Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at 2013 Cannes Film Festival (which for the first time ever was awarded to both the director & the leading actresses), Blue Is the Warmest Color has garnered universal acclaim from critics & viewers around the world for its raw & powerful portrayal of a human story but what really has provided this coming-of-age drama a worldwide attention is the substantial amount of controversy it generated from its steamy lesbian sex scenes, which are undoubtedly graphic in nature. And since every major award winner comes burdened with huge expectations that it has to live up to, this motion picture is no different. It will spellbind some viewers while disappoint the others, might be called an exquisite work of art by many while only the explicit content will be worth talking about for the rest. As for me, Blue Is the Warmest Color isn’t just one of last year’s most potent & emotionally charged films but also one of the most honest & purest depictions of love ever illustrated on the film canvas before.
Loosely based on the French graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, Blue Is the Warmest Color tells the story of Adèle & covers her life only as we see her growing, seeking herself, finding herself, losing herself, ultimately coming to terms with everything & moving on with her life. Adèle is a high-school student who is confused about her sexuality. Due to peer pressure & her own desire to be accepted, she tries dating a guy but ends the relationship soon after finding herself dissatisfied with him. Her life is eventually turned upside down when one day she encounters Emma; a blue-haired girl, & there is an instant spark between the two, making them curious about each other. As the two spend more time together, their friendship grows more intimate, leading to Adèle shedding her inhibitions & diving into the unknown with all her heart, only to discover her desires, passions & happiness through Emma, who reciprocates her love. The film is neither a social commentary about homosexuals nor it even tries to be something like that but is simply a heartfelt tale of two women who fall madly in love with each other & tries to depict their journey in the most natural manner possible.
I don’t remember when was the last time any filmmaker devoted this much space to its characters so that they can evolve at their own pace or allowed them to breathe as freely as they do in this motion picture. The direction by Abdellatif Kechiche (who also co-wrote the script & produced the project) is elegant, composed & pure mastery, despite few inconsistencies and presents him in complete control from start to finish. The screenplay looks heavily improvised & the actresses under the director’s supervision have narrated the story outstandingly. Cinematography captures the romance of its characters as beautifully as it captures the vividness of France & makes use of raw photography wherever possible while also finding sustained stillness in the close-up shots. Thanks to smart editing, there isn’t a single dull moment in the entire film throughout its 3 hours of runtime & time simply flies by once you start watching it as the storyline is very much balanced & streamlined. And last but not the least, music doesn’t really have as much presence as I would’ve liked but the little cues that are present still end up contributing just enough to the entire story.
Yet, the one aspect where Blue Is the Warmest Color truly finds its heart & soul and connects with its audience on a human level is through its extraordinary performances. Even though many peculiar characters are introduced throughout the story, the emphasis remains on our two leading ladies, Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux, both of whom have chipped in with remarkable performances as Adèle & Emma, respectively. At just 19 years of age, Exarchopoulos has delivered a marvellously breakthrough performance as Adèle and the sheer intensity with which she has captured her character’s stuffed up emotions & expressions presents an astonishing level of maturity in this young, beautiful & talented actress. She is the real revelation here & her performance not only goes down as this year’s strongest but also one of the finest of the decade, so far. Supporting her with another stupefying performance is Léa Seydoux as Emma; the blue-haired girl who is totally comfortable with her sexuality & lifestyle and Léa’s chemistry with Adèle is impeccable. Their ingenious work in this film is no doubt career-defining but it’s their sensual, erotic & sizzling chemistry on the screen which really elevates this cinema to a higher level of greatness.
Finally coming to the controversial sex scenes that have kind of defined this movie ever since it had its first premiere, Blue Is the Warmest Color features one of the most erotic, graphic, explicit & explosive girl-on-girl action in cinema history without a shadow of a doubt but honestly, this one part is so overly exaggerated & blown out of proportion by everyone that it’s plainly insulting to the whole film & what it’s really about. These scenes add up for a mere 7-10 minutes of screen-time in what is a 3-hour long story & isn’t even the most memorable moment in the film. Sure it tries to reflect the passionate love between Adèle & Emma in a bold manner but it also overstays its welcome & didn’t really need to be as long as it turned out to be. The other disappointment comes in the form of fragmented timelines as the film sometimes skips years without any indication at all while during other moments, it dwells on a single sequence for way too long. However, the positives here clearly outshine the negatives by a huge margin & despite few minor setbacks, it’s hard to be not impressed by how sincerely & delicately it celebrates the danger & beauty of love between two human beings.
For a cinema that captures the different stages of an intimate relationship in such a painfully honest manner, it’s difficult to pick a favourite moment when it boasts so many. Still if I’ve to choose, I’ll go with the one that takes place near the end when Adèle & Emma meet after years of separation as this scene exhibits how their love & affinity for each other hasn’t diminished even one bit over the years & how visibly incomplete they are without each other. It’s a heart-shattering moment in the film but also the most significant & evocative, in my opinion. On an overall scale, Blue Is the Warmest Color is vibrantly directed, timely scripted, richly photographed, patiently edited, steadily narrated & magnificently performed cinema that not only triumphs as a sensibly crafted coming-of-age drama but also as an endearing & truly heartbreaking story of love. Due to its graphic nature & 179 minutes of runtime, it might not be a picture that every viewer is going to enjoy but as a romance drama, it certainly is one of the purest & finest depictions of love that world cinema has offered us in the last decade. For an emotionally captivating masterpiece that provided me with such an intense, intimate & heart-shattering experience, I’ll forever have infinite tenderness for Blue Is the Warmest Color.