Sexual ennui is a curious thing. Combined with adolescent angst, rising desire and a French setting, and you’ve got a potent recipe for dramatic romance. In director Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palm d’Or winning portrait La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2 (The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 and 2), based on a graphic novel translated as Blue is the Warmest Colour (which has become the movie’s international title), a pretty 17-year-old only child, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) struggles with understanding what her body and soul yearns for, and what her mind thinks she wants.
In the Northern French town of Lille Emma (Léa Seydoux), a blue-haired, gap-toothed artist several years Adèle’s senior, crosses a busy street, and catches Adèle’s eye. Boom! In bed that night Adèle rubs one out fantasizing the blue-fur feline going down on her. A few weeks later Adèle finds herself at her friend’s gay bar haunt, where Emma likes to hang, and before you can say “oranges aren’t the only fruit” the two women are in a passionate relationship, one that brings much satisfaction, but will also bring much heartache, several years down the track.
A three-hour journey with movie has Exarchopoulos in almost every scene, and her performance is one to behold, full of beautiful, physical nuances, capturing terrific subtleties of joy, anxiety, and sorrow. There is a wonderful unpretentious sensuality in many scenes, but curiously, less so in the much talked about explicit sex scenes, one of which lasts close to ten minutes. These are the most contrived of the whole movie
Both actors wore prosthetic vaginas, as most of the sexual activity performed is simulated cunnilingus. It’s not pornographic, but suggests far more than any Hollywood movie would dare show. As we know real sex is less elegant, not choreographed, much sweatier, cumbersome, and usually noisier too. The lesbian community haven’t been too impressed with the depiction, and it’s easy to see why, but then, much like Wong Kar-Wai’s brilliant Happy Together depicting a gay male relationship that speaks more about “relationship” than “homosexuality”, the same goes for Blue is the Warmest Colour. It’s the stuff outside of the bedroom that is most interesting.
Review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com