To those who care, the Cannes Film Festival has a lot of influence in the film world. The 2013 winner of the Palm d'Or, the festival's highest honor, was a little French film called 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' a controversial film if there ever was one.
Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is a high school student who wants to fit in with her friends. To do so, she has a romantic encounter with a popular boy, but finds it unsatisfying. After rumors swirl about her and after a female friend kisses her somewhat innocently, she becomes confused about her sexuality. To attempt to escape her thoughts, goes out to a gay club with her friend and slinks off to the nearby lesbian bar. There, Adele meets Emma (Lea Seydoux), an art student in college. There is a mutual attraction and the two begin to spend time together. Soon, the relationship escalates and Adele settles into a sort of domestic bliss. More importantly, she is finally at peace with herself. Years go by.
Is this state of self-actualization a permanent one? Has Adele found her soulmate and herself? How could this perfect scenario become complicated?
Any vagueness in this plot description is intentional because the story itself is very simple. That isn't meant to diminish the quality of it because it is extremely strong, but sharing any excess details could ruin surprises.
The length of this film is very intimidating. Thankfully, it's a clear, linear tale that allows for real growth with the characters, especially Adele. It's also telling that the film seems to be a lot shorter than it actually is.
It is easy to shrug off the title as being meaningless, perhaps even contradictory given the usual association blue has with cold. While watching the film, it comes through as a theme, from Emma’s initial blue hair, to some of the cinematography and Adele’s appreciation of Picasso. That is the kind of subtle detail and care that has gone into this. There are other symbols and metaphors throughout the film, some more subtle than others.
You have to tip your cap to Seydoux and Exarchopoulos, their performances easily carry this film even though so much is asked of them. As you can tell by the rating, this gets quite intense. Perhaps the sex scenes are over-the-top, overlong, and exaggerated. Maybe director Abdellatif Kechiche had a little too much fun filming these extended scenes and maybe he deserves the criticism heaped upon him from certain circles. Not touching that. Let's stick to the finished product, itself.
Special features include: a trailer and a TV spot. This is probably the most bare-bones Criterion release in recent memory. It does contain the obligatory essay in the DVD case, but don't go into this expecting any revelatory features. This is a letdown.
'Blue is the Warmest Color' is a surprisingly accessible and watchable film, given the bloated length and the content. It is a simple story of self-discovery and coming of age. Well worth a watch if you can enjoy French films, simple stories that are told with skill and aren't afraid to get a little out of your comfort zone.
NC-17 179 minutes 2014