on November 23, 2013
I just want to give everyone a heads-up that Criterion will be releasing a Special Edition for this film later next year. The film is fantastic, and I am giving it 5 stars, but the review is simply a heads-up in case you didn't know there was a better edition coming out later.
Criterion specifically says this on the product page for the movie:
"A full special edition treatment of this film will follow at a later date."
I hope this helps someone. I know I'd be upset if I spend $20 on this basic edition, and then found out later that there's another coming out with a lot more extras included.
on December 24, 2013
This is rightly one of the most talked about films of the year, but sometimes for the wrong reasons. Whether the film benefits or not from all the attention being paid to the graphic sex scenes, I don't know, but if you let that stop you from seeing the film you'll be missing one of the most honest and gut-wrenching portrayals of first love ever filmed.
I saw this film in New York City with a dear friend back in November, and we couldn't stop talking about it until she had to catch her flight to Washington the next day. We kept talking about Adele as if she was a real person, hoping the best for her in life. This is the real power of the film, drawing you in to the life of Adele.
Lea Seydoux and Adele Excharpoulos bring an almost divine abandon and fatalism to their performances as the two romantic leads. I think audiences have tended to sentimentalize the relationship between Emma and Adele and put it on a pedestal, but the director makes clear that this is not his viewpoint. It's a very passionate and physical relationship, but there isn't much more to hold it together. This seems to be the point that the director is making with the very graphic and extended sex scenes. Sex nourishes the ravenous Adele, but Emma has more intellectual needs. Thus, beyond the physicality of their relationship, it is not a marriage of equals. A key scene at a party they are hosting underscores the imbalance in their relationship. Watching Adele, who seems content to serve the guests while Emma mingles, I wondered if Adele would be doomed if she stays in this relationship.
The film keeps getting more interesting after this point as it explores Adele's growth as a person. An image that came to my mind during the film is that of a mother bird pushing her fledgling out of the nest. You might know which scene I'm thinking about. After the film's end, during the credits (no spoiler here) we learn that this film was originally titled, "The Life of Adele, Chapters 1 and 2," which is a more mundane title than "Blue Is The Warmest Color," but very revealing in that it explains the themes of the film more accurately. "Blue" puts the focus on the relationship between Adele and Emma, but the story is really about a girl who is just finding herself in the world.
There is so much beautiful imagery in the film. The blue motif, if obvious, is conveyed with the most exquisite touches. For example, there is the now iconic scene where Adele is floating in the water, drowning in a halo of blue. It's an incredibly powerful scene that expresses so much with no words. This film is worth watching over again just to take in the beautiful cinematography. Meanwhile Adele Exarchopoulos, with her pouty lips, appealing overbite, and tangle of unruly hair, is one of the most naturally charismatic and alluring screen presences I've seen in awhile.
And kudos to the director for not stepping back from the NC-17 rating. Artistically, it was the right decision. If you can get past the sex, you might find that this is the best film of 2013.
on December 6, 2013
This is the most emotionally painful film I have ever watched concerning romantic love. It has the most realistic psychological depiction of the after effects of a breakup that I have ever witnessed on film, this is a transcendent film (I am a heterosexual male and I was able to relate to the main character) and performance by the lead actress, who should win every award on the planet for her otherworldly performance. It is the most impressive performance I have ever seen by any actor or actress anywhere and at anytime, rivaling if not far surpassing anything that I have ever seen on film (and I have watched almost everything both past and present).
Blue is the Warmest Color is a film that completely defies categorization, I hold graduate degrees in Literature, Philosophy and Film Theory and I don't know what it is (tragedy, romance, gothic horror, or some completely new genre). I don't know what it is, but I do know that it is one of the most intimate dissections of the tragedy of human existence that I have ever seen or read in any cultural product or any work of art that I have ever experienced in my lifetime.
I have never seen anything quite like this movie, its beautiful depiction of the tragedy of the human experience is devastating. It is simultaneously the most beautiful and one of the darkest and emotionally complex visions of life that I have ever seen put on film. The actresses performance literally crawls underneath the viewers skin and haunts you for days after the ending of the film, I am trying to forget it, it is that emotionally painful. All the more gut wrenching in that there is no antagonist in the film, she is totally and completely a victim of the antinomies hidden within human existence itself.
There is the faintest whisper of a very dark nightmare running just below the surface of all of these beautiful luminescent images. A nightmare not about any particular thing whether social, political or personal, but having to do with existence itself and how we are all victims of it. There is an uncanny feeling that existence feeds on us, by making and compelling us to feed upon it. So although there is a critical sociological component to the film concerning the narrow mindedness of the greater society and its intolerance of differing modalities of sexual experience, there is a much deeper and darker layer to the film.
