"Blue" captures the beauty of adolescent love
There are so many negative views, opinions and criticisms swirling around this film, some of which were present in my mind when I sat down to watch it. These influences that had colored my view were wholly dismissed. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is one of the finest films I have experienced.
Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a 15-year-old who is deceptively, simplistically beautiful. She has her clique of friends that she sees and converses with every day at school, but her always-parted lips and distant eyes when she finds herself alone suggest that she’s missing something.
She dates a guy, but the sex constantly leaves her wishing she were somewhere else. They break up. Then, one day, as she’s crossing the street, Adèle passes a girl with wild blue hair. Adèle literally stops in her tracks, glancing backward to catch another glimpse.
One night out, after she’s separated from her friends, Adèle “just happens” to walk into a lesbian bar, where, as chance would have it, she sees her blue-haired angel again. The stranger approaches her and introduces herself as Emma (Léa Seydoux), an out lesbian and a fourth-year fine arts student.
Emma agrees to “tutor” Adèle in philosophy, and, as they spend more time together, Adèle can’t resist her. The two kiss, have very carnal sex and begin a relationship.
Prior to this film, I had always believed that the towering screen of a cinema was best employed by visuals outside of the common-day, visceral images that could not be seen anywhere else.
Fantastical, special-effects laden worlds, screaming car chases and even the simple cityscape at night, created out of infinite dots of light, seemed to be best-fitted for the silver screen’s ability to enrapture the eyes.
What that list was missing, and now no longer does, is the human face. We, as an audience, experience the film through Adèle, and we are always by her side, sometimes uncomfortably close.
Her face tinged with a spot of sauce from the spaghetti she slurps, tears and snot running down her crumbling face as she cries.
I cannot praise the two main actresses, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, enough. There are not two braver performances I’ve seen in recent memory.
The film tells its story implicitly and naturally. A decade of Adèle’s life passes over the course of the three hours, which is the shortest three hours that I’ve felt in a movie theater.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche lingers longer on scenes than most other directors would.
Adèle marching and shouting in a student protest, an outdoor party with Emma’s art gallery intellectuals discussing male and female orgasms, and Adèle’s literature class reading out loud and analyzing a passage all would be considered relatively mundane. Indeed, Manohla Dargis, chief film critic for The New York Times, describes the film as overly long and Kechiche as self-indulgent. I respectfully disagree.
As this is a French art house film with subtitles — and not a Hollywood blockbuster that must clock in around two hours and whose plot is just as tightly wound as a watch — I did not feel the urge to check the time. These extraneous scenes are more brushstrokes to add detail to the expression of Adèle’s life.
Though these scenes go on for an ordinate amount of time, the film passes long expanses of time and skips over seemingly-important events without explicitly holding the audience’s hand. Adèle and Emma are in Adèle’s bed after introducing Emma to Adèle’s parents for the first time, and then the next shot is of the couple in their own bed, having moved in together. Without an explanation other than things change, Emma goes from being a blue-haired student to an artist with a gallery with a more mature, professional haircut. Adèle’s messy look and teenage years inevitably give way to her wearing glasses and teaching young children in her early 20s.
Speaking of the inevitable, Adèle and Emma’s relationship does deteriorate. They drift apart and then one of them cheats.
Like in real life, love is lost organically and without much reason. The breakup scene, where one finds out that the other cheated, is so raw and emotionally violent that I felt like I was watching my own relationship die.
I must now address the sexual elephant in the room: the eight minute-long sex scene between Adèle and Emma. This film is rated NC-17: It includes scissoring, fingering and oral sex, among other things. And such explicit language without euphemism feels completely necessary, as that is how the scene is shot.
Rather than maintaining Adèle’s subjectivity, which makes the film so resonant, Kechiche shoots the scene pornographically. I cannot express how much of a disservice this is to the film, and it falls squarely on Kechiche’s shoulders. This is Adèle’s first time with a woman, yet she performs like a seasoned pornographic actress This single scene makes the film decidedly imperfect, which is a tragedy.
Still, the film maintains its reputation as one about young love, sexual realization, relationships and their collapse. “Blue” is a beautiful, transcendental experience.
*Grade: A *