I will not do justice to Blue Is The Warmest Color with this post because rather than reflect and carefully craft a response, I want to write about it quickly enough to urge you to see it.
To be fair, the film is frank – sexually and emotionally – and that means it is not for everyone.
But, the film is also a remarkable merger of director and actors, so much so that the top prize at Cannes was awarded (for the first time) to director Abdellatif Kechiche and to actors Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma).
Over the course of six or seven years, we watch Adèle transform from a French high school student who likes to read and wants to be a teacher into a young woman who has grappled with her sexuality, fallen in love, and suffered a heartbreak that marks her transition into independent adulthood.
With a running time of three hours, the film covers a lot of ground without ever striking a false note. Despite one particularly graphic (and protracted) sex scene, the film is extraordinarily nuanced and mostly focuses on small moments, authentic moments that don’t require words.
I don’t remember so many closeups – and such revelatory ones – since Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. I’m not joking. There were several times when I recollected mental images of the earlier French film (1928) while watching this film.
It would require watching the Dreyer film again to be sure, but I believe some similarity in facial shape between Maria Falconetti (Joan) and Léa Seydoux (Adèle’s lover Emma) along with the effective and loving use of closeups sparks the comparison.
At any rate, my favorite sequence (or at least the one I keep thinking about the most) in Blue Is The Warmest Color is a dinner party where Adèle makes the food, serves the food, and meets Emma’s friends, all better educated, wealthier, and more ambitious than Adèle.
This is an amazing sequence for its poignancy, including a scene with Adèle cleaning up dishes then talking with Emma in bed about her own ambitions, a sequence that says everything that needs to be revealed about the fault lines in their relationship.
The film is a visual and emotional triumph. Like I said: wow.