Based on the French comic of the same name by Julie Maroh, “Blue is the Warmest Color” tells a story of romance and heartbreak in intimate detail. The story follows Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos), a beautiful young high school student as she discovers her own sexuality and feelings over the course of a few years and an intense relationship with Emma (Léa Seydoux), an older lesbian art student.
The movie’s incredibly personal and intimate with the presentation of what could otherwise be a familiar and simple story. A major part of this has to be due to the lead actresses and the director. The acting is extremely naturalistic and believable, benefiting greatly from the handheld camera style of filming. Both of the leads give incredible physical and emotional performances, rendering their acting invisible. There’s no ignoring the sense of reality in the intimate world they inhabit, and their romance sizzles off the screen with its emotional power. They radiate personality and subtly during dialogue and conversations, and even scenes where nothing is being said at all can be read and interpreted.
What’s almost instantly noticeable is Adèle Exarchopoulos, and this could very easily be a star making role for her (if it hasn’t already in France). There’s no denying that the camera loves her, and quite possibly because director Abdellatif Kechiche does as well. There’s an almost fetishization to the way he films her, adorning her with frequent close ups over almost every inch of her body, often putting a great deal of attention on her large sensual lips. Kechiche’s eye is infatuated with her face and her mouth, and they take the focus of almost every scene. Because it’s shot using frequent handheld cameras, she’s presented to us through his eyes in a more practical sense, being shown exactly how he sees her. Given that, it’s nearly impossible not to share in his infatuation.
It’s a modern equivalent of the way Josef von Sternberg filmed Marlene Dietrich or Alfred Hitchcock filmed Grace Kelly, and it adds a great deal of captivation and emotional resonance to the movie and her performance in particular. Needless to say, there’s not a single scene in this movie without her.
The feelings of the characters and the actresses themselves are laid bare for the story, and the filmmaking only adds to this. You get a terrific feel for the relationship and their romance, as rollercoaster as it is without reeking of melodrama or soap opera. The love depicted here is a passionate and intense one, dominating every aspect of Adèle’s life. It’s love at first sight, and nothing else will come close.
The sex scenes are filmed to match this, being very explicit and graphic in their depiction. Even still, they feel appropriate for the emotions being conveyed as well as the passion behind them. It’s a highly intimate examination of their love affair and nothing is left out, other than the more common clichés you might expect from a story of this nature. The focus is never even truly about her sexuality, though it does play a key factor. I get the sense that it’s not about her being a lesbian or bisexual, but more her being struck with her intense emotional connection with another human being.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” is a powerful and captivating examination of youth and sexuality, crossing the boundaries of gender in a way that feels so effortless in spite of its simplistic brilliance. It’s pure emotion onscreen, given to us in all of its glory.