Of all the films I’ve been excited to see this year, the one that I truly anticipated the most was Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color (known in France as La Vie d’Adèle), the cinematic adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh. It wasn’t just the promise of a three hour French flick featuring lesbians and sex that drew me in, or that it starred my spiritual wife Léa Seydoux, but rather both the amount of positive recognition (it did, in fact, win the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year) as well as the negative attention it received. Already notorious for a twelve minute long sex scene that borders on the hardcore featuring prosthetic vaginas, the film is rated a shameless NC-17 and has not cut out any of its controversial footage. But what else is there to Blue?
Compared to the graphic novel, which I reviewed last month, Kechiche’s adaptation follows a more linear storyline that does not skimp out on the book’s explicitness. Maroh’s Clémentine has been renamed Adèle (played in the film by a fantastic Adèle Exarchopoulos), whose world is still shaken up by Emma (Léa Seydoux), a blue-haired arts student who quickly becomes the object of Adèle’s affections. While Blue Is the Warmest Color more or less follows the graphic novel’s original plot line, the film chooses to not use flashbacks and is told chronologically, resulting in a story that focuses more on the maturing aspect of Adèle’s life. We’re introduced to a fifteen year old girl and watch as she grows up; we see her form new relationships (there’s the boy she loses her virginity to, and then, of course, her whirlwind romance with Emma) and we see her gain maturity and then suffer when she loses sight of it. Blue then is a realist vision, a coming of age story that forgoes the stereotypes and becomes something quite unique; Adèle is harassed when her peers suspect she is gay, but rather than take it she fights back and moves on. Whereas the graphic novel spends a great deal of time focusing on Adèle’s coming to terms with her sexuality, the film moves away from that and chooses to be a coming of age narrative. This may be one of the reasons why the twelve minute sex scene then seems to serve no purpose: admittedly gratuitous, and not in-tune with Adèle’s sexual awakening, it’s just there, almost as if for shock value and for nothing else. I also may add that it reaches a point where it no longer seems realistic, which obviously, in relation to the rest of the movie, makes it simply not fit.
But there are many other things that save the film, and push it closer to a masterpiece rather than trash: there are Adèle’s idiosyncrasies that make her seem so real (she fiddles with her hair and her clothes; when she cries it’s ugly, and it happens often), and Emma’s constantly changing hair, and the always-refreshing fact that none of the actors are Hollywood stars and therefore seem more like real people. Blue at the minimum encapsulates one person’s life, and doesn’t allow its story to fall victim to clichés and standards. The ending hardly is happy, and isn’t even satisfactory. Then again: that’s how real life is, anyway.
Blue Is the Warmest Color, like any movie, isn’t perfect, but it is a film you can both lose and see yourself in. Telling its story on a platform composed of painful honesty, Blue has established itself as an important film worth seeing. The overdoing of the sexual content aside, every moment is vital, demanding your decision, and ultimately leaves a lasting impression. Having waited so long to see, I personally can admit that Blue satisfies; it’s the story of growing up, of finding romance and losing it. It’s relatable but then sometimes not, but so are all great films - not least of which Blue is included.