Blue is the Warmest Color – 2013 – dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos do something remarkable in Blue is the Warmest Color. They seem to transcend their director, their writer, their cinematographer, and give us insight into these two characters. Their joy, their love, their rage, their confusion; they wallow in these emotions and leave them as ubiquitous qualities of a real life. Even when the sex scenes move into gazing territory and the over saturation of blue imagery becomes noticeable, the two leads make the film feel undeniable real.
After having seen the film I feel I understand Adele and her confusion. In her first sex scene (with a man) she is obviously sleeping with him to meet a social standard with her “friends.” This is both caused by and leads to further confusion and Adele ends up going to a gay bar where she wallows in the awkwardness of her confusion waiting for someone to make a move. Its angst gives the audience the opportunity for complete submersion. And then Emma (Seydoux) arrives and they become friends and her confusion becomes more focused, moving from an existential confusion to a question:” do I really like her?” And then they begin sleeping together and the extended graphic sex scenes show the pleasure and the orgasm that Adele was missing in the first scene. It’s more than pleasure; it’s completeness, a wholeness that the extended nature of the scenes confronts the audience with.
Emma is the artistic soul; she cares about passion and realness and can’t stand deception. We see glimmers of that through the film, but it is only after Adele cheats on her that we are confronted with that anger. She screams and refuses to hold back and it is truly scary as we are torn between Adele’s sadness and Emma’s anger. Emma eventually is put in the same position of potentially cheating on her (new) significant other but she says no, reluctantly. Seydoux’s brilliance here is that there is forgiveness in her eyes. Recognition that she understands what Adele did before.
Nuance and submersion, the two leads do these brilliantly where the film doesn’t really. Without the strength of these performances the film comes off as heavy handed where delicacy was called for. The most significant aspect of this is in those sex scenes. Were it not for the strength of the leads, the camera work which moves away from the action to gaze on their intimacy would be obviously pornographic. But their performances within the scenes allow for artistic characterization.
The film is amazing and it is entirely because of the actresses and the source material. The story is powerful and moves away from the traditional coming of age/coming out story to make these women into real people. I’m glad that Seydoux and Exarchopoulos were given the Palme d’or along with the director because they contribute as much (if not more) to the films artistic merits than he does. In an ideal world they would be nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. However I doubt that it will gain traction outside of the Best Foreign Language Film category.