Blue is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

What's it about? Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a schoolgirl on the cusp of adulthood, struggling with her sexual identity. An encounter with the older, blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux) leads to a passionate affair, during which Adèle will learn much about herself. Yes, yes, this is that erotic French lesbian flick you've heard about.


Is it any good? This features an absolutely brilliant performance by Exarchopoulos as the young girl dealing with her conflicting emotions as she falls in love for the first time. Shy and impressionable at first, she then becomes more confident as she accepts who she is, but is ultimately still a vulnerable figure by the end. She really is outstanding and any emotional investment you have in the film will be due to her. Opposite her, Seydoux's Emma is not as memorable, but gets extra points for reminding me of a young Christopher Walken. Because of the performances, there's no denying the film is a heartfelt and honest love story, with a touch of artistry in the thematic use of the colour blue throughout. However, it's also slow-moving and overlong, with the class commentary running through rather tedious after a while. Perhaps the point is to let the naturalistic realism of the characters and their lives filter through to the viewer, but it requires a bit of patience to do so. I didn't find it as emotionally engaging as I'd been led to believe, but that central performance is really great.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Well, they like it a lot. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes but, in an unusual move, the award was split between the director and the lead actresses, whose performances blew the Jury away. Most critics followed suit, with the film appearing on many Top 10 of 2013 lists. Elsewhere, the hairy-handed teenage boy community and the dirty mac brigade declared themselves satisfied with the extended and explicit girl-on-girl sex scenes. So everyone was happy. Except Julie Maroh, that is, author of the comic-book novel that the movie was based on, who took exception to the film and the portrayal of the sex in particular. "The heteronormative laughed because they don't understand it and find the scene ridiculous" she explained. "The gay and queer people laughed because it's not convincing, and found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn't hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen." Well, that's only one person's opinion. The actresses were okay with it, weren't they? Well, no, actually. In the aftermath of the Cannes win, they both complained about Kerchiche's humiliating approach to filming, which created an uncomfortable and horrible set atmosphere. So that wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement. At least the director was happy, eh? Well, no. Kerchiche responded angrily to the actresses by threatening court action and then decided he hated the film and it should never have been released. So actually, not everyone was happy after all. A timeline of the controversy is laid out here.

Anything else I should know? Sigh. You just want to hear about the sex bits don't you? Well, they're pretty explicit for a mainstream film, so they may shock some people. (Not me, I seen plenty of this stuff back in Paris,when I was shacked up with Anais Nin and that crew). But if you want to be offended, you'll find plenty here to get on your high horse about. On the other hand, if you are more open-minded, you'll realise that two pretty naked girls writhing together can be really quite a beautiful thing. Who'd have thought it? Anyway, the real crux of the matter is whether these scenes are 'brave' or 'exploitative' for depicting the sex in such detail. People have argued for and against, but it is more likely that they are just in there to generate a bit of controversy and debate. Which they have. But would this film have generated so much outraged finger-pointing, tongue-wagging, hand-wringing and bean-flicking if it had not been about a relationship between lesbians? Two very pretty lesbians at that? I'm guessing not. If Kechiche wanted to avoid charges of titillation, perhaps a truly 'brave' film would have featured a relationship between less attractive leads with imperfect bodies.  But I'm sure that would have offended/excited a whole different set of people, so the filmmakers were pretty much damned dyked if they do, dyked if they don't.

What does the Fonz think? 69 out of 100





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