By William Wolf


Abdellatif Kechiche’s French film “Blue is the Warmest Color,” shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, has been stirring comment as a result of its explicitly vivid lesbian sex scenes. They certainly are candid, but the film is far more than that, and the sexual relations should not be taken out of context. The story is about a 15-year-old student’s beginning and continuing search to define and come to terms with her sexuality and in the process discover her self-identity.

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” is based loosely on the graphic novel by Julie Maroh. It contains two striking performances, one by the young Adèle, captivatingly played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, the other, the older and more experienced Emma, an artist, brilliantly depicted by Léa Seydoux. They make their extended sex scenes totally realistic, enabling us to absorb the passion with which they are performed. These days what they do is nothing that you can’t see on the internet, but in this case, the sex is in the context of overwhelming desires and emotions.

I heard grumbling by some in Toronto that the film at nearly three hours was too long However, while some judicious trimming might be in order, serious cutting would undermine the film and spotlight the sex even more. The beauty of the film lies in the detailed exploration of Adèle’s life and the relationship that develops and over a substantial period of time. Heavy cutting would rob the film of its meaning.

Adèle’s sexual stirrings oriented toward women are effectively portrayed, as she becomes increasingly infatuated with Emma, who lives in a more sophisticated world, part of it filled with friends straining to seem more intellectual than they are. The student is beguiled by Emma’s sincere attraction and Emma’s introducing her into lesbian sex. But some ambivalence also remains. Eventually Emma becomes fiercely jealous of her lover’s attention to a male acquaintance.

Adèle is unprepared for the lashing out of which Emma is capable and the cruelty it entails. The story tracks them over a period of time, and in the process, we get a bittersweet portrait of a relationship and the learning process of a younger woman and her initiation into adulthood with is pleasures and disappointments that can occur regardless of one’s sexual orientation. The pattern could be one of a heterosexual romance, but this situation is more complicated.

The outstanding performances by Exarchopoulos and Seydoux command one’s interest. They are very brave to have engaged in such explicit sex on screen, for which they will long be remembered. But each goes far beyond that in capturing deep emotions of their two fascinating characters. A Sundance Selects film. Posted October 15, 2013.


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