Exposed and eviscerated.
That's how my soul feels just hours after viewing Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winning relationship epic "Blue is the Warmest Color" for the first time at an advance screening on Tuesday night in Austin. Not since "Blue Valentine" have I felt this way after a film and in this case the feeling feels much more personal. I ask for forgiveness for the bit of first person point of view I have used and am going to use in this review but to get out how this film has affected me in the purest and most honest form I feel it's necessary.
As a LGBT male, I know what it feels like to question and discover one's sexuality. I know what it feels like to feel attraction and love for both sexes. The fear, the uncertainty, the thrill and admittedly the shame as well. Finding who you are as a lover and who you are sexually is a life changing experience and going through a life changing experience is never easy. The experience wouldn't be "life changing" if it was.
The struggle of dealing with that life changing experience makes relating to the film's lead, 15 year old Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), an easy task. She too is scared and uncertain of who she is. Relationships with the opposite sex are more accepted by her peers, much like here in the U.S., while homosexual relationships are still on the fringe of teenage society. This makes Adele's newly realized affections for girls a daunting and confusing revelation. Adele, much like many LGBT youths her age, begins to naively walk into the world of homosexual relationships at a time of her life where she is most vulnerable.
It's early on into Adele's new romantic journey that she officially meets the older Emma (Lea Seydoux) after wandering into a lesbian bar on a night out with friends. Emma caught Adele's eyes on the street in the days before so Emma's advances are welcomed and not seen with wary eyes by Adele. In fact, Emma (who at the time she meets Adele is not single) and Adele quickly fall for each other, sparking the evaporation of many of Adele's established friendships and the beginning of an intense first experience with love for Adele.
What develops in the remainder of "Blue is the Warmest Color" is one of the richest and erotic on-screen relationships ever seen in film. Every aspect of the relationship feels sensual and invigorating like it surely does for the young Adele. From the explicit sex scenes to the many food scenes, everything burns on the screen as if you are breathing through Adele's heart.
As the film's French title, "La vie d'Adele (The life of Adele)" implies, the focus of director Kechiche's eyes in the relationship is Adele. It's her transformation and fluctuating emotions during the relationship that makes "Blue is the Warmest Color" as special as it is. Adele's excitement, curiosity and fear are emotions and feelings I myself and many others have felt during their first loves and experiences with lovers of the same and opposite sex. Kechiche's film depicts all of these emotions with an unbridled fervor that allows for the relationship to feel raw and relatable.
A great source of the controversy revolving around the film is the nature of the aforementioned explicit and extended sex scenes between Adele and Emma. To this writer, much of the controversy is unwarranted. Yes, the scenes are indeed very explicit but they simply depict the intensity and sexual excitement a young man or woman feels when they are unabashedly in love with someone. The in-depth exploration of your partner's body and soul is something that is nearly impossible to tame in life and depict in a non-controversial way on screen.
For parents worried their kids might see something they don't need to see, the film's NC-17 rating should keep their young ones out. If your young ones still manage to see the film, it's not the film's fault by any means.
What "Blue is the Warmest Color" ultimately manages to do to someone is tease, play with, rip apart and then torture their heart which is exactly what someone's first true love does to them. Both Adele and Emma must face the consequences for their intentions at the beginning of their relationship and their actions during said relationship. Just like the rest of us, the ladies must reap what they sow.
Love, sex and intense relationships in film will forever cause problems for directors to manage and controversy for film lovers to discuss. While "Blue is the Warmest Color" obviously does not change that fact, the film does finally provide a no holds barred example of what young love feels and looks like.
Better yet though, "Blue is the Warmest Color" is not just a film about love, sex or friendship at a young age in particular. What this film's story really is happens to be much simpler than that...
"Blue is the Warmest Color" is simply a story about love...for everyone.