Friday, November 8, 2013


Blue Is The Warmest Color is a great film (it'll probably end up in my top 10 at the end of the year). But like anything directed Abdellatif Kechiche, its tough to sit through at times and takes some commitment. Its three hours long (and the time doesn't breeze by), it's filled with a lot of scenes that some may consider to be banal and the infamous sex scenes seem to overshadow the rest of the story (that's all anyone has to talk about with this whether they liked it or not). When you take a movie that's three hours long, 15 minutes worth of sex scenes really isn't that big of a deal. This film has so much more to offer than that. Its one of the most raw relationship/coming of age dramas in recent years yet all some people have to talk about is a sex scene that pales in comparison to what everyone has probably already seen on porn sites. The only worthy topic of discussion regarding the sex in Blue Is The Warmest Color is that these are in fact pretty graphic sex scenes involving two young women directed by an older straight man. People, especially feminists (who have been quite critical of this film), have a right to raise an eyebrow at this monetarily as long as they're willing to keep an open mind and give it a chance. What could a straight man possibly know about love making between two lesbians? Straight male directors who've explored gay women on film in the past haven't exactly paved a way for Kechiche. In Chasing Amy we had a film about a gay woman who falls for a straight man. In She Hate Me, not only does our straight male character turn lesbians "momentarily straight" due to the size of his dick, but he gets two (lesbian) women at the end of the movie (seriously, why did they have to have sex with him? They couldn't get his sperm any other way?).

A science fiction movie? I don't know. I think I have made one already. Chasing Amy. Because you go ask any lesbian - that'll never happen - Kevin Smith

There's something very "masculine" about the sex in Blue Is The Warmest Color. I definitely wouldn't call it pornographic but there's something questionable about it at first. The two main characters are "fucking" in the film more than they're making love or having sex. Are these sex scenes genuine & raw or is this just some male lesbian fantasy?
But Abdellatif Kechiche is far too mature to suddenly start exploring sex like an immature little boy. This isn't even his most "shocking" or unapologetic look at sex & sexuality. Has anyone seen Black Venus (2010)? That film is way more graphic in my opinion.
If you actually pay attention to Blue Is the Warmest Color you'll see that Abdellatif Kechiche takes his time developing the relationship between our two main characters; "Adele" (Adele Exarchopoulos) & "Emma" (Lea Seydoux). They don't just jump right in to fucking each other. Kechiche crafts numerous scenes of them getting to know one another, sharing personal stories, finding unique common interests and becoming friends first. The scene when Adele & Emma first walk past each is cliche but still my favorite moment in the film. All of this is what makes Blue Is The Warmest Color genuine.

This film is also genuine because it stays true to the title & art of the graphic novel (there were some changes made to the actual story tho). Abdellatif doesn't do a shot for shot copy like Robert Rodriguez tried to do with Sin City, but he still incorporates the color blue in the same slick yet obvious fashion as the graphic novel...

Based on the French graphic novel; "Blue Angel", Blue Is The Warmest Color is the story of Adele - a high school senior who falls in love in with Emma - a slightly older art student. Emma is openly gay while Adele keeps her attraction to women quiet at first but eventually comes out (although it's made unclear if her family ever finds out). It's difficult to tell at certain points but the film spans several years and as time progresses we watch our two main characters mature, form a real relationship and ultimately start to grow apart. This movie really didn't have to be three hours long but at the same time it kinda did (I don't think Kechiche has ever made anything under 2-1/2 hours). Adele's growth throughout the story is key and you really can't convey her kind of transformation in a 90 minute movie. Three hours is the perfect length for a coming of age tale because you can take your time and not rush things. As you watch Blue Is the Warmest Color you may think a lot of the scenes seem pointless at first but by the end of the film you'll realize that those pointless scenes are just as important as the explosive & emotionally heavy scenes because we're getting to know Adele & Emma intimately. This gave me an even greater appreciation for recent French coming of age films like Goodbye My First LoveSomething In The Air and even A Kid With A Bike (a movie we'll be dissecting in 2014). I'd like to see more filmmakers take their time in developing young characters.

Outside of his signature documentary-style look, Blue Is The Warmest Color is quite different from everything else Abdellatif Kechiche has done (all of his films prior to this focused almost exclusively on Africans in France). But this isn't his first foray in to young love or coming of age. His sophomore feature; Game Of Love And Chance, was a relationship drama centered on a group of young teens. But it is his most intense & in depth film on both subjects. He takes his young characters very seriously in Game Of Love And Chance but he really dissects Adele & Emma and we get to see their lives outside of the relationship (Adele is studying to become an elementary school teacher while Emma is trying to make a living as an artist).

What makes this one of the more progressive films in recent years is that it's more of a love story than it is a gay rights issue movie. Yes there's a moment where Adele is confronted about her sexuality and there's a scene where our two main characters march in a gay pride parade but that's it. Homosexuality isn't really the "issue" in the film. Its about a relationship between two people who happen to be of the same sex (and as you watch the story unfold, Adele appears to be more bisexual than gay). Rainer Werner Fassbinder & Gus Van Sant were making films similar to this decades ago but for whatever reason it didn't really catch on. Fox & His Friends (Fassbinder) & Mala Noche (Van Sant) featured main characters who just so happened to be gay but didn't face any real discrimination or persecution. Gay civil rights will continue to be a social issue but it's nice to see a same sex love story that focuses more on the relationship internally and less on the struggles they face due to the outside world. Instead of battling homophobes for three hours we get a real relationship film. Adele struggles with her insecurities (mostly due to her inexperience & young age) and Emma is forced to deal with Adele's betrayal later on in the story.

The success of Blue Is The Warmest Color must feel bitter-sweet for Abdellatif Kechiche. There's been some internal post-production beef between Kechiche, co-stars; Adele Exarchopoulos & Lea Seydoux and some of the crew. Additionally, the author of the graphic novel doesn't support the film (but that almost always happens in the case of a graphic novel being turned in to a film, so whatever). Outside of The Secret Of The Grain, Kechiche's work has generally been overlooked by non-French audiences. Personally, I think Black Venus, his most hated work, is his best film. He finally makes something that's considered a universal success (he won the Palme D'or at this years' Cannes film festival) and everything is tainted with behind the scenes nonsense. 
Abdellatif's films aren't the most mainstream when compared to other filmmakers based out of France so I imagine Blue Is the Warmest Color will be an introduction to his cinema for a lot of non-french movie-goers and I'm perfectly fine with that (although his third film, The Secret Of The Grain, is easier to come by now that it's part of the criterion collection). It's nice to see an underrated filmmaker that I've been a fan of for so long finally get the recognition they deserve without having to compromise their style. 
This is another one of the very few films from this year that's managed to stay with me since I saw it along with Stories We Tell, 12 Years A Slave & Hors Satan so that counts for something...


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