Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color

By Sati. Wednesday, December 18, 2013 , , , , , , ,
(spoilers)

The search for your identity. First love. The yearning to belong. Those are the themes explored in beautiful, melancholic and highly controversial Blue is the Warmest Color. The film is a remarkable work of art - it's 3 hours long and it follows its heroine so closely we are face to face with her for most of the film. You really feel like you are right there with Adele, locked in with all of her confusion and loneliness.

Adele is seventeen years old. She is a normal teenage girl - she has dumb friends who urge her to date a boy who keeps looking at her, she eats dinners with her parents, she has slight eating disorder. Adele loves to read and is somewhat mysterious, clearly being more mature and refined than her annoying girlfriends.
One day, while on the street, Adele passes a blue haired girl. The girl gets under Adele's skin and Adele can't stop thinking about her. One night Adele, almost sleepwalking towards what she thinks she wants, wanders into a lesbian bar - her only clue about the blue-haired girl being that she had her arm wrapped around the another woman. Adele finally finds her there - it turns out that mysterious girl is older than her and her name is Emma. Emma takes interest in Adele and is protective of her in the bar. She asks what high school Adele goes to and pretty soon she shows up there to talk to Adele again.

When I first heard about this movie I was sure that this is your regular forbidden love kind of deal, just most closely portrayed. I was under impression that this film will focus on the fact gay people have to hide, even in today's world. While apparently it almost was that movie (the scene where Adele's parents kick her out for being with Emma wasn't used in theatrical cut), it turned out to be something different.
For one thing, I didn't see Adele as a lesbian. I just think she was...young. I don't believe in labeling people when they are this young and they have absolutely no idea who they are. Adele tries dating a boy from her school. We see a sex scene between them. There clearly is some passion there but something is missing. Some time later a girl from Adele's school spontaneously kisses her. Adele enjoys it. This is probably one of the reasons why she went after Emma.

I think something Adele's teacher said about love at first sight and catching a glimpse of someone on the street is another thing that made Adele look for Emma. Adele is influenced by what she hears in class, she is young and impressionable. When you forget about 'she is a lesbian' label the fact that later on Adele makes love to a man makes things much more clear.
I sympathized with Adele. She was smart, compassionate and she appeared to be a good person. She wanted to give herself to love, even though it wasn't the easiest thing. She had the guts to go after what she wanted and she defended Emma's honor, only after two conversations with her, when her awful friends started yelling homophobic remarks (Adele's friends were one of the most reprehensible morons I've seen in this year's films, they should move to the village from The Hunt and that fucking village should burn down).

As for Emma...I didn't like her from the start. There was something selfish and sinister about her. Emma is older than Adele, but she pursues her. She is in a relationship with someone for several years, yet when Adele kisses her Emma doesn't stop her. Emma lives off the girls she is with - she treats them like muses and when something more suitable comes along, she leaves them.
The more we saw of Emma the more I detested her. During the party Adele prepares for her Emma ignores her completely, even though Adele posed for her paintings. After the party Emma shows absolutely no interest in Adele, as if she was a husband from the 50's. Then she spends less and less time with her, stops bothering sharing her life with her, pushes her away.

Then she has the audacity to call Adele a slut after she cheats on her. While cheating is almost always inexcusable, here I was on Adele's side. Especially that it was so convenient for Emma, who saw an opportunity to get ahead by being with Lise, someone well connected in art world. I saw Emma as someone who used young, confused girl, changed her life to play to her tune and then threw her away.
Unfortunately for Adele, this was something she thought was love. I did not see it as love for a second, because of Emma's cold and calculative personality. After the break up, Adele falls into deep depression. After seeing the movie I read the synopsis for the graphic novel which the movie was based on. I'm so happy the film's ending differed from it - in the novel Adele becomes addicted to pills because of Emma breaking up with her and then dies because of her addiction. I found this ending to be overly dramatic and highly unlikely. Adele seemed stronger than that. She had the ability to adapt. She had curiosity. People like that don't give up this easily.

This film really feels like a journey. First I was rooting for Adele to be with Emma. I was happy when she kissed her.. I was happy when Emma showed her a bit of her life and tried to connect with her. Then after things started to fall apart I was rooting for Adele to be either with the actor who talked to her during the party or one of the colleagues from the school. What began as a romance movie started to become a glimpse into someone's life.
The film's best aspect is how realistic and natural it feels. It's not a fairytale - there are way too many red flags for Adele and Emma from the start. The hostile environment (Adele's friends, Emma's lesbian colleagues in the bar), the difference in lifestyle - Emma has ridiculous fantasy about being an artist, Adele wants to be a teacher - something not glamorous, but something she wants and accomplishes, whereas Emma ends up basically betraying herself and her feelings for Adele just to stay above the water.

