Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)

One of the most intricate of screenplays ever written in recent years paired with an extraordinary performance by Adele Exarchopoulos places this powerful yet sensitive drama in a class of its own.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
2013 | France | Drama/Romance | 180 mins | 2.35:1 | French & English
R21 (edited) for explicit sexual content

Cast: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche
Plot: Adele’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult.
Awards: Won Palme d’Or and FIPRESCI Prize (Cannes). Nom. for 1 Golden Globe – Best Foreign Language Film.
International Sales: Wild Bunch
Singapore Distributor: Shaw Organisation

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Mature
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Review #1,029

(Reviewed in theatres – first published 30 Apr 2014)

Spoilers: No

Singapore has gotten the censored version, though I must admit it didn’t make much of a difference after all. This is one of the very best films of its year, deserving of the Palme d’Or win at Cannes Film Festival.

Very rarely a film of this length and ambition would enthrall me from start to end, one that is essentially three hours worth of dialogue, centering on the life of Adele. It could have been a long and boring arthouse film, but Blue Is the Warmest Colour is thoroughly engaging and surprisingly quite accessible.

The incredibly beautiful Adele Exarchopoulos plays Adele, a high-school girl with a quiet ambition to teach, in an extraordinary performance that has to be seen to be believed. She is accompanied by Lea Seydoux, who plays Emma, a tomboyish girl with blue hair. Together they explore love, sexuality and growing up in Lille, France.

Shot on location, director Abdellatif Kechiche infamously chalked up 800 hours of footage, some of them random shots of Exarchopoulos eating, sleeping, walking… If you look at the credits, you won’t be a surprise to learn that there were no less than five film editors.

Kechiche’s commitment to realism is breathtaking, and this is best seen in the numerous close-ups of the two main actresses. At least a third of the film is focused on the human face, its expression of joy, sadness and fear.

“But I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. All my life long.”

This is an intimate film in more ways than one, with one of the most intricate of screenplays ever written in recent years. The details of Adele’s (lonely) existence are captured, so is her blossoming romance with Emma. In short, we are given the opportunity to enter the private life of Adele, in this instance both reel and real, even if there is no visible separation.

This doesn’t make us voyeurs, despite uncompromising shots of full nudity. We see Adele in the shower. We see Emma paint a picture of a nude Adele, a scene that for better or worse, reminded me of that scene in Titanic (1997).

We also see Adele in bed explicitly making love to Emma (no wait, this was censored). Whether this lengthy sequence is integral or excessive to the story is debatable, but I must reiterate that the film remains highly effective regardless.

Blue is the Warmest Colour is ultimately a film of human expressions and relationships. With its lightly blue-tinted lensing and an assortment of blue visual motifs in its art direction and mise-en-scene, Keichiche has made a powerful yet sensitive picture in a class of its own, and that in years to come will be considered an important milestone in queer cinema. I urge you to see it.

Grade: A




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