The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Blue Is the Warmest Color | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Blue Is the Warmest Color

A teenager discovers her true sexuality after encountering a beautiful blue-haired lesbian.

Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurelien Recoing, Catherine Salee

Adele (Exarchopoulos) is a shy teenager who feels excluded from her social peers. While her friends moan about schoolwork and talk endlessly about sex and boys, Adele plunges herself into classic French literature. She accepts a date with a popular boy at school but on the way to meet him she passes a beautiful blue-haired older girl and later that night, after losing her virginity to her date, Adele masturbates about this mysterious girl. On a trip to a gay bar with a homosexual friend, Adele is approached by the girl, who reveals herself as Emma (Seydoux). Captivated by her beauty and knowledge of art, Adele falls for Emma and the two embark on a passionate relationship.
No film in 2013 has courted more controversy than Abdellatif Kechiche's 'Blue Is the Warmest Color'. Soon after winning the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme D'or, back in May, the film's two leads came out with a series of attacks against their director, accusing him of exploiting them with the film's several sex scenes, and vowed never to work with Kechiche again. Julie Maroh, author of the comic book this is adapted from, condemned Kechiche's male-oriented take on lesbianism as unrealistic, an accusation made by many female commentators. For the most part, though, 'BITWC' has received rave reviews. With all this hype, both positive and negative, I was left thoroughly underwhelmed on viewing what is little more than a middle of the road, mundane melodrama.
I have to agree with the criticisms of Kechiche's point of view. The film feels like a straight male's fantasy of lesbianism, and a straight male several generations removed from his protagonists at that. Neither Adele nor Emma feel like genuine people. Despite appearing in almost every frame of a three hour film, I never felt like I was truly getting to know Adele. She's no more than a male fantasy figure, a stunningly beautiful and curvaceous young girl with an interest in classic French literature, socialist politics and the films of Scorsese and Kubrick. Just your average nymphet next door then. Her lover, Emma, is even more thinly developed. Apart from a shouting match towards the film's end, we never get any glimpse into her character.
Don't be fooled by its lesbian protagonists; this film peddles the age-old conservative notion that homosexuality is just a fad and all it takes to "turn" a lesbian is an encounter with a hunky straight male (see also 'The Kids Are Alright'). It's also incredibly patronizing in its black and white portrayal of class. In Kechiche's world, Adele's working class parents are unaccepting of homosexuality and live on a diet of spaghetti while Emma's middle class family immediately embrace their daughter's relationship and celebrate with the groan-inducing metaphor of oysters. Maybe things are different in France (though I doubt it) but I've encountered plenty of gays from working class backgrounds. To imply that homosexuality only thrives among the bourgeois adds fuel to the ludicrous and offensive argument that it's a lifestyle choice.
Kechiche includes some interesting subtext about how young French people no longer identify with their own culture but it gets lost among the melodrama and sub softcore fumbling. His film is no more enlightened or artistic than the numerous late night youth dramas produced by British TV networks, although those shows would give a far more genuine portrayal of homosexuality, to their credit.
The (over) reaction to the film's sex scenes is baffling on reflection. After its Cannes premiere, many critics wrote of witnessing a 10 (some even stretched it to 15) minute unbroken hardcore sex sequence. There's actually nothing close to this in the film. Were you to add the several sex scenes together they probably wouldn't even total such length. Are people really so uncomfortable with sex? It's reminiscent of the many critics who swore they saw an ear being removed from a character in 'Reservoir Dogs'. These sex scenes come as a relief from the mundane overly talky and poorly written ones that make up most of the film. They also constitute the only time Kechiche tries to do anything interesting with his camera. Filmed in suffocating close-ups, most of the movie resembles a polished Mexican soap opera but these scenes are choreographed to a laughable degree.
What holds the film together through its bloated running time is the magnificent performance of Exarchopulos, all the more impressive given how poorly written her character is. If she sticks to her vow of never working with Kechiche again we can expect a lot from this actress in the future.

Eric Hillis