The film uses parallel scenes to establish those differences - when Adele comes over to lesbian bar she is the odd one there, while Emma stands out visibly when she appears in front of Adele's school. During the family dinner in Adele's house everyone eats simple spaghetti and Adele's parents are shocked about Emma's plans to become an artist. Meanwhile, in Emma's house Adele, is served oysters and white wine and Emma's parents encourage her to find her artistic side.
I sided with Adele's folks and her and her pragmatism instantly. The group I really hate is the wannabe writers, painters, whatever, who look down on people with real jobs because they are convinced they are so talented they will be able to leave off their 'work' because they are so damn special. Emma got her art show by pushing away someone who loved her. Yes, what a tremendous human being.

There is a reason for why this film feels so natural - a good portion of the B-roll footage with Adèle Exarchopoulos that ended up being used are in fact of the actress when she was out of character. The camera would be on her when she ate and even when she slept on the train while they were on their way to set. Since during this footage people kept calling Exarchopoulos the name Adèle instead of Clementine, they agreed to have the main character's name changed to Adèle.
Adèle Exarchopoulos is lovely and she does an amazing job. But here is my problem - this is the first movie I saw her in. How much of herself is there and how much of the movie Adele are we seeing? Especially considering all that material of her being herself being used - just how much acting is there? I was blown away with Exarchopoulos' ability to convey the passage of time with the slightest changes of her gestures and little things, but other than that I just don't know how much praise should be given to her talent because I have no idea where real Adele ended and the cinematic one began.

In addition the actresses only read the script once. The director insisted that they forget what the script said line for line, and instead asked them to improvise their scenes and really let their actions and words come out naturally and as unforced as possible.This way truly everything in this film feels very realistic and extraordinary in its naturalism.

One of the things that Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux (who is good, not great, as Emma) should be praised is their bravery. The film features 7-minute long sex scene between the two, shot so closely that two actresses had to wear prosthetic vaginas. Considering how Adele and Emma connect on carnal level I was in no way offended by the presence of this scene and I thought it was shot very well - the last time I saw bodies intertwined so beautifully was in Almodovar's Carne Tremula.

I thought the film should have another sex scene - the one where Adele cheats on Emma. We saw her numb without Emma, we saw her passionate with her and I felt the journey was a bit incomplete without seeing how Adele connected to someone carnally after Emma. That said the penultimate scene between Emma and Adele was beautifully done and Adele's behaviour during the film's final sequence was just like the whole film - very realistic and hopeful. Adele is still on her journey.

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52 comments:

  1. The party scene where Adele was serving all of Emma's friends I thought was the most poignant moment in the film. It shows a sense of disconnect where even though Emma's friends are telling Adele to sit down and relax yet Emma is more concerned about her other friends leaving Adele feeling all alone.

    I really think this is an important film as I really hope Adele Exarchopoulos gets a Best Actress nod.

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    1. It would be amazing if she was nominated. I'll definitely check out whatever movie she makes next.

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  2. You should watch Lea Seydoux in Midnight In Paris,Sister,Farewell My Queen,Inglorious Basterds,Robin Hood With Russell Crowe,Belle Epine to discover the new Catherine Deneuve and the French actress and Oscar Winner Marion Cotillard says she fears the most and who she loves watching the most

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    1. "the new Catherine Deneuve"- come on, seriously?

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    2. what's the deal Sati? The French call her that.It doesn't matter what YOU think.They know the legend that is Catherine Deneuve and if the French see Seydoux has the legitimate heir apparent to her;you shut your piehole and say nothing and lmao at you sayign Seydoux isn't great as Emma.It seems it's personal for you

      oh well haters gonna hate

      Exarchopoulos is the new Lupita.She wins the César (French Oscar) and is still out of work while Seydoux is racking out jobs and is working with Farewell My Queen director Benoit Jacquot in Diary of a Chambermaid.Benoit though of Cotillard and Cotillard begged for it but Jacquot chose Seydoux instead

      hahahahaha

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    3. Wow, this is an impressive amount of pitiful, between 'lmao', 'shut your piehole' and not even signing your own comment I'm not sure what is the most pathetic part of that.

      Gonna go with your personality for that one.

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    4. Dear Sati,

      Why are you so hard? Its obvious you dislike Lèa... I think a movie critic should be transparent that he/she should not conflict other person's ideas with harshnessjust because she doesn't like the actress or the character.

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    5. You are one creepy individual. And I do like Lea as I stated many times, she deserves some better fans than people who have no lives and leave anonymous comments who can't even read with minimum comprehension.

      Her character was a bitch in this one, though and she played that well.

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  3. It sounds like an interesting film. I haven't seen it, but I've heard a lot of buzz. I like the concept behind Kechiche's direction style of using footage when the actors are out of character. I believe that Terrence Malick does the same thing with his films. I remember Christian Bale remarking that when he was sitting in a chair smoking a pipe off camera (The New World), he saw Malick filming him and the crew was trying to go with the flow.

