Movie Review: Blue is the Warmest Color transcends high expectations
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix (based on the comic book: “Le Bleu est une couleur chaude” by Julie Maroh)
Starring: Lea Seydoux (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Midnight in Paris, Inglourious Basterds), Adele Exarchopoulos (Les Enfants de Timpelbatch, I Used to Be Darker)
Synopsis: Adele’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.
By now, you’ve probably at least heard of Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s the French film that is reigning Palme d’Or winner after a jury headed by none other than Steven Spielberg heralded it as “magnificent” and a “profound love story”. Spielberg’s championing of this film may seem odd because he’s a living legend in Hollywood and in American culture. He makes great family films, and while Blue is the Warmest Color does involve parent-child elements, the film also includes some very explicit sex scenes in a lesbian relationship. As if that weren’t enough, the press has scrutinized the relationship between Abdellatif Kechiche and his two lead stars to the point where one may wonder how they ever made it on stage together in Cannes to accept the award. So, that leads us to the big question: Has this film been over-hyped and overrated due to it’s provocative nature? The answer is no–in fact, I would say that the film benefits from the press it has gotten in that it misleads the audience. Kechiche has taken a story, some beautiful people, and a beautiful environment and molded what might be the most realistic love story that the 21st century silver screen has been graced by. The close-up shot is Kechiche’s favorite, and is the way he puts us inside lead character Adele’s head is simply spellbinding. The colors, the food, the culture, and the relationships–Kechiche capitalizes on what makes the French culture one of the most beautiful in the world. Even the musical selections were fresh and relevant to the story. Kechiche may be a controversial figure, but one cannot imagine a director with greater precision when it comes to capturing emotion. This was the perfect pairing of director and material.
The script was written by Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix but is based on a French graphic novel entitled “Blue Angel”. One needn’t imagine why the direct translation wasn’t used for the film’s title, as The Blue Angel is one of the most famous in European cinema history and very different from what we have here. This is easily one of the best “comic book movies” ever. With a very impressive screenplay, the film never slows down and in fact when the movie ends, it leaves you wanting for more with a beautiful cityscape long-shot involving one of our main characters. The witty dialogue and intelligent conversations that are in this script make for a compelling, interesting love story between two young women in present-day France. I especially liked the inclusion of philosophy and art as well as music and food. These are touched on nicely by our cast of characters and really build on each other to make for an epic movie experience. Kechiche is known for his unconventional techniques, but much of the dialogue was calculated as it was far too precise and smart to be anything otherwise. The flow of the movie is perfect and one follows the not-so-simple narrative with relative ease. As these two writers have worked together before, I expect them to continue that partnership after this marvelous film collects praise throughout the awards season, and I can’t wait to see what they choose to do next.
Of course, with all that said, the film just wouldn’t be what it is without the performances. Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux both give career-defining performances and while Seydoux continues to show her strengths as an actor, Exarchapoulos is really stepping onto the world stage for the first time, and there couldn’t be a better debut performance this year for my money. The sheer beauty and arsenal of different faces she can act with are nothing less than amazing and Seydoux plays off of her talents quite well which makes them an impressive young duo. I can’t see why Americans wouldn’t see her in the next few years, as she speaks English quite well and she has supermodel looks with Academy Award talent. This is truly a star being born in front of us.
The musical selections in this film were absolutely perfect, and includes tracks from Ellie Goulding, M83, The Vaccines, and most notably Lykke Li. The song is called “I Follow Rivers” and I was immediately hooked. Additional music was composed by Jean-Paul Hurier who has done work for some of the biggest French releases in modern cinema history such as La Vie en Rose, The Prophet, and The Intouchables. All of this adds up to a fantastic musical experience.
Easily among my top films of the year, Blue is the Warmest Color portrays young love at its height–passion, tenderness, wonder, and beauty. I’ll give it my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.