Tuesday January 19 2021




Village Film with Tom Draper

Believable and draining: *****

Posted on December 01 2013 at 8:08:59 0 comments

Blue is the Warmest Colour film publicity.

In May 2013, Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2) won the Palme d’Or, arguably the greatest honour a film can receive, at least within the art cinema world, at the Cannes Film Festival.

Looking back over previous winners at Cannes, one can see the award as a definite marker of quality. In the past five years alone, never mind its history, the prestigious Golden Palm was given to what became instant classics, numerous of which coincided with my (albeit less notable) film of the year award.

Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (2008) and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) both won this honour. While the film has failed to top my list this year, this spot currently reserved for Paolo Sorrentino’s entrancing La Grande Bellezza, it definitely belongs within my top five.

The jury, presided over by Steven Spielberg, rather unusually awarded the honour not only to the film’s director Abdellatif Kechiche but to the two leads Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

In fact this was the first time the award had been shared with a film’s director and actors. It is generally the case that the director would be handed the honour, highlighting his or her position as central author or auteur of the film. This expectedly raises the perennial question of film authorship - a debate commonly regarded as originating in France within the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1950s - whether the film’s success is indebted to its acting, direction or a combination of both and if actors can be viewed as auteurs.

Readers of film criticism will note that the film is being discussed as much for its quality as its content. The inclusion of numerous highly graphic sex scenes, including one of extended duration, has led to much debate. The Guardian has covered the outcry fairly extensively and even published an article entitled ‘A single man’s guide to seeing Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ which offers advice on ‘how to watch an acclaimed lesbian drama without people casting aspersions on your cinemagoing integrity’.

Seydoux has described the shoot as ‘horrible’, while both the leads discussed how the director, striving for perfectionism, insisted on take after take (the extended sex scene took ten days to film).

On leaving the cinema I heard cries of ‘smut’ and ‘soft porn’ - however to label the explicit scenes thus misses the point. The sex is as important to the film as dialogue, emotion and character development. It is a film which aims for realism and achieves this both in the realms of aesthetics and content.

Kechiche utilises a cinéma verité or documentary approach style, reminiscent of the work of Jean-Paul and Luc Dardennes, through the use of handheld cameras and an obsession with close-ups which fragment the faces of his characters. In fact, the setting of Blue Is the Warmest Colour in bleak Northern France resembles the Belgium of the Dardennes’ films.

The film depicts the sexual and emotional relationship of the innocent Adèle (Exarchopoulos) and older Emma (Seydoux) over a number of years. Omitting the sexual scenes, as important to their relationship as emotional connection, in the name of censorship or conservatism would undoubtedly reduce the film’s realistic quality.

Appropriately, the film’s first scene takes place in a high school where the class are reading out loud from La Vie de Marianne by Marivaux; a novel that, like the film, traces the development of its central female character over an expanse of time. This scene introduces the film’s main preoccupation within the first chapter of the film: learning.

After a short affair with a local boy which leaves Adèle unsatisfied, her sexual curiosity is awoken by a trip to a gay bar where she meets art student Emma. Love eventually blossoms with Emma taking always the dominant, experienced role, teaching Adèle not only about sex but high art and philosophy, painting her naked and referring to her as her muse.

Kechiche allows us to watch this relationship unfold in great detail until there is a break in the film where it unexpectedly jumps a few years. The markers of change are obvious: the blue of Emma’s hair has disappeared and Adèle has transformed in terms of character. Adèle is no longer the one being taught; she is now the teacher at a nursery school and occupies an equal place in her relationship with Emma.

As her art career begins to flower, Emma begins to lose interest in her partner. Adèle, sensing this, grows distant, taking a romantic interest in one of her colleagues. This culminates in the much-discussed high emotion confrontation sequence which is difficult to watch.

Adèle continues to change; no longer is she the wide-eyed innocent of the first chapter. Her teaching style transforms from youthful enthusiasm to indifference, yearning for a love that cannot be. This all coalesces into the final scene of ambiguity.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour’s success lies in the performances of its two leads. We are offered humiliation, passion, intensity, intimacy, moments of human warmth juxtaposed with sorrow and suffering. Kechiche’s raw portrayal of the destruction of love is both devastating and magnificent. Exarchopoulos acts through her eyes, conveying great emotion through the mere act of looking.

As its story and filmmaking on an aesthetic level are nothing new, one can understand Spielberg’s decision to award the Palme d’Or to the two leads. These elements are secondary to the achievements of Exarchopoulos and Seydoux who offer the most believable and emotionally draining performances of this year in film.


Reviewed by Tom Draper (

What Villagers have been saying about this story . . . most recent comments first


What do you think? Share your views by typing in the box below.




Please enter the word you see in the image below (this keeps the spammers away):

Return to Front Page