(France 2013 179m) DVD1/2
Aka. La Vie d’Adèle
Tutoring in philosophy
p Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Abdellatif Kechiche d Abdellatif Kechiche w Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix comic book Julie Maroh ph Sofian el Fani ed Sophie Brunet, Camille Toubkis, Albertine Lastera, Jean-Marie Lengelle
Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Lea Seydoux (Emma), Salim Kechiouche (Samir), Aurélien Recoing (Adèle’s father), Catherine Salée (Adèle’s mother), Sandor Funtek (Valentin), Benjamin Siksou (Antoine),
Being as the title of the comic book on which Abdellatif Kechiche’s film is based, and indeed its English title, is a paradox, it’s perhaps appropriate that Blue is the Warmest Colour examines a paradox at the heart of its central protagonists. Some accused it of being self-indulgent, in both length and its explicitness. Were they not paying attention?
Adèle is a seventeen year old girl, part of a typically know-it-all clique of girls who have to know everything about each other, and who is being paid attention by a boy for the first time. He’s a science student, she’s a French literature geek; their incompatibility clear for all to see. The sex is okay, but not enough for Adèle. She’s taken by her friend Valentin to a gay club for a drink, but then wanders off down the road to a lesbian bar. There she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair she walked past in the street one day. Emma is a fine arts student at university with a passion for Sartre. They strike up a friendship, the friendship turns intimate, and they become lovers.
The original French title says what you need to know about the point of view of Kechiche’s film, this is very much Adèle’s life. It’s not just a portrait of Adèle through her relationship with Emma, but of two young girls in a world where there may not be room for them. Emma fears not being able to make it as a painter or graphic artist, while Adèle wants to become a nursery and grade school teacher as it’s a safe job. It’s this taking the safe option that makes their relationship doomed and exposes the paradox at the heart of their relationship. Both girls are cautious, looking to an uncertain future, while at the same time overtaken by an all-consuming passion over which they have no control in which they can only live in the moment. The sex isn’t quite XXX, but it is juddering, heart-pounding and visceral, the screen almost giving off spasms of relief.
In between the explicitness of the love scenes, there’s time for contemplation and analogy; the comparison between giving oneself over to reading long 600 page books and giving oneself completely on an emotional or sexual level, or even in the projection of Louise Brooks in Diary of a Lost Girl during a garden party. Blue is a hymn to sexual passion, but one which transforms into an elegy in the final act. It’s in the first of two meetings between Adèle and Emma after their inevitable break-up that the actresses bare the most. The love scenes, however physical and naked they may be, didn’t quite require them to bare their soul. Adèle’s desperate, clinging attempt to win Emma back three years later in a restaurant is harrowing to watch, like invading an open wound. It could be argued that the film could have ended there, but Kechiche makes Adèle go through something worse, a final meeting where the distance between the characters might just as well be light years. If their previous meeting closed the door on their relationship, the last razes the house the door was in to the ground. Watching Blue is like being handed a glass, having it filled and refilled with Red Bull or Monster, then left to go through the last half hour sucking ice cubes. Both leads are astonishing, Seydoux confirming all her promise and Exarchopoulos a once or twice in a generation find. It’s a film that could only have been made in Europe; just take a minute to imagine a Hollywood version; tame love scenes, drowned in music, no candour or truth, stars with no nudity clauses in their contracts. Hollywood has never got sex beyond the suggestion of it, still obsessed with fantasy figures like Monroe and Hayworth that even they had trouble living up to. This is sex as it can be, orientation irrelevant; embrace moi! Baise moi!