“Blue is the Warmest Color” introduces us to two worthy things.
One is Adèle Exarchopoulosgo, an actress who communicates emotions of such raw intensity and magnitude that we are hard pressed to believe she is acting.
The second is the character she plays. As Adele, we truly see the emergence of a doughy high school girl as she becomes a woman, feels complete and ultimately, becomes devastated at the hands of her first true love. That it is a woman is truly secondary to her story.
And while Exarchopoulosgo's performance could not exist without Léa Seydoux as Emma, the movie could have definitely existed without the prolonged lessons on lesbian sex. Combustible or not, the movie felt like porn posing as art.
And for those existing outside the confines of the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 where “Blue is the Warmest Color” won the Palme d’ Or, the buzz clearly surrounded the 10+ minute lesbian sex scene and how crucial it was to the story.
At first blush, neither point is particularly valid, imaginative or vital. And it was done far better in the Swedish film "Kyss Mig:"("Kiss Me") that was not complete in time for the Cannes deadline the previous year.
With a similar female narrative, each illustrates the difference between sex with a man and the contrasting "right" woman. “Kiss Me” uses a physical response, sure, but includes well-defined emotions and intimacy. And the context is emerging love.
In "Blue," Adele’s boyfriend is actually soft and caring. He locks hands with her during climax and expresses genuine concern for her pleasure. With Emma it is never clear if she loves Adelle or the mind-numbing sex.
Adele’s willingness to hand herself over to Emma without reservation is perhaps the most potent element of the astonishing sexual chemistry. The combustible energy between these two is off-the-charts and witnessing their beautiful bodies collide has a bit of artistry to it. But that can be achieved in 30 seconds not 10 minutes.
The uncertainty that Emma is in love with Adele the same way the boy fancied her is underlined by a clear lack of pronouncements of love between the lovers. Worse, there are no selfless gestures – except Adele’s willingness to serve as hostess and housewife.
“Blue” has no remarkable person to root for or one that the audience can remotely relate to except one nice high school girl from a loving family and an frustrated artist from a loving family a few notches up the social pole. She herself seems somewhat unremarkable.
In “Blue” there is no intimacy, just sex.
In the end, their relationship having run its course, there is a moment three years later when the lack of relationship allows for a full blown exorcism of unresolved emotions between the two.
As the emotions fly, however undefined, they are powerful. The acting, superb.
Exarchopoulosgo can transport millions with her huge range of childlike to womanly emotions riddled with confusion, longing and hurt.
And while Seydoux has the less showy role, while evicting her lover and later communicating her own tremors and tradeoff at separation, Seydoux is masterful. It is only then a glimpse of the emotional component for Emma that seemed missing previously comes tumbling out.
If for no other reason than to see Exarchopoulosgo's first step to an assured acting future and her accomplice Seydoux in performance glory - this movie is worthwhile.
It is however, not revelatory.