    With regard to the scenes captioned above, I'm not a prude, but I do like some things left to the imagination. I guess, I'm a fan of old movies. I'm also a private person so I really don't like seeing scenes as intimate as the ones described above. It embarrasses me. Idk maybe I'm weird.

    Overall, the movie sounds like a simple coming of age tale? The storyline reminds me of another coming of age tale, "The Incredible True Adventure of Two Girls in Love," I saw it in the mid 90s: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113416/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_41 This film was well done and it wasn't over the top. I'm surprised it hasn't received more recognition.

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    1. Oh, really? That's interesting especially that Bale's work in The New World is one of his most unique and best performances.

      Oh the scenes in this movie are as intimate as they can get. They can be quite uncomfortable to watch indeed.

      It definitely is coming of age story, but a very good one.

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  4. Awesome post Sati! I like how you see the film and totally agree with it. I think Adele is not lesbian, too - she was more curious, discovering and experiencing new things.

    I also enjoyed with number of camera close-ups during dinners and sleep, it felt realistic.

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    1. Thank you! I thought she was just experimenting, sure she may be only with women in the future but from the looks of film events she was open to both relationships with men and women.

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  5. Great read! I'm about 2/3 way of loving this but just not over the moon about it. *don't throw tomatoes at me* The theming and mood of the movie was intense but I thought the script was somewhat average. I could go on and on but I might have to put to my own review. :D

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    1. Thank you!! I'd love to read your review!

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  6. Good review! I had a few issues which is why I gave it 4/5 and not 4.5/5 (how long has she been with Emma?, is she still studying, or is she now qualified teacher? Do her parents know she is lesbian, and what do they think about that? Considering the film is three hours, it's odd these things are so vague. ). Interesting you write scene where Adele's parents kick her out for being with Emma wasn't used in theatrical cut, that partly explains it.
    True enough, I too have no idea where real Adele ended and the cinematic one began. I do know Adele has said in interview she is straight in real life, so sex scenes must have been acting.
    It feels open-ended, do you think there should be a sequel?

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    1. Thank you!

      I thought she was with her for few years at least. As for the teacher thing I think she ended her training and was starting to work as a beginner with young kids.

      The sex scenes were very convincing, I don't mean in physical way but emotional. Definitely very brave work for both actresses.

      I don't think a sequel would work here. Ending, just as life, is open ended.

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  7. You're ruining me, Sati - I saw the word 'spoilers' and ignored the red flag, because I really wanted to read your review. Glad I did, though, I feel a bit more ready now. Love the screencaps!

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    1. Thank you! It's a very good movie so it's not the kind that just relies on surprises or plot twists, I think you'll enjoy it!

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  8. Should not have read this at work! ;)

    Heard so many good things about this. Not sure if we've actually had it here yet. If we have then it wasn't showing near me. Definitely gonna try and see it at some point soon though. Great review Sati!

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    1. Haha, I promised someone I'd include THAT picture :P

      It's really worth seeing, it actually may beat the Hunt for Best Foreign Film

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  9. I only read a little of this Sati as I don't want to come across stuff that will ruin the experience for me. A 9 rating will do nicely, though. Looking forward to catching this one.

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  10. I adore this type of journey that reminds me so much Laurence Anyways.I think Kechiche's french title (La Vie d'Adele) is more apt to the film because of that. Nice review!!

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    1. I really need to see Laurence Anyways, I heard so many good things about it.

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    2. You should watch everything Xavier Dolan did, if you asked me... (shamelessly promoting him)

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    3. Yep, I heard he is really good. I need to give his work a shot one day, now it's pretty hectic with stuff to watch, it's Oscar season after all :)

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  11. Great review! I haven't heard much information about it, besides the sex scene fiasco but now, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it. I think Lea Seydoux is a good actress, and while I haven't seen any of Adèle Exarchopoulos' work, she's getting a lot of attention for it.

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    1. Thank you! Lea is a good actress but I thought comparing to Adele she really wasn't great here.

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  12. As I said on Twitter, I disagree with your feelings towards Emma, but to his or her own.
    I just thought it was a very beautiful and naturalistic tale about first love and everything else seemed extraneous.
    Loved Exarchopoulos and Seydoux. The 7 minute sex scene was a bit awkward, but I think it is more because of the place I saw it.
    I thought it was also a very pretty looking film. Especially that scene in the water <3
    Nice review :)

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    1. Thank you! The scene in the water was definitely the most beautiful moment for me.

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  13. Excellent review Sati, been hearing a lot of discussion about this one.

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely worth seeing.

