Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue 01

Director: Abdel Kechiche
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Review: 4 stars (of five)

Controversial as all hell, winner of unprecedented accolades at Cannes, and clocking in at a solid three hours long, Blue is the Warmest Color is not the easiest film to review.

In short, the actresses are excellent and the direction is, in many ways, wonderful. But at the same time that Abdel Kechiche does marvelous things with a constantly roving, claustrophobically intimate camera, his storytelling choices are often a bit bewildering.

Blue 00Start with the running time: The film is patently self-indulgent. There are scenes that are not needed, and there may not be a single scene in the film that couldn’t afford to be cut by 25 percent. Except the much-discussed sex scenes, which should’ve been cut in half just for starters.

Another bewildering choice: Kechiche doesn’t seem to view the source material the way its creator did. Writer/artist Julie Maroh’s graphic novel is an amazing, aching portrait of a teenage girl falling in love and discovering her sexuality. I’ve never seen a love story so effectively rendered on paper, despite a certain overall youthful romanticism that doesn’t, in total, feel entirely naturalistic. Kechiche moves his focus from the girl’s teen years to the adult life less explored in the comic, and in fleshing out their passionate relationship, presents realistic complications that undermine Maroh’s intent. While the cartoonist would have you see a tragic love on a Romeo and Juliet plane, it’s possible to watch this movie and decide that these two lovers are just mismatched, that maybe they should just move on, find the right partners, and maybe it’s really more just sexual attraction and not a deeper, mature love anyway. The film is ambiguous in a way that felt less like an artist’s challenge to his audience and more like a work that didn’t quite know what it wanted to say.

Blue 02Despite these drawbacks, the two lead actresses are phenomenal. The intensity of their performances is occasionally breathtaking. Their love is so well realized, that at the moment when one of them took an action that would threaten to ruin everything, I physically recoiled in my seat, reflexively trying to get as far away from the screen as the cramped theater seat would let me.

So avoid reading the controversy, and read the graphic novel after seeing the film, lest you feel (as I did) a bit betrayed by Kechiche’s choices. Instead, brace yourself for the most graphic sex you’ve probably ever seen in mainstream cinema, and let two very young actresses draw you in.