Thursday, 19 February 2015

Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) review

Blue is the Warmest Colour is an indulgently long film with a notorious ten minute lesbian sex scene. The scene in question took ten days to film, and the effect of that is shown on screen. What starts off as erotic pretty soon turns agonising. Much like a jocking whipping a race horse to go faster, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) spank and grapple at each others arses, willing themselves to finish the scene. This scene is important, as we need to understand the intensity that their relationship once had in order to fully appreciate their mournful break up, but the actresses desperate attempts to act out this demanding section of the film was left far too apparent.

The actresses unusually shared the Palme d'Or in 2013 along with the director Abdellatif Kechiche. While I will commend them for what seemed like a troubled production (the crew of the film accused Kechiche of "moral harassment" and the leading actresses said he was horrible to work with), I can't help but feel that the first two hours of this film just involved Adèle looking lost in thought. The pacing of this film was horrible. I've spoken many times about the pitfalls of watching films in the comfort of your own home, and this film suffered dearly for that. I couldn't stop myself checking the progress of the film, and moaning at the prospect of another hour and a half of gazing and pasta eating.

Your patience is payed off in the last hour, where the once blue-haired Emma suffers betrayal from Adèle, who cheats on her from a male colleague at her teaching job. Their reunion over wine and coffee is heart breaking. They know they'll never have that kind of passionate intensity with another person, but they can't be one another anymore. By the films end, you find yourself wanting to be at least assured of Adèle's happiness, but you are left with only the hope that maybe Adèle knows whats she needs from a relationship now.

While the film doesn't speak so much about the homophobia that Adèle, originally called Clementine, suffers in Julie Maroh's graphic novel (that this film is loosely based on), the film focuses much more on their cultural differences. Emma and her family and friends are much more engaged in the arts (Emma is an art student when we first meet her), and think nothing of her being a lesbian. Two key scene's where Adèle and Emma meet each others families are typical of the prevailing societal pressures that cause friction between them: Emma's family indulge in oysters and talk of philosophy, where as Adèle's, unaware that Emma is her girlfriend, ask about her boyfriend and sensible job opportunities over the ever prevalent pasta bolognese. Where as their attraction to each other cannot be denied, the expectations they have domestically is what ultimately brings a wedge between them.

The films original French title, La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, describe more accurately what this movie is about. This is a bildungsroman, we see Adèle put her all into a relationship that is destructive and leaves her feeling whether it was all worth it. If you've been in a relationship like that, you will identify with this film. It is easy to get annoyed at the running time, the almost pervy way the camera lingers on their beautiful bodies, and the way a group of art history aware women just let a man talk about struggle of men to portray the female orgasm in art, in all seriousness (a lot of the time in history, women weren't even allowed to use a model). And we've not even touched the fact that a film starring straight women and directed by a straight man is attempt to tell us what its like to be gay...

Adèle and Emma's relationship, outside of the sex scene's, is at turns numbingly pedestrian and fraught with anxiety. The film is perhaps best seen as a series of reminisces, flash backs to scenes that you remember in retrospect, at once compressing the epic running time and reminding you of just how touching some of the details where, even if they where lost in your original viewing. 



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