The French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche and French actresses Léa Sedoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos all shared the Palme d’or in Cannes for “Blue is the Warmest Color” (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitre 1 & 2”, France 2013), opening in San Francisco Nov 1.
Kechiche has proven himself a master of capturing the joy of youth on film and it is to Sedoux and Exarchopolous’s credit that they helped to realize the ambition of this epic masterpiece.
The creative use of the camera and editing and outstanding visceral acting performances make this film a masterpiece. The majority of the shots are closeups and the montage of these spectacular in your face shots and scenes are aligned magnificently.
Actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos command the screen with their raw, emotional performances in this intelligent and moving film on two young women in love, contextualized in an ocean of classrooms, after school socializing, demonstrations, art, politics, gender issues and homophobia.
There are no cell phones, texting, social media dialogue, or computers. The students in this film discuss philosophy, art, poetry and march in demonstrations for better working conditions and gay rights.
Kechiche captures many of the emotions of youth, which to the audience should be painfully familiar.
The story opens on the life of fifteen-year-old high school student Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a student at a multiethnic high school in Lille. Adèle realizes she is missing something. By chance she finds herself attracted to the beautiful Emma (Léa Seydoux), a striking woman in her mid 20’s with dyed blue tinted hair. An hour into the film Emma and Adèle spend the night. The sex scenes are explicit, passionate and joyful.
Adèle aspires to be a primary school teacher, and Emma is a student at the School of Fine Art (École des Beaux-Arts). Adèle becomes an art model for Emma who calls Adèle her muse.The differences between the two women become notable as time goes on leading to a difficult breakup. Three years after Emma and Adèle have a falling out over cheating, they meet in a café. The sexual attraction is still there but Emma claims she has a family now. She admits she is no longer in love with Adèle but will always be fond of her. When Emma has her first art show one of her friends claims that she is absent in her gaze in her latest work, perhaps now that Adèle is gone.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” is a narrative that compels the spectator to know more. Kechiche revealed there is enough material for two more films and is willing to put this into more chapters. Both Léa and Adèle said they are willing to go on with the story, and were surprised at the final cut since there were so many scenes that weren’t used.
The film is loosely based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, “Blue is the Warmest Color” (Bleu est un coleur chaude). Maroh’s narrative was designed to feature lesbians in a positive light. Clearly the film does this, but she criticized Kechiche’s voyeurism in the depiction of lesbians.
Since the Cannes Film Festival, there has been serious disagreement between the actresses and the director. They claim he took advantage of them in lengthy scenes some of which were voyeuristic, and in one scene Léa Seydoux was even hurt. The French unions were called in because of the excessive work hours.
Even despite this controversy, “Blue is the Warmest Color” was clearly the best film at Cannes, and even as a foreign film is sure to be one of the best films this year. There is even a chance it will be nominated for an Oscar in one of the major categories. The easier nomination for best foreign language film won’t happen since it was released too early for France to choose it as their contribution to this category.