Not for the faint of heart, and that is not because of the sexual content, it is because of the emotional content which is amazingly potent. It is the most brutally honest film concerning the loneliness and isolation that overcomes someone when they have lost someone they have been emotionally attached to that I have ever seen, or that I will ever care to see, not to sound hyperbolic but this film is quite literally a masterpiece.
A good romance in American cinema is surprisingly difficult to find because most films of a romantic nature are either romantic comedies or romantic melodramas. They're a dime a dozen. But every once in a great while, you get a film that not only casts off the rom-com or melodrama usually associated with a romance story, but actually draws you in to the relationship in such a mesmerizing way with smart and absorbing storytelling and unbelievably brilliant performances is one of the rarest things imaginable. Director Abdellatif Kechiche's BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is that film.
Based on the wonderful award-winning graphic novel by Julie Maroh, BLUE is the story of Adele (Adele Excharopoulos), who begins the film as a naturally beautiful 15-year-old high school student who is just trying to do her best to stay uneaten in the feeding frenzy of adolescence. She keeps with her friends; she dates a cute boy; she pleases her working-class parents; she does well in school. But all that changes one day when she walks across a street, and sees Emma (Lea Seydoux), a haunting and beautiful older college student with dyed blue hair. They share a gaze, and in that instant, Adele is transfixed. She can barely move. She has really felt that thing we all look for: love at first sight. After losing her virginity with her boyfriend as an attempt to deny her "abnormal" feellings, she clearly doesn't feel the love and desire for him that she wants to, and breaks it off with him. Through a sequence of events, she has a chance meeting with Emma at a gay bar, and they become friends. The friendship clearly blossoms into something more, and their passions reach a fever pitch as they make love for the first time. They begin a relationship that is hidden from Adele's family and friends, but is open and accepted by Emma's. The relationship spans several years from Adele's student days and to her becoming a teacher of kindergarteners, and Emma changes from starving artist to toast of the town. But their relationship has problems. Despite the length of time they've spent together, they seem to be losing one another. Does love overcome, or is the passion of youth weighed down by the practicality of adulthood?
When this film was presented with the Palme D'or, the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, it wasn't just presented to director Kechiche, but also to leads Excharopoulos (this is her first major film role) and Seydoux (who some filmgoers might recognize from American films like MIDNIGHT IN PARIS or MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL) and the reasoning behind that is that they were all equal parts of what makes this film so remarkable. Kechiche directs the film using a lot of close-ups, allowing the audience very much in the lives and minds of the characters that inhabit the film. He also spares the audience any obvious artistic flourishes. There is barely any soundtrack to the film that isn't ambient sound from the settings within the film, so there are no music cues that instruct the audience how to feel. But Kechiche's skill behind the camera pales in comparison to what is possibly one of the most revelatory screen debuts I've ever seen, and that is from Excharopoulos, who so bares herself in both body and soul that it may be one of the singularly most immersive performances I've seen since Charlize Theron's amazing turn in MONSTER. Seydoux is as close to Excharopoulos's level as possible, which is an obvious challenge, but she plays the wiser, edgier and more experienced Emma close to perfection opposite Adele's wide-eyed, voracious youth, hungry for knowledge, experience and love.
Both regretfully and triumphantly, the film's most talked-about sequence is a nearly 10-minute love scene between Adele and Emma which, while being graphic (but not unsimulated), is exciting, erotic, tender, a little clumsy, and beautiful. It gives the film its NC-17 rating, and I regret that it's the scene that most articles and reviews tend to bring up, but I also think it's a triumph because no one has talked this way about an NC-17 film since the film that effectively killed the rating being taken seriously, and that is Paul Verhoeven's SHOWGIRLS. Another thing that is brought up in regards to this film is the seemingly endless war of words between Kechiche and his two leads, but more than anything, that's just fodder for the gossip columns and not worth the time to remark on it any further.
For fans of the graphic novel, there are certainly differences that will surprise and possibly disappoint them. A major plot point is dropped from this film in favor of something that seems more realistic, and that actually works in the film's favor, however, if how the film plays out is how it played out in the graphic novel, it would not have worked. It's best to think of them as two separate but equally amazing pieces of art that share a great deal, but one story works better in the graphic novel, and one works better in the film.
