Blue Is the Warmest Color [English-language review]
Movie Review #723
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Scenario, adaptation and dialogue: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix. Adapted from: the comic book “Le bleu est une couleur chaude” by Julie Maroh. Produced by Brahim Chioua, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Vincent Maraval for Quat’sous Films and Wild Bunch, in partnership with CNC. Co-production: France 2 Cinéma, Scope Pictures, Vértigo Films, and RTBF. Participation: Canal+, Ciné+, FR2, and France Télévision. Support: Eurimages, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pictanovo, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, and Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013. Distributed by Wild Bunch and Sundance Selects (subtitled) in limited release on October 25, 2013. Also released in France and Belgium on October 9, 2013; and in Spain on October 25, 2013. Rated NC-17: explicit sexual content. Runs 179 minutes.
Story is as much an epidemic for the romance epic as the black death was for Europe. This isn’t a matter of having a story, just a matter of having too much story. Look at the best of the genre. “Gone with the Wind”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Reds”. All three being spectacular films, but they could’ve grabbed even more of our emotions if there wasn’t so much concern over the political ordeals the characters were dealing with. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a different and (arguably) improved romance. In all its three hours, not once is politics a concern, and why should it be when we’re engrossed in its love story?
In other words, it’s all about character, and the dynamics of the picture are that character controls story. We begin with a fifteen-year-old Adèle. She is pressured into going out with a guy in her class, but nothing really works out between the two of them. While she’s on a date with him, she notices someone else: a blue-haired, young woman who she finds rather attractive. Later on, after calling her relationship with her boyfriend off, the underage Adèle visits a bar and finds the blue-haired woman once again. They quickly fall in love, and over the years, their relationship transforms from a life-changing experience to a longlasting passion.
What makes the movie so dynamic is that it’s absolutely honest. It doesn’t embrace the struggles that Adèle faces, namely being a lesbian despite what her friends think of this. It scratches the surface with that, but once Adèle can accept what she believes over what those around her believe, this becomes a story about love. What’s best about this is that the casting is brilliant. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux command their performances perfectly. Their relationship is entirely believable, however, due to the fact that they’re unfamiliar faces: Seydoux had almost unnoticeable roles in Midnight in Paris and Inception; Exarchopoulos makes her debut here.
“Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a modern classic. The cinematography makes for a wonder to behold, particularly during its closeups. Just take a look at that shot on the poster. That entire scene is unforgettable. The French title for “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is La vie d’Adèle – chapitres 1 et 2 (The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 and 2). An accurate title, given that the movie can be evenly divided: chapter one being a coming-of-age film, and chapter two being a full-blown romance. The two chapters do seem to flow into one another as one film, but even if considered two separate films, any part of “Blue Is the Warmest Color” signifies a masterpiece.
POSTSCRIPT: Before you take up my recommendation, I ask (for the sake of not receiving complaints) that you keep the fast-forward button handy or be fully prepared for anything that should show up onscreen. The NC-17 is quite accurate.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM THE CRITERION COLLECTION, AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.