Saturday, November 30, 2013

Film Review: Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color

A three hour French lesbian drama, where one of the characters is underage, and where the director and actresses are publicly battling over supposed mistreatment on set, and all saddled with the dreaded NC-17 rating here in the states (in France, you only need be twelve to buy a ticket), is not going to be the film that brings 'em into the multiplexes of middle America.  Well, damn good thing too, I say.  This film is too good for the likes of such people anyway.  And let's face it, most of conservative middle class America would probably walk out sometime during the ten minute, unsimulated and uncompromising sex scene in the middle of the film.  Leave those moviegoers to the franchise makers and luke warm rom coms of modern day Hollywood.  Leave those people to the oh so drab so-called indie fare that pretends to be cutting edge material running around the less and less discerning arthouse of the day.  Leave the truly daring art films to those of us who know how to enjoy such things.  Basically, what I am saying is, let those who can, enjoy one of the best films