Director: Abdellatif Kerciche
Duration: 179 minutes (France/Belgium/Spain)
It’s the Palme d’Or winning film that’s ruffled feathers almost as much as it has been lauded.
Certainly, the controversy surrounding the elongated and graphic lesbian sex scenes have been a thing of newsworthy notoriety. So too has the cast’s dissatisfaction with the director. Their accusation of exploitation has been well documented.
So, what of explicit material? Well, the sex scenes are indeed graphic. And long. Too long. It leaps past the invisible marker that indicates narrative aid. In fact, it loads the gun for the charge of filmmaker titillation. Plus, with the picture clocking in at 3 hours in length, this whole film could do with a reasonable chop here and there.
However, here comes the ‘but’: the cumulative effect of this committed portrayal of discovery and first love is quite a thing.
Adele is a 15 year old girl, wrestling with identity and grappling her own sexuality. It is presented as a piece of pottery being moulded in front of our very eyes; taking shape and form as time progresses. Having dated boys, her world is turned upside down when she has a chance encounter with the blue-haired Emma. A passionate love affair soon occurs.
However, as Emma’s shock of blue hair gives way to a dark blond, so too does Adele and Emma’s relationship shift and change, before falling by the wayside completely. Or does it?
Fear not over too much detail being given away, because its resonance doesn’t lie in the plot points, it lies in the journey (for all the hippie-invoking connotations such a rotten turn of phrase offers).
Through its trace of Adele’s life (the French title is The Life of Adele – Chapters 1 and 2), it provides one of the purest depictions of first love ever committed to celluloid. When the two sit on a park bench for their first one-to-one meeting proper, it feels like an instantly iconic cinematic moment.
The camera locks its gaze with an unflinching (and relentlessly close) proximity, fixing sight into the deepest conflicts raging behind the doe eyes of the protagonists. There are many other flashes of giddy transcendence in and amongst the self-indulgent excesses of this story.
Newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos’ performance, in particular, is mesmerising. It burns with an intensity that feels brutally realistic. A star is born. That is not to discount the more familiar Lea Seydoux (Mission Impossible III: Ghost Protocol/Midnight In Paris) who is also utterly magnetic.
In fact, the calibre of the acting in Blue is the Warmest Colour is probably only matched in world cinema in recent years by the cast of Michael Haneke’s Amour – which was of such a high standard that Emmanuelle Riva garnered a best actress nomination at the 2013 Oscars (an unheard of crossover for a foreign language film). It is surely only down to the staid, conservative and prudish nature of the Academy voters as to why these two were not nominated (a similar inclination that stalled Shame a few years back).
The delicate confusion in youth, the uncertainty that hounds the search for identity and the crushing ramifications of a soured love. These themes are wonderfully captured here.
If it is a little baggy, it is not at the expense of what is ultimately an indelible experience that offers ample reward for the patience demanded at nearly 3 hours of running time. Essential.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour is released onto DVD and Blu-Ray on 17th March 2014. You can purchase a copy here.
In the meantime, here’s the trailer: