London Film Festival 2013: Blue Is The Warmest Colour - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
ABDELLATIF Kechiche’s sexually explicit, impeccably acted and now controversial examination of love is an absorbing, thought-provoking affair that is sure to continue provoking fierce debate in whoever sees it.
The winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Blue Is The Warmest Colour follows the journey of French teenager Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she gets to grips with her sexuality and attraction towards the same sex.
The focal point is her passionate relationship with Emma (Léa Seydoux), an artist who is more experienced sexually and more in touch with her emotions, and who provides a path towards sexual awakening that takes Adèle by surprise but gives her newfound confidence (despite placing her at odds with her friends and, potentially, her family).
The film follows their subsequent journey over the next few years as the early excitement of their romance subsides and other temptations, coupled with life’s own obstacles, begin to threaten their stability.
Kechiche’s film clocks in at three hours and does feel its length at several points. But then the director lays down his cards pretty early during a verbal exchange between Adèle and a potential suitor, in which Adèle reveals a passion for lengthy novels that don’t spoon-feed the reader. In similar fashion, Kechiche allows his time plenty of time to unfold, allowing his camera to linger, while seldom pandering to easy narrative convention.
The result is bold, brave, brash and subversive, as well as notorious by virtue of the graphic sex scenes that are sprinkled throughout. The scenes in question caused quite a stir at Cannes for the uninhibited nature of their depiction, and they’re certain to make most viewers more than a little hot under the collar.
It’s debatable, too, whether they needed to be quite so graphic, or whether Kechiche has – intentionally or not – erred towards the exploitative (a sense now exacerbated by subsequent comments from its leading ladies).
It’s almost a shame as the controversy surrounding that content has undermined the emotional pull of the film to a degree (while also, arguably, earning it greater curiosity value). For at its heart lies a thoughtful examination of sexuality and the nature of relationships, anchored by two terrific performances from Exarchopoulos and Seydoux.
The former, especially, inhabits virtually every scene and makes a compelling transition from wide-eyed and confused to confident, adventurous and even heartbroken. On an emotional level, it’s a tour-de-force, while there is a certain bravery in the physical aspect of some of what she is asked to do.
Seydoux, too, makes a strong impression as the far more forthright Emma, whose subsequent decision to become romantically entangled with a younger, more naive lover has its own emotional repercussions.
Stripped of its controversy and now notorious scenes, Blue Is The Warmest Colour still remains a fiercely compelling piece of work that has plenty to say on an intimate as well as social level. Viewers may well be surprised by just how much they are swept along in the characters’ journeys.
Running time: 179mins
UK Release Date: November 15, 2013
London Film Festival Dates: October 14 (Chelsea, 7.45pm), October 17 (Mayfair, 6.30pm)