Blue is the Warmest Color: Criterion Collection
March 28, 2014
From the moment it was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) was surrounded by controversy when it came out that several crew members not only complained of but quit the production over director Abdellatif Kechiche’s working methods. The two lead actresses also publicly admitted that it was a tough shoot, which led to the Kechiche stating that the film should never have been released. This only fueled people’s desire to see it – that, and the lengthy sex scenes that drew comparisons to films like The Last Tango in Paris (1972). Regardless, audiences were taken with the film and it won the covered Palme d’Or.
Adele (Exarchopoulos) is a high school student who, after a brief fling with a boy from school, gets involved with an art student named Emma (Seydoux). Adele first sees her while crossing a busy street, drawn to Emma’s striking blue hair. It is a fleeting moment, but Adele fantasizes about having sex with Emma later that day, which one imagines is what leads to the end of the fling with the boy. The rest of the film examines, in intimate detail, the rise and fall arc of their passionate relationship.
The two lead actresses are a revelation. With her expressive eyes and pouty lips, Adele Exarchopoulos brilliantly conveys the awkward age of her character. Adele is trying to figure out complicated feelings and experiments with boys and girls before getting involved with Emma. Adele lacks experience, which is something the older Emma has and imparts on her as they get to know each other. Lea Seydoux does a nice job of playing Emma as someone comfortable in her own skin and who knows what she wants. This is one of the things that draws Adele to her. There is an undeniable chemistry between them and their scenes together have a powerful intimacy that authentically conveys that first exciting blush of attraction and how it can blossom into something deeper.
While Kechiche’s directing methods may be questionable, his results are not. His film doesn’t shy away from emotional intimacy as well as the physical side, which is graphically depicted in a raw way that is very European in nature and something that so many American critics dwelled on. One gets the impression that they and audiences in this country were raised on Bridges of Madison County-esque soft focus sex scenes, which is just not how real life is. Blue is the Warmest Color opts for a more realistic depiction of love.
At the end of the day, Adele learns to move past the hang-up of gender and go with her heart. As the saying goes, “the heart wants what the heart wants.” Love should transcend gender and one gets the feeling that Adele has emerged from this relationship a richer person for it. Blue is the Warmest Color is a coming of age story that honestly depicts a passionate relationship between two women in unflinching detail. It is beautifully shot and features excellent performances from the two actresses.
This is a pretty bare bones affair with only a trailer and a T.V. spot. Criterion has said that a special edition is in the works for a future release.