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Blue Is the Warmest Color


There's a devastating mix of eroticism and sadness in Abdellatif Kechiche's new film, which returns to the style and setting of his 2003 movie Games Of Love and Chance. It's the epic but intimate story of a love affair between two young women, unfolding in what seems like real time. There's an interestingly open, almost unfinished quality to the narrative. The film is acted with honesty and power by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos; the affair itself is a little idealised, and the film is flawed by one rather histrionic scene, though not, I think, by its expansive three-hour length. Nonetheless, this is still a blazingly emotional and explosively sexy film, which reminds you how timidly unsexy most films are, although as with all explicit movies, there will be one or two airy sophisticates who will affect to be unmoved by it, and claim that the sex is "boring". It isn't. The movie is based on a French graphic novel, Le Bleu Est Une Couleur Chaude, by Julie Maroh, although the film had for me something of an early fiction by Alan Hollinghurst, like The Spell. Adèle (Exarchopoulos) is a 17-year-old at high school in Lille, a bright, idealistic student who loves studying literature, both English and French, and wants to be a teacher. (She will incidentally reveal later that she loves American movies by people like Scorsese and Kubrick – though it is Altman who is more of an influence on this expansive, garrulous film.) After a painful breakup with a boyfriend, Adèle goes with a gay friend to a bar, and sees a beautiful young woman with short hair, dyed blue, whom she has noticed before in the street: it is Emma (Séydoux), an art student. Soon they begin a paint-blisteringly intense affair. Emma's blue hairstyle means that the colour blue – a cleverly returning motif – becomes the colour of happiness. But as the couple grow up and grow apart, Emma lets the blue-dye job grow out and she reverts to her natural blonde colour. It is a bad sign: the beginning of the end. The extended sex scenes have an explicitness and candour which can only be called magnificent; in fact they make the sex in famous movies like, say, Last Tango in Paris look supercilious and dated. There is something coolly, thrillingly uncompromising about the first sex scene especially, and also something quietly and inexplicably moving when Kechiche finally cuts from the end of that sequence to the crowd scene at a gay pride rally. Food is an interesting motif as well. Emma introduces Adèle to her liberal and tolerant mother and stepfather over dinner; they are entirely aware of Emma's sexuality and serve Adèle a sophisticated novelty – oysters. (A hint of Kubrick here? Olivier's "oysters" speech from Spartacus?) When Emma comes back to meet Adèle's conservative folks, however, the lovers have to stay in the closet and pretend Emma has a boyfriend. They get served some humbler fare: spaghetti bolognaise. Yet is precisely this kind of food that Adèle serves up at the party for Emma's first art exhibition, cementing her submissive and domestic position in the relationship. The darker phase of their relationship (presumably the second "chapter" of the title) is painful and there is ultimately much crying, and this looks every bit as passionate and real and un-Hollywood as the sex. I can't imagine Jessica Chastain or Anne Hathaway ever doing the brutally authentic tears-mingling-with-snot look the way Adèle Exarchopoulos does it. It's a long movie, and by the end you may well feel every bit as wrung out as the characters. But it is genuinely passionate film-making. Courtesy: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)

Official Trailer

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Directed by: 
Abdel Kechiche
Running Time: 
French with English Subtitles
Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Aurelien Recoing,
Screenplay by: 
Julie Maroh, Abdel Kechiche

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