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 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.