vast run time. Clocking in at just under three hours, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a slog to get through, but somehow it’s incredibly watchable. Sure, some scenes feel redundant in the grand scheme of things when looking back, but the engaging script and Seydoux and Exarchopoulos being innately watchable means that you won’t want to turn it off half way through.
Okay, now for a talk about THAT scene.
Around half way through the film, Adéle and Emma are sat down in a park, eating a picnic. It’s a nice scene, full of the previously mentioned excellent dialogue and is symbolic for containing the character’s first kiss. Then BAM!, we are dropped into a seven minute long sex scene filled with everything and anything you could have imagined and blurring the boundaries between art and pornography. At the time, nothing this mainstream had done something so jaw-dropping and I bet a lot of tickets we sold on the idea of “OMG lesbians!” Looking back at it now, away from the controversy, it’s rather badly made. The lighting is off, there are many obtuse shots and after a while it just descends into sleaze. It’s a well known fact that both actresses rounded on the director after the scene, with Seydoux saying making it was “horrible”. Perhaps the very idea of putting sex on screen (especially when it pushes the boundaries of “real” and “fake”) is inherently voyeuristic.
For me, I found it rather cheap. The sudden jump from picnic to sex was jarring, and would have liked a bit more a build-up. Something along the lines of Sid and Gwen from The Pacific. We get the sex, but the build-up reveals a lot more about their characters and emotions on a subconscious level. Here we just jump from calm afternoon to rampant romping. And another thing, the scene is full of full body pans and decadent shots of the two actresses. There’s nothing wrong with titillation now and again, but this feels more like exhibitionism for its own sake rather than adding anything to the narrative. Add to it the director being male, it brings up the ideas of shooting the film with a hetero-majority audience in mind, using homosexuality for gratification rather than to explore meaningful relationships. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think it could have been constructed better.
In the end, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is one of the top films to have come out in 2013 and will be remembered as being a defining moment in cinema history. It’s one of the best love stories in film that just happens to be between two women, something that really shouldn’t be a big deal anymore.
Score: 8/10 A sweet, touching and relatable romance for the ages.