To me, this is the most romantic film since Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and let me qualify that statement. Yes, they are both romance epics about same-sex love, but for whatever reason, I haven't seen another film between the masterpiece of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN in 2005 and this film in 2013 that reflects what it truly feels to be in love, and is also so achingly beautiful and sad and heartfelt and real as we watch the relationship progress, flourish and disintegrate through time.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is certainly one of the very best films of the year and possibly of the decade, and has what is certainly to be the two best female performances in recent years. I can only hope that Exarchopolous and Seydoux are remembered and rightfully recognized during Oscar season.
on March 23, 2014
This is the best film I've seen in 2014 so far. Two beautiful young French ladies, each bright and talented, meet each other and fall in love. The acting is superb, the emotions raw, and the tension between them is palpable. An outstanding feat for all involved and I look forward to their future films! Bravo!!
on March 22, 2014
Hollywood endures an immature film censorship click that permits gross mayhem,crude speech car wrecks and often death in unbelievable cruel and vile ways.and unfortunately it have helped to bend our thinking and acceptability of such trash. BUT....it "protects" us from any depictions of love in many serious ways....This is a film that Hollywood could never make so BUY it here in its dvd French format...IF it ever does make it to the general movie houses it will be cut and cut again by the censors till it just dies on the screen.....It is a love story between two divergent women [different ages, different goals, and different ideas of what is needed to be happy and content with your life]....Could it be a "Date Movie" that depends on your date some men may actually like it and be moved by its message of what love can be and other men while into the 10 minutes of sex will be bored....it is an "Alpha" and other relationship...The young Adele is content and happy to be a kindergarten teacher with no ambitions for "higher and better things"...the older Emma [the Alpha"] is striving to get ahead, be recolonized, and have fame as an artist....unfortunately neither can get inside the others ambition and therefore do not understand the person well enough to remain together ...it is the sexual attraction that holds them together but like after any honeymoon it slowly is not enough to hold two such different types forever...yes the movie is long 3 hours but you will never notice the time....I doubt it will turn straight high school girls into lesbians but it will demonstrate what true love is and constantly needs.
It seems like it’s been years since ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ was released, solely because there has been so much talk about this film since it premiered in Cannes last year. Whether there be talk on the content, the explicit nature of the sex scenes, the tremendous performances by the stars, the shared Palm win or the tyranny on set (thanks to those candid interviews likening director Abdellatif to Hitler), there has not been a lack of talk surrounding this award winning drama. So, to say that I can’t believe I’ve FINALLY seen a film that was only released on DVD this week and only played in select theaters last October thanks to the subject, length and subtitles may seem odd and yet it doesn’t at the same time. It feels like everyone has already seen this and I’m VERY late to the party.
I’m glad I finally attended.
I love that controversy continually surrounds the very best of films, because there are always going to be critics or self-proclaimed critics trying to degrade any film that is put on a pedestal. It’s too long! It’s too gay! It’s too honest! It’s too European! The bottom line is that ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ is about as good as they come, and to pick it apart or place upon it unfair criticisms is to not fully understand the depths to which this film actually goes. Yes, it is long and it is gay and it is honest and it’s European, but I have yet to see a complaint and feels like a detractor.
Count me in!
The basic premise here is quite simple (but it’s not). Adele is a young girl living in France who is attending High School and trying to discover herself. She tries dating boys, but she’s uninterested. Then one day she happens to see a blue haired lesbian crossing the street and their eyes lock and she’s hooked. She thinks about her all the time. She abuses herself to the thought of her. She eventually seeks her out in a curiosity infused visit to a gay bar and stumbles across her. Her name is Emma, and she is equally attracted to the young Adele. Despite being tepid about announcing her love affair to her friends and family, Adele jumps right in, engulfing Emma and everything she represents. But love is tricky and never as smooth as we’d want it to be and as the years pass by and they settle into their life together, people, professions and insecurities begin to erode their happiness.
I hate the criticism that surrounds this film and others like it. I remember when ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was being heralded as THE film of 2005 and all the naysayers were barking about how the only reason people find it interesting is because it is a gay story, and once you take out the gay the story becomes just another troubled love story. Maybe the GAY aspect of the story is the point. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be so different. To me, this is such a lazy complaint. A good story is a good story at the core, and a film like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ reaches Bergman levels of blunt force honesty by dragging us to the depths of this love affair and actually developing a deeply moving portrait of love gained and lost. Take away the gay aspect and you STILL have a powerful portrait of love gained and lost, but it is in those details that this becomes something so much more.
Adele’s depiction as a girl unsure of her sexuality, ashamed almost, is a great plot point because it helps color in the fact that despite the forward steps made in the acceptance of the LGBT community, there are still so many stigmas attached to the idea of homosexuality. Adele was frightened to embrace who she was, and it was that fear that caused her to make some foolish decisions, to hold back from being herself and ultimately lose out of what she wanted most.
But it’s more than that.
Strip away the gay aspect and you have a pretty rock solid depiction of a couple who has passed the point of mere infatuation and lust and moved into that area of subtle judgment. You have the artistic and soulful Emma, older and surer of herself, who was initially attracted to the youthful innocence and high-minded ideals of Adele, but who has grown into quietly condemning her for being complacent in her life and not trying to be something Emma thinks she should be. There is a moment when they are lying in bed and Emma tells Adele that she wishes she would do something that makes her happy and Adele says “I teach” and Lea tries to convince her that she should be a writer and then cops out by saying something like “but it’s up to you” and you can sense the judgmental mindset, the idea that Adele is beneath her because she’s not trying to be like her. This isn’t uncommon in any relationship, and it is films like this that put a very familiar face on LGBT relationships, showing that they aren’t any different than the ones we are used to.
We are all human beings.
There are three people who made this film work so well, and it is a beautiful thing that they all share the Palm. Director Abdellatif Kechiche may have been a terror to work with, but he pulled out so much raw emotion from his stars and depicted such a raw and tremendously honest portrait of love that I can’t help but applaud his methods, whatever they were. His stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, are so committed to these performances that it is no surprise that they were heralded as two of the greatest performances of the year. Exarchopoulos is so raw here that you can see every shade of innocence get stripped away from her as she discovers her new life. Seydoux is far more comfortable, easing into every scene, but her moment in the café is a true testament to how well she built this character. Her quiet breakdown in the midst of Adele’s more vocal one is so heartbreaking.
And yes, there are some very explicit sex scenes here, but they are not gratuitous in the way that they were depicted as in some reviews. These scenes are there to present us with a complete picture of how deeply invested in each other these two girls were, and that café scene really brings us back to that in a very strong and connective way.
Such a powerful film!
on March 21, 2014
Blue is the Warmest Color is really two films—as the original French title makes clear (The Life of Adèle, Parts I and II). The first is a very sweet lesbian coming-out story and romance, which ends, as so many such films do, with the lives of the couple as blissfully intertwined as their bodies are in several long, but beautifully filmed segments. Adèle's painfully adolescent insecurity is wonderfully acted by newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos. Her seducer (not that it takes her much effort) is perhaps a trifle too self-confident—and yet not ironic enough—as a 20-something art student in becoming so deeply involved with a frightened 16-year old, but Léa Seydoux is convincing throughout, and her wry smile is both seductive and perhaps a foreshadowing of Part II. The much-touted sex scenes may seem a bit gratuitous in their length and detail (not that I found them so!) but make more sense in the context of the second part of the film. Because after four years, the physical attraction, though still supposedly strong, is no longer enough for Emma, the artist, who also craves critical understanding of her work, and not merely loving appreciation.
Emma also is used to intellectual companionship, and receives precious little from Adèle, who actually appears to regress from her literary interests in Part I, and who has apparently absorbed nothing of either Emma's rationalization of her own art, nor her interest in and admiration for other artists. In fact, despite being very clearly Emma's muse, Adèle seems remarkably uninterested in what Emma is trying to create from her images of her lover. Instead, she has become the perfect housewife for Emma, and in fact is used as such by her—both spending a whole day cooking for a reception in Emma's honor, and washing the dishes by herself afterward, while Emma lies in bed, reading an art magazine. In short, their relationship has become banalized. One of the two defects, though minor, which I found in this extended narrative of the life and death of a passionate relationship, was that Adèle appears to have made no attempt to absorb even the superficial trappings and interests of the companion (and muse) of an artist. She does not even pretend to take an interest in the artists' conversations, is unfamiliar with some of the most famous names (which have clearly been at least a modest influence on Emma) and appears instead completely wrapped up in her career as a teacher in kindergarten. This is my second objection: she is very fond of small children, who are shown to be extraordinarily adorable in the scenes in her schoolroom, but shows no interest either in having one to share with Emma, nor does she recognize Emma's obvious desire for a family. One could say she is merely dense, and just a body to her lover, but we learn at the very beginning that she is a gifted linguist, writes very well (if only for her own benefit), and Emma implores her to write something for publication; it is painfully clear that Emma wishes to have a lover who is more ambitious, and could be seen as worthy of her.