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  14. Lovely review.
    Unfortunately, I thought Blue is the Warmest Color was very disappointing. I just couldn't connect with any of it. Considering the film went on for three hours, I was surprised by how underdeveloped their relationship was.

    I did like a lot about it though, including Exarchopoulos and Seydoux.

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    1. Thanks! I know, it really depends on whether or not you connect to something when it comes to films like this one.

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  15. Good review Sati. This movie is painful to watch at times, as it should be. It's raw and unrelenting, much like love like is and it gets to the inner-core of these characters as well as their feelings for one another, in a near-perfect way.

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    1. Thank you! Glad you liked this one too.

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  16. Beautiful review and graphic! This is at the top of my Netflix, but it's under 'very long wait.' I hope I get it soon, it sounds fascinating.

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    1. Thank you! It's really a wonderful film that's worth seeing, can't wait to read your thoughts on that one!

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  17. Great review.

    Loved this film, the 3 hours flew by. Wow the 2 leads really gave themselves to their characters, Exarchopoulos especially was outstanding. I did feel the main sex scene between Adele & Emma was too long & graphic, each time I thought the scene was ending another position was shot! For a 3 hour film there wasn't much character development but overall I thought it was one of films the year.

    Seydoux has been in loads of films I've seen yet I don't remember her. Will seek out Sister I think.

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    1. Thank you!

      I usually notice Lea, she is quite charismatic but it was first important role I saw from her, normally she is little featured in the films I saw her in.

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  18. Terrific review! I didn't know that most of the B-roll footage was with Adele Exarchopoulos out of character. Her performance might've been manipulated, but good directors get great performances from unproven actors. Though she hadn't done many films beforehand, she does a phenomenal job. I'd love see her surprise at the Oscars. If she gets a BAFTA nod, I could see it happening.

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    1. Thank you! I think she may sneak in for BAFTA, Baftas are usually all sorts of crazy and they aren't as prudish as the Academy.

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  19. Great review and marvelous screencaps, I love what you did with them. I'm so happy that you appreciated this film... Exarchopoulos delivered the best female acting I saw all year. I still can't get her out of my head. Great work here Sati!

    Also sorry I haven't commented sooner. Have been out of town for a while and my phone wouldn't let me comment!

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    1. Thank you so much, so glad you liked the review!

      That's cool, I know how busy you are!

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  20. I am a lesbian and seeing this film has given me a deep disgust and rejection of seeing a morbid bastard sadly reduces us to the same old thing: mere objects of male curiosity and porn. Here there is no depth, no brilliant script, no plot, no transcendent issue... nothing more than 15 minutes of ridiculous wild sex for men with the intention of selling the movie disguised as the biggest love history story ever told, but it's only pornography. If two men have been the protagonists (or a man and a woman), the director would never have recreated in a sex scene between them like this and the movie would not have been so brightfull for critics. This movie offers nothing more than the curiosity of female homosexuality and especially the explicit images to prove it. If the couple had been heterosexual and if realistic sex had been treated in a more subtle manner, this movie never had been so praised. But of course, heterosexual critics liked it a lot and for that reason this film won Cannes. It sucks. What a shame.

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    1. It says a lot about you that you focused on those 15 minutes not the other 165.

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    2. It says a lot about the director that focus on such a long scene, and criticism that love this film because of those 15 minutes, which are totally unnecesary for the story, they are only there to cause excitement.

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  21. I can't admire nothing in a film with a male director abusing actresses and putting his pornish fantasies all over the screen and calling it art.

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    1. What is this? Angry lesbian parade day?

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  22. I saw this movie yesterday and was looking for an analysis that could clarify my point of view about Adele's story. Yours is so well explained, I certainly agree with everything you have stated about it. I was dissapointed about Emma and the way she looked at Adele after they got together because Adele sacrificed a lot to live with Emma what she felt she wanted. Emma is the typical selfish figure that needs everything to happen around her because only what she thinks and what she sees is great. That scene in which Emma insists that Adele could not be happy just by practicing in the school really bothered me and reminded me of one time when I was a younger. My first love at 13 was with the Emma kind of guy. They like the conversations in which they would feel extravagant and one should just have to listen.... detestable and crappy human beings!!

    Anyway I loved the natural aspect about it... I think it is the key of blue is the warmest color: how intimate you can go with the protagonist and her feelings.

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  23. The scene where Emma "insists" or for me suggest that she could be a good writer is not because she was ashamed or pushing her to be included in her circle or level, she just wants her to be happy and fulfilled with her life although it not what she wants. There may be an opposing element about their beliefs but Emma just wants her to be happy because it is her point of view of what could make a person happy. All cares were still for Adele. Let us not blame her for being with Lise for she at those times were her only outlet to share things in common which she cannot find in her muse though we also should nof blame Adele of. It sas their differences that destroyed them though in the end, we could clearly say that they still have deep emotions fir each other.

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