Review: Blue is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adèle)

I have been lax in reviewing this film; I saw it in September, but only now have I had time to put my thoughts into a post. The nudge came from a spate of articles about how New York’s IFC centre said they would allow under-17’s in to see the film, even though (in the USA, at least) the film is rated NC-17 due to the ‘sapphic sex scenes’. The IFC issued a statement which said, in part, “This is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is appropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers, who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds…”

Naturally, there have been protests of that decision, but I’m glad that they have taken this position. Lesbian sex scenes (actually, sex scenes in general, whether GLBT or otherwise) should not be a reason for an NC-17 rating, in my opinion. Sex isn’t, in itself, offensive. And I would like to see more films rated higher, especially those with wanton violence. To me, Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ series ought to have been NC-17. However, for whatever Puritan reasoning lies behind the MPAA, nudity and sex sparks tittering and indignation. I applaud the IFC centre for their position.

Now, to my actual review. I’m not sure where to begin. I’d been looking forward to this film since before it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes (see article link here), and when I saw that the Calgary International Film Festival would be screening Blue is the Warmest Colour, I snapped up a ticket as soon as they went on sale, and eagerly (impatiently) awaited the day.

This film was worth it. And more.

C’est le mieux. C’est très belle, et triste aussi.

Stretching over three hours, though I wouldn’t have complained if it were longer still, the film follows student Adèle from secondary school through to her mid-twenties. It’s based on the graphic novel ‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ by Julie Maroh (a beautifully illustrated book; it’s in English translation now, so do pick it up.)

In the beginning of the film, Adèle is not sure of herself, of her wants and desires. She dates a young man at her school, but it fizzles and she feels little for him. Then, crossing the street near the main square in Lille, she passes a young woman and her girlfriend. The girl’s blue hair catches her eye, and their gazes meet, both turning back to catch a second glimpse before they’re lost in the crowd. This scene was beautifully shot and my own heart fluttered, feeling the tension and attraction between Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux).

From there it progresses, and the pair meet again in a lesbian bar, and again when Emma seeks Adèle out after school. She’s several years older, in art school, and more experienced in the world than Adèle. It’s Adèle’s first real love, and the film is realistic in its portrayal of young love, passion, and eventual betrayal and falling out. Their relationship is sensual, and loving, and exactly the sort of thing for ‘mature, inquiring teenagers’ to see.

I hadn’t yet read ‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ when I saw the film, but I did pick it up afterwards. The film’s script veers from the graphic novel, but not so much so that readers of the novel would be so greatly displeased. Now, if you’re looking for a fast-paced film with intense drama in every minute, you should look beyond La vie d’Adèle and choose something else. It’s a slow-building film, more real-life than cinema. But it is genuine and passionate, and I was immersed. Walking home from the cinema afterwards, I felt in a daze, my imagination still there onscreen with Emma and Adèle, in Lille.

If Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) comes to a cinema anywhere near you, you MUST GO.

Article: Lesbian drama tipped for Cannes win (BBC)

From the BBC:

An intimate love story between two young women has received rave reviews in Cannes as the film festival draws to a close.

Directed by Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue is the Warmest Colour, has shocked some critics with its graphic sex scenes.

Variety magazine said it contained “the most explosively graphic lesbian sex scenes in recent memory”.

The film is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the Palme d’Or on Sunday.

But reviewers have speculated the film may require editing to secure cinema distribution.

The three-hour character study centres on the 15-year-old Adele, played by French actress Adele Exarchopoulos, and her lover Emma, played by Lea Seydoux.

The Hollywood Reporter said the “sprawling drama” would “raise eyebrows” as it crossed the barrier “between performance and the real deal”.

Kechiche, best known for his critically acclaimed 2007 film Couscous, said he would consider cutting some scenes to allow the widest possible audience to see the work.

“We wouldn’t want the film not to be screened because of one scene,” he said. “But of course that wouldn’t apply if it were the whole thing.”

The headline to this article caught my eye, for obvious reasons. As I write and read lesbian fiction (and romantic fiction), I’m heartened to see that a lesbian film is receiving such rave reviews. However, it always surprises me when people talk (or complain–hard to tell which it is, here) about ‘graphic sex scenes’. And yet, so many films contain such graphic, awful violence that I can still remember it years later. (Gaspar Noé’s film ‘Irreversible’, for example), and very little is said. (Though certainly in ‘Irreversible’s case, there was plenty posted about its violence, though most seemed to centre on the rape scene.)

Personally, I’d much rather watch a graphic sex scene than a violent one. Sex is something that most people experience in some form or other (mostly positive, I would hope), but violence, particularly on the scale shown in film, would not be.

This film will be on my ‘to watch’ list, and I hope it wins the Palme d’Or, and gets a wider distribution.