Much has been made of the sex scenes in Blue and rightly so. They are the most problematic aspect of this film. So much of this coming of age movie is understated. It moves at a slow pace allowing the characters to reveal themselves gradually over the three hour running time.
The film focuses on Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who we see develop over the course of about six years. Although Blue is often characterized as a lesbian love story, what we witness is Adele awkwardly navigating her sexuality as she vacillates between wanting to be with men and wanting to be with women. She defies easy categorization. Her main love interest, Emma (Léa Seydoux) makes a brief appearance early in the film but does not really come into it until probably an hour in.
What makes the sex scenes so shocking is not that they are so graphic but that they seem so out of place in such an otherwise subdued film. The mesmerizing early sections when Adèle and Emma first get to know each other and first fall in love come screeching to a dead stop during their prolonged first sexual encounter. This seemingly endless scene almost becomes comical as they expertly contort themselves into a variety of poses. The elegant staging and cinematography of the film suddenly becomes very porny. Criticisms have been leveled against Kechiche’s approach the the sex scenes and rightly so. They feel like a major misstep. They make the excellence of the rest of the film feel accidental.
But the rest of the film is otherwise excellent. Exarchopoulos delivers such captivating performance. She is in nearly every scene and we feel her growth, her successes and her mistakes. The heartbreak she experiences is truly moving. The chemistry between Exarchopoulos and Seydoux is convincing and, early on, completely charming. Blue Is the Warmest Color is almost epic in the way it slowly and thoroughly charts Adèle’s trajectory from confused teen into confused young adult. The film shows how complex relationships and sexuality can be and provides no easy resolution to Adèle’s complicated life.
Using the festival’s scoring system, I ranked this Excellent or 5 out of a possible 5.
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