Adèle Exarchopoulos is a young woman whose longings and ecstasies and losses are charted across a span of several years. Léa Seydoux is the older woman who excites her desire and becomes the love of her life. Kechiche’s movie is, like the films of John Cassavetes, an epic of emotional transformation that pulses with gestures, embraces, furtive exchanges, and arias of joy and devastation.
With a film that has already been awarded the greatest accolade, there will always be intense curiosity. Human nature compels us to look for our own proof that acclaim is deserved: we don’t want to take the Cannes Jury’s word for it, we want to see for ourselves – is it really that good?
Without question, Blue is the Warmest Colour is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. It is an exquisitely expert piece intertwining all the elements of filmmaking so perfectly that it becomes a truly immersive experience.
Over the course of three hours, we watch Adèle grow from a teenager to a woman, and experience with her what it is to fall in love for the first time. Every element of that most precious event is explored in eloquent detail that is authentic, moving and at times magical, while raising questions around moral, social and sexual complexities. Though much has been reported about the director’s vision in regard to this film, as is to be expected when the much lauded yet outdated term “auteur” is invoked, the extraordinary contribution of both actresses is as much a part of the film’s importance and power, alongside every single technical aspect. In an unprecedented move, the Cannes Jury specified for the Palme D’Or Award to be shared between Director Abdellatif Kechiche, and the actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
Though it is impossible to talk about either actress without using superlatives, Adèle is quite simply a revelation. Billy Wilder once described (in reference to Marilyn Monroe) the notion of “flesh impact – flesh which photographs like flesh. You feel you could reach out and touch it.” Not only does this woman have that rare quality, she has a face which is absolutely compelling to watch. Her most subtle emotions are conveyed succinctly through almost imperceptible movements and watching her face move into a smile is inexplicably fascinating. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux give fearlessly honest performances that are nothing short of breath-taking.
However, infuriatingly there is a rather huge “But….” hanging heavily over the whole film. The much hyped extended sex scenes serve to disrupt, distort and undermine this incredible piece. Apart from the wild inaccuracy of the way in which they depict lesbian sex (as commented on with much amusement by contributors to Posture Magazine’s video by Yeni Sleidi) they are filmed with such unnecessarily intrusive detail, and gratuitous pornographic gaze as to destroy the narrative integrity. What remains are long sequences where the exploitation of the two actresses, as they enact scenes they have since admitted were “horrible” “humiliating” and “gross” to film, overtakes any sense of the fictional passion that it has been argued the scenes were intended to portray. Watching these sequences there is an uneasy and disturbing sense of complicity with the manipulation of the actresses, and any identification with them as characters in a film is entirely lost at these points.
The tactic of Kechiche to satisfy any voyeuristic priorities with the sensationalist sex scenes has served to draw immense media attention that will guarantee the films notoriety. Yet by doing so the much braver achievement of the film to accurately depict a universal experience of love via two exceptionally compelling female characters is demeaned. Despite this, and by virtue of the immense skill employed throughout, this is an unmissable film for cinema lovers