Not very often the film camera runs into an actor who is able to control it and dictate its every move or nuance giving it enough material to just stare. Abdellatif Kechiche must have felt that when he casted Adele Exarchopoulos for the leading role in his detailed depiction of what it is to fall in love for the first time in La Vie D’Adele, widely known as Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Then he ran into Léa Seydoux and the intensity of her stare and the whole aura of mystery that she can convey was too much to let go. I’m not sure if the casting of this film was this way or the other way around, but in any case, these two splendid actresses own the final product.
The controversy surrounding Kechiche’s behavior during the five-month shooting, which consisted of shooting continuous hours under not so ideal conditions will eventually become legendary for him, but the film exudes so much natural splendor that no-one will actually feel its 179-minutes length while enjoying how sweet and shy Adele discovers love and what she actually does with it.
As a coming-of-age film, Blue traces Adele’s first encounter with love as she follows her school friends’ advise to accept the advances of Samir, a very sweet young man who’s been showing interest. Soon, she will find that feelings are not dictated by social acceptance. Kechiche knows how to advance his story with scenes filled with silent details, and so he follows her disappointment with the first time she is knocked out by the stare of love and passion, as she runs into Emma, a blue-haired girl who is walking hand in hand with her girlfriend. Even if she tries to continue with her affair, it is obvious her feelings are elsewhere and in another quiet scene behind her school, she discovers that, yes, her heart beats for women. Not long after, she will actually meet Emma and begin what would be her first full-on relationship and her sexual awakening, which is depicted on camera, completely uninhibited.
The film’s structure includes the girls meeting their respective parents (on one side welcoming and on the other, repressed), moving in together, growing in different directions professionally and, of course, the eventual separation that all on-screen love stories must endure.
What impressed me the most is how the film learned to read Adele’s Exarchopoulos’ body language, how it works as an X-ray of her honest feelings, and how the actress is able to recreate her character’s tacit journey through her youth and first adult life.
A film that centers on naturalism blurs the lines of its purpose and makes us witness of life as it is presented and only when the film ends you realize there was an arch in Adele’s life: the arch of responsibility, which she seems to have understood as she walks away from the camera, not looking back, in the closing scene.
With a delicate balance between the simplicity and the controversy of its sexual scenes, and two commanding performances, it was impossible for the Cannes Film Festival to overlook its fresh and hypnotizing power, and so the film rose with 2013’s Palme D’Or.