The winner of the 2013 Palm D’Or in Cannes for director Abdellatif Kechiche and the two lead actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is about Adèle, a young 15 year old girl’s sexual awakening, confusion, and psychological wrestling with the realization that she is “different” from her friends in the choice of her sexual preferences. This is also a view of the torrid love affair which ensues with an older art student (a terrific performance by Léa Seydoux as Emma – with blue hair) spanning a period of almost 8 years. This movie has the most erotic and extended love scene between two women that I have ever seen on the screen. Beautifully choreographed with stunning close-ups that clearly present what is going on… and on… and on... Both of the actresses’ faces reveal the astonishment of such a passionate engagement – eroticism that fuses the tenderness of combat with surrender.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR begins with a high school teacher discussing a book about love and desire with his young adults – a preamble for the rest of the film. Adèle a student in the class, a lover of romantic literature, has the soft baby flesh of a child emerging into adulthood, and at the same time the sensual full-lipped budding of a burgeoning woman – reminding me of the carnality of Elvis Presley. Her every orifice is lovingly caressed by the camera, insistently moving its lens, shooting her from every angle, fondling her face and slowly sliding down to her painted toes. Adèle is seen repeatedly smoothing and tossing her hair around as if she is uncertain as to what she looks like; the act of fingering her wild tresses gives this sometime awkward young woman an aching reassurance. Food also plays a large part in this movie as Adèle has a voracious appetite – an obvious metaphor, but the director uses the sound and visual effects of slurping pasta and the sucking down of viscous oysters, to underscore the craving and hunger of the two women’s intimacy.
As with any relationship, time and life imposes its tribute. We no longer view the “other” as just the “object’ of our desires, and the boiling heat we once felt with such urgency, erupts more gradually; conflicts emerge. Emma is on her way to becoming an exhibiting artist with questions of creative compromise cropping up. As Adèle matures and eventually becomes a teacher of young toddlers, her own gifts surface, and we see how wonderfully she relate to her charges – who are charmingly angelic. At the same time the veneer of innocence slowly fades from our lovely heroine. The fear of being “outted” is still not resolved and Adèle will pay a price for her equivocation.
Adèle Exarchopoulos gives a delicate performance as a woman who is in the throes of finding love and sexual abandonment; every ecstatic high and agonizing low are noted on her wavering face. Some might find BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR at 3 hours too long to sit through, but I embraced time passing and the languid unfolding of an intense relationship, containing trespasses that some might find unforgivable, with the knowledge that the consequences of our frailties linger, but our humanity and compassion remain intact.