Blue is the Warmest Colour

Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a teenager in college (high school), dealing with the regular problems a teenage girl faces – crushes from boys, pressure from friends etc. – but with the added issue of not fitting in to her pre-ordained position in society, because Adèle doesn’t feel the same way about the boys who want to date her as they do to her. This comes to a head when Adèle meets Emma (Lea Seydoux), an older girl with vibrant blue hair. The two spend a great deal of time together, with Adèle all but shunning her friends and adopting Emma’s more artistic way of life as they fall in love and begin a relationship. pic-1
This film was recommended to me by JD Duran from Insession Film and, if there’s one thing I can say about the friendship JD and I share, it’s that we rarely agree on movies. Where I love Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, JD can’t stand them, and I’ve made my less-than-popular opinions with regard to Richard Linklater’s Before series elsewhere, which is of course JD’s favourite trilogy of all time, so I didn’t exactly have high expectations for this film. Also, it won the Palme d’Or at Sundance Film Festival in 2013. I don’t normally pay much attention to Sundance, mainly because looking through the winners of the Palme d’Or, there isn’t one from the past 20 years that I could ever see myself think about along the lines of “You know what I want to watch tonight?” Admittedly the only ones I’ve seen are The Class, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Pianist and The White Ribbon but, whilst I’ll admit they are all impressive, very well made films, they aren’t the kind of cinema that appeals to me. So I wasn’t looking forward to watching this film, basically. And that’s without even getting to the premise.
There’s a certain stigma that comes attached to a film that has been dubbed the 3-hour French Lesbian Movie. I’ve got no problem with it being French. Nor do I have an issue with the fact that the predominant relationship in this film is between two women. It’s the length. I really feel that the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, set out with a goal in mind of creating something that would be known as the 3-Hour Lesbian Film, You Know, The One With All The Nudity, because that would get more people discussing it than if it was the 2-Hour Lesbian Film, You Know, The One With The Occasional Boobs And A Bit of Arse Now And Then. This feels far more like a reason to get people talking than actually being something worth talking about. It’s not as extreme as the likes of Salo, heavens help the godforsaken creature that recommend I watch something of that calibre, but it is more a statement than a film. A challenge that must be experienced, so you can be amongst the group of people discussing it. “Wait, you haven’t seen Blue is the Warmest Colour? Pffft. We’ve all seen it, Frank here saw all 179 minutes three times last week alone, and you think you can talk to us about it? I say again, pfffft.” This is how I imagine people talk at Sundance, as is the main reason I’ll probably never have the chance to go. Which is fine.
I’d like to take this opportunity to declare that Blue is the Warmest Colour (which, I know, is officially spelled “Color,” but fuck you I’m English) is not a bad movie. Many aspects of it are in fact terrific. Take, for example, the lead performance by Adèle Exarchopoulos. She is phenomenal here, and over the course of the film, which spans several years of her life, encompassing various key moments along the way, Adèle is required to run the emotional gamut, and feasibly grows as a person from the naive wallflower at the start to a fully fledged adult with opinions and the ability to express them. The biggest compliment, and also one of the biggest drawbacks for the film, is how real everything felt. None of the characters felt false – although the juxtaposition of Adèle’s and Emma’s family meals was a little on the nose – and every situation was true and believable. This became a problem during the sex scenes, of which there are several, and in which every one felt as though I was peeping on people actually having sex, either with themselves or other people, and to me that just feels wrong. And when I say there are sex scenes, I don’t mean some under-the-sheets rumpy-pumpy that leads to a sweaty brow and a cigarette. These sheets needed cleaning afterwards, possibly several times. I’ve discussed before that nudity in film isn’t something I generally care for, and whilst I can see that these scenes are integral to Adèle finding out who she is, what she likes, and what her own body is capable of, I think the film depicted a great deal more than was necessary. But then, if it hadn’t this wouldn’t be the 3-Hour Lesbian Film, You Know, The One With The Explicit 69-ing, And Various Shots Of Buried Fingers And Faces; The One That’s, At Times, Basically A Porn Movie But Because It’s An Art Film We Can Say It’s Not Really Gratuitous, Because It’s Artistic. These scenes were very uncomfortable for me to watch, and I don’t think that’s just because I’m a little more prudish than other people.
Whilst I’ll happily sit here and praise the performances and the overall quality of the film, I can’t recommend it. There is definitely a great film in here, one more than worthy of the prestigious Choose Film stamp, but it would require heavy editing, to remove literally a third of every single scene. Take out the endless shots of Adèle asleep. Lose most of the stuff when she’s at work after graduating from college. Don’t remove them, but please just trim the sex scenes back a little, because some of them seem to go on for an eternity. Alas, what could have been a progressive yet accessible movie got caught up in its own artistry.

