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The Best of 2013: 'Blue is the Warmest Color'

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Blue is the Warmest Color


Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the most realistic films of the last few years. The way it is shot, the way it is acted, the way it psychologically feels—all realistic. Most importantly, the way the two characters meet, love and mature is honest in its directness. The film is based on a French graphic novel by Julie Maroh and has become the first film to win the Palme d'Or award based on comic book material. This French production has become one of the best foreign films of 2013 and it is certainly a daring one. This is a film about relationships, plain and simple. All the tiny human details are spelled out in each scene. Every feeling that is associated with a couple can be felt over this entire cinematic experience. Director Abdellatif Kechiche has painted a fascinating timeline where every brushstroke feels like a thousand different emotions.

The central point of view of this story comes from Adele. The audience is first introduced to her as a high school 11th grade student. She is a good student by all means in spite of her judgmental friends. A big fan of literature and learning, she is starting to feel an emptiness in her heart that yearns for more. Adele meets a senior boy that she rushes to sleep with in order to curb the peer pressure pushed on her by friends. None of this seems to pan out well for her and she continues searching for something more. Upon a chance encounter, she catches a glimpse of a girl. Intense blue-dyed locks of hair on a girl named Emma just strolling down a street. They have not even formally met, and Adele is already intrigued and fixated by the aura of this lady. She begins to have sexual dreams involving this blue-haired femme salutaire and hopes that they will meet. Adele goes out with friends, and either by coincidence or fate, she does bump into Emma and there is an immediate connection. Rather realistically, we see how they have chemistry through their discussions and likes and dislikes of academia. Adele likes reading. Emma likes philosophy. Adele likes art in generalized way. Emma likes to sketch. Since Adele is very curious to explore this feeling and attraction she has for Emma, the slow process of getting to know one another makes for a completely believable friendship and romance to follow. The sparks only start to fly once Emma becomes courageous enough to touch and kiss Emma. Everything after this moment is the stuff of blissful love and maturing through mistake. The eroticism of the film is intense too, give or take.

Adele and Emma are played by Adèle Exarchopoulos (having the same first name is not a mistake as all the B roll footage of the actress featured actors calling her by her real name, so it stuck for the character) and Léa Seydoux with her Marlon Brando/James Dean approach to showing a masculine woman with a confidence and expressiveness. The filmmaker put the two actresses through a record of 100 takes for some scenes in order to make them so exhausted that they would come off as real in their quiet delivery as possible. According to the director, the two actresses only read the original script once. Once on set, they were encouraged to improvise a lot of the dialogue, so that everything again would feel absolutely authentic. The love scenes are impressively believable with an inciting passion that the audience can easily imagine that they are in the room with them and possibly joining them. Since a lot of the film is shot in close-ups, there is a very poignant psychological quality to the presentation of this story. You feel like you are Adele, walking her steps, taking in the same air she breathes and snoozing with her as she sleeps (this reviewer would not be surprised if the shots where she is sleeping are truly shots of her in actual sleep). The director does an excellent job capturing the fear of being unaccepted by your parents and friends as well as the strong disconnection to the public when you no longer care about what others think.

The story moves into a very difficult latter chapter for Adele and Emma's relationship, and in the third hour of the 3 hour picture, the story ventures toward a period of maturing for the characters. The timeline for this film is unclear, but it can be hypothesized that each act in the narrative is separated by two or three years (Meaning, we meet high school Adele, then two years later when Adele is a teacher, then probably another three years when Adele has matured into a woman who can take care of herself). She is unable to forget someone like Emma easily--wearing blue dresses when ever she sees her in effort to gain her attention again. It all wraps up with an overall appreciation of one's maturity and the usual questions over an individual's future. Bottom line, this well-executed and masterfully photographed chronicle about two ladies' relationship is an enduring testament to young lovers and the overpowering desire for passion. Despite things that make and break a deal, Emma has a very affectionate and practical attitude toward Adele: “I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will.”