Blue is the Warmest Color or La Vie d'Adele (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche (The Secret of the Grain)
Written by Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix (The Secret of the Grain)
Starring: Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux
Finding a film or television series (American made), which explores the sexuality of women is like finding that elusive needle in the hay stack everyone speaks about. This year in september Showtime started to scratch the surface with their cutting edge series Masters of Sex, but most films which explore identity best are foreign made. With that said how many average Americans get the chance to see a film about two young women who fall in love, and create a passionate love affair? Not many especially with an NC-17 rating.
Blue is the Warmest Color follows a young 15 year old named Adele (Exarchopoulos) in the early stage of understanding her person. As a young teenage girl her friends goad her on that a young boy is interested in her. Out of sheer peer pressure Adele finds solace in this young man, because it feels right, and in the eyes of her friends she will meet the status quo.
As Adele is walking down the street one day she happens to glance at Emma (Seydoux) holding hands with her then girlfriend, and Adele is drawn to her, love first sight possibly, or some form of magnetism. One of the brilliant things about the script is the way the different interactions Adele has which shape the understanding of her character. Just before Adele happens to see Emma, she and her class are talking about a character in literature who meets someone and falls in love at first sight, but what does this "love at first sight" mean? One student suggests the love in the book and that form of love represents filling up something empty with or reaching through resistance of the person to find themselves. In this case Adele begins her hunt to find Emma, which leads to a longer more complicated romance between these two young women.
Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are the relationship of the year in film. These two women are fantastic on screen, their relationship feels fully formed, and honest. Exarchopoulos is relatively newer to the acting game, but as Adele she carries this film her vulnerability as the young 15 year old to the "adult" mode of her life shows the haunting power of the person lost, never able to find them self. When Exarchopoulos breaks down and cries you feel the anguish of her character, through the need to please and just fill that aspect of her life.
Seydoux who has roles in bigger films like Midnight in Paris, and Inglorious Basterds is a more self assured character. As Adele is less secure in her orientation, Adele is a stronger women. While Emma is stronger Seydoux does an excellent job of letting you see the cracks within her armor, the love she has for Adele, through her art work, and even as their relationship hits certain bumps. Seydoux's Emma is calm, but when she unleashes her emotion especially in a scene where she and Adele meet in a cafe you get to see the vulnerability in her character.
Together these two women create fully realized sexual women, there is an honest exploration of love through these two characters, and the strength of the film is weighted in their performances, This can also be proven as fact as the Cannes jury lead by Steven Spielberg honored the films director with the Palm d'Or, but also for the first time in the history of award, the two actresses were cited with the prize.
Yet what is an actor/actress without their director/writer? Abdellatif Kechiche does a good job making many of these beautiful moments happen; he along with co-screenwriter Ghalia Lacroix paint a vivid picture of an honest relationship. Enter the problematic piece, the one many critics/bloggers have pointed out. A point, which makes the film goer think, but not completely destroy the good within the film.
Kechiche appears to be obsessed with Exarchopoulos, there are so many shots of her ass, which is a great ass that you sometimes feel as though he thinks he may be moving toward a different type of film. What's the big deal? Kechiche's direction is not bad by any means, but the way he points/frames the camera on Adele from the way she bites her lip to her constant ass shots projects the over used male gaze. The reason for the films NC-17 rating in the State is because Kechiche added a seven minute sex scene between Adele, and Emma. Many Americans will find the scene graphic, and the puritanical nature of our society demeans the beauty that can exist within a scene depicting passion, and the beauty of making love. There are moments though in this scene where Kechiche's direction veer into the objectification this moment, and become more porn like, which is one of the problematic aspects of the film.
Male gaze is a buzz term, and while the director of this film is male, and does play a little loose with these moments, there has never been a film, which delves into the depths of women's sexuality so deeply. There is a moment in the film where the concept of male gaze is explored Joachim, a friend of Emma's, talks about a man who changes to a women, then back man, and the sexual experience during each of these different phases. The summation of his point is that women have a better understanding, and better orgasmic experiences, they know their bodies better than men. The man has less of an understanding about the women's sexuality. While watching the film, and listening to this exposition I felt Kechiche explained his own exploration of this subject through this character.
Adele only knows her body through the sexual encounters she has with different people, and Kechiche defines Adele mainly through Emma and the few other sexual partners she encounters. Adele is the object of their and our affection, namely and object, but she never quite is able to understand what this means. As she is taunted by friends about her potential lesbianism or confront by Emma for various things Adele regresses back a child like innocence. Adele who is meant to be the women we see exploring herself never fully understands love in its truest sense.
Blue is an excellent film, and while there are flaws in the perception of women's sexuality, this is still a beautiful experience. My truest beef with the film is the length, and the way it could have been cut down slightly, the film drags bit in the middle, and towards the end. This is still a great film, which explores a subject that many dare not breach, and does a good job.