It's the beginning of the end, which is shown with painful realism. Emma becomes more remote, and spends more and more time with a fellow artist, who not incidentally happens to be pregnant. In response, Adèle begins to go out a bit with other teachers and to haunt some bars alone. (Another problematic aspect of her personality is that she makes no effort to become involved with women, despite the fact that her only relationship with a man was extremely unsatisfactory for her, that she has shown no physical desire for men, and has been absorbed in a lesbian relationship for four or more years by this point.) Emma uses her supposed infidelity—again, it is painful to watch because it is so real—as an excuse to pick a violent fight with Adèle, and throw her out in the street, despite her tearful attempts to make up, when she has nowhere to go, in the middle of the night. It is needlessly cruel, and Emma seems to be using the incident as a pretext, her own anger rendered more extreme by her probable need to cover up her own unfaithfulness and complicity in the decline of their relationship. (One explanation for her violent reaction could be that Adèle has been consorting with men, a betrayal of their lesbianism. Cruelly, when they meet again some years later, Emma asks Adèle first if she has a boyfriend, and only then, a girlfriend.)
Remarkably—in human terms—but totally believable in the context of the film—Adèle makes no effort to fill the hole left in her life by the loss of Emma. She cries a lot, but neither makes an effort to win Emma back nor does she search for a substitute. With the exception of one encounter, apparently after a long time, when she arranges for a meeting with Emma, and then makes a frontal assault to try to sleep with her, she simply wanders. It is a tribute to her acting, and Kechiche's direction, that this overly-long period of unalloyed mourning does not fail to convince. At the end, she is invited to a major opening for a show of Emma's work. She is still treated indifferently by Emma, whose love for her subsequent companion is displayed extravagantly, probably for Adèle's benefit, and she finally feels ignored enough to leave. She is seen walking slowly away, and in a cinematic tease typical of French "realism," which reverses Hollywood clichés, is followed, only belatedly, and in the wrong direction, by a handsome young man she has known from some years before, who has shown an interest in her.
Most critics have written of her 'growth,' but frankly, I'm not sure if she has grown, or merely finally been forced to passive acceptance of the fact that the great love of her life is over. The ending is extremely painful to watch, and as with so many failed relationships, there is really no catharsis. One of the parties is happy, or at least content, and the other is alone, abandoned. It was real, and it hurt.
on September 17, 2014
This coming of age lesbian drama amply and succinctly depicts the pangs of a great true love lost and will move you to tears with a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that revolves around the story of Adelle, who together with her group of high school peers, constantly talks about boys – one of whom, in particular, has caught all their fancy, but has shown a particular interest in Adelle and, eventually, manages to have sex with her, which leaves her feeling as if there’s something missing in their relationship, until one of her friends, unaccountably finds herself attracted to Adelle and kisses her – opening a storm of forbidden passion that has Adelle coming to her for more, only to find herself being spurned, and spurring her to frequent a gay bar and meeting the acquaintance of a blue haired tomboyish lesbian, Emma (played by an attractive Lea Seydoux), whom she had secretly found herself eyeing and fantasizing about, who gradually seduces Adelle and witnesses them engaging in some of the best, most authentic and steamy sex scenes you will ever find in a lesbian movie, inducing Adelle to fall head over heels in love with Emma and, progressively, spending more time in Emma’s parent’s home, with Emma’s parents openly welcoming their lesbian relationship in total contrast with Adelle’s parents, from whom she has to conceal their relationship under the pretext that Emma was providing her tutelage in philosophy, and moving into Emma’s circle of quasi-intellectual gay friends, only to discover Emma rekindling her relationship with her ex, Lise, and turning cold towards her and spurring her to engage in rebound sex with a guy, that leads to the break-up between Adelle and Emma, who upon discovering Adelle’s infidelity, throws her out in a fit of jealousy - a break-up that takes its toll on Adelle, who constantly pines for her lost relationship with Emma, who, despite making advances towards Emma and attempting to rekindle the fiery passion they had shared, finds herself being spurned by Emma, given the fact Emma is now in love with Lise.
on March 9, 2014
I'm 70 yrs. old. I watched the movie last night I enjoyed it very much. I am surprised that it is was not rated XXX. It had more than frontal nakedness.(It had more, believe me.) But it was not simply nakedness for lecherous old men. It was a tasteful, realistic movie that feed my soul. It generated every emotion possible from love to despair. It's a GREAT movie.
The two female lead actors were incredible. I keep wondering if they were lesbians in real life. If not, then they are two of the greatest actors in the history of movie-making. I'm going to watch it again if I can find a time when grandchildren and grandmother is not walking through the room. I watched it in the French language mode. I do not speak French, but I understood every minute. Oh, I did have the English subtitles, but I became so emerged in the action there was no need to read subtitles.