Choose Life 7/10

10 thoughts on “Blue is the Warmest Colour

  1. I agree that the movie could have been trimmed a little bit especially in the last half. The comic that it’s based on is done through Emma’s eyes then Adele’s and it has great artwork. I never though their sex scenes were explicit. I watched this in theaters with a bunch of senior citizens at a matinee and it was a trip watching some of their reactions during those scenes

    • I can imagine that being a memorable experience, I had something similar when I saw the Wolf of Wall Street. One old guy found the whole thing absolutely hilarious, he couldn’t stop laughing. Telling it all through Emma’s eyes would have been an improvement, I think, because then at least it would have been shorter.

  2. I didn’t have a problem with either the length or the sex scenes. There’s about a total of 10 minutes of sex scenes in a 180 minute movie (including the kissing before the sex.) There’s just as much time spent showing people eating spaghetti, but I’ve yet to read anyone’s review saying they felt the spaghetti eating scenes were too long. 🙂 It’s that as human beings we are hardwired to be interested in sex, so those scenes stand out even though they are a small percentage of an overall movie.

    For what it’s worth, I definitely agree with you on Exarchopolous. I felt she deserved a Best Actress nomination.

    • Ah, but (and here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), I think the spaghetti was an integral part of the plot and the relationship. It helped contrast the meals between Adele’s family and Emma’s – Adele and her parents always seem to eat the same traditional, standard meal, whereas at Emma’s Adele tries something new that she previously thought she wouldn’t like in the form of the oysters – and then Adele introduces the traditional, boring spaghetti to all of Emma’s friends at the party, and it goes down well. It’s layered. Like a lasagne. But I did say the cuts could be taken from pretty much every scene, which would include some of the many dinner scenes.

      And yes, Exarchopoulos deserved far more recognition, and some amazing roles in the future.

  3. This is one of my top movies from ’13. Oddly, a major reason for this is that excepting the sex scenes, their relationship feels like it could be between any two people. Their issues aren’t just “lesbian” issues. Our two lead performances are amazing, also. I don’t think it needs massive across the board cuts, but agree the sex scenes could easily have been chopped in half or made even shorter than that and achieved the same thing. That said the 3 hours flew by for me.

    • I found myself checking the clock quite regularly. Perhaps it would have seemed a shorter experience if I’d seen it in the cinema with fewer distractions. I agree about the relationship though, the problems between the two weren’t specific to a gay relationship, it was just the effect it had on her friends and the hiding it from her parents.

  4. As much as I frequently am the “I squirmed during the sex scenes” guy, and as much as that may or may not have happened to me watching this, I ultimately don’t have a problem with the sex here. I think we need something that really shows the passion of these two people. Like it or not, that’s the most convenient way to do it. We would get the same thing with those scenes (particularly the one really long one) trimmed, but I’ll say that I’m not convinced these scenes are just there for prurience.

    • Well I just learned a new word. I’m pretty sure I work with some prurient chaps. I agree that the sex scenes help show the passion, and as you say it would still have come across if less were shown. I still think as much was shown to make it more of a talking point.

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