Blue is the Warmest Colour

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had just watched Blue is the Warmest Colour and would review it in my next post. I held off doing so because I then decided to buy the graphic novel on which the film is based and wanted to review them together. 

Unfortunately, I am not enjoying the graphic novel very much and am only reading it a glacial pace. It’s not that the story is bad but the style of artwork and lettering are taking a lot of getting used to. I just need to push on: the illustrations have a slightly unfinished and loose feel to them, which I am sure I will get used to, or at least get over, if the story is good enough. As for the lettering – my complaint is against the cursive text employed for the captions containing one of the character’s diary entries. It doesn’t make the writing impossible to read but does demand concentration, which is more than I want to give in the evening – the only time of day when I have time to look at the book. With that said, I looked ahead when writing this post and saw that the diary entries will soon give way to regular capitalised speech bubbles so, I just need to be patient.

Patience is not always my strongest point, so here I am. I hope I will finish the graphic novel, In the meantime, as patience is not always my strongest point, here I am. I hope I will finish the graphic novel, but in case I don’t, here are my thoughts about the film.

In short, I enjoyed Blue is the Warmest Colour a lot. At three hours, it is much too long but as an exploration of the rise and fall and aftermath of a relationship it worked really well. Full credit go to the writers, director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and principle actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

The film follows Adèle (Exarchopoulos) from her mid-teens to late twenties as she has a brief relationship with another student (male) at her school, before falling in love with a girl with blue hair who she saw one day in the street. That girl is a slightly older student called Emma (Seydoux). One night, they meet in a lesbian bar. They become friends, and then lovers. All goes well until Adèle and Emma are driven apart by the pressures of their work. Adèle sleeps with a fellow teacher. When Emma finds out she immediately throws Adèle out of the house. In the last act of the film, Adèle tries to win Emma back, but it is too late: Emma has moved on. The love that once existed between them has been extinguished. They can be friends but no more.

The film contains a number of graphic sex scenes. While some of them can certainly be justified tin terms of the narrative, I’m not sure the same can be said for all. The sex scenes also vary in length, with the longest being nigh on ten minutes long. The obvious chemistry between Exarchopoulos and Seydoux make nearly all them easy to watch but, of course, that is no justification for their presence.

I say ‘nearly’ all of them: the first sex scenes, which take place when Adèle is aged 15 felt very awkward to watch. Why? After all, 15 is the age of consent in France so while the scenes were right on the limit of acceptability, there is no question of the viewer being made to watch underage sex. Here in the UK, however, the age of consent is 16 so the scenes were underage for us, hence the awkwardness.

While watching the film Blue is the Warmest Colour I wondered how the French viewed it. For me, the fact that it was set abroad and, more to the point, was in French, made it something exotic. Okay, not as exotic as a fantasy film set in a faraway land but certainly different. The film is very down-to-earth, however; it is about a real life issue, and is set in equally real life places. Would a Frenchman (or woman) watching this see the film as akin to a kitchen-sink drama? It’s not really important, but I’d love to know.

As I mentioned above, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux had great chemistry together (both in and out of bed). Physically and in terms of their acting, they were both completely convincing in their roles. It was particularly interesting seeing Lèa Seydoux play a tomboy in this film as I previously only knew her as the far more feminine Madeleine Swann in Spectre

Inevitably, Emma invited comparisons for me with Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful, and truth to tell, Emma is Watts but from a different angle. And that was fine. Complete originality in a story is both nigh on impossible and unnecessary. The important thing for a writer is to bring something new or different to the tale. How does Emma differ from Watts? She is older. Wiser, perhaps. She definitely has more of the cares of the world on her shoulders.

I haven’t seen many LGBTQ+ films but Blue is the Warmest Colour ranks highly among the ones I have watched. I would put it just behind Carol, my favourite in this genre. I would say that I appreciate the fact that it has – like Carol – a bisexual lead (in Adèle), though I bet if I looked up reviews of the film, they all – as with Carol – call her a lesbian. Anyway, though too long, a very good film, and well worth three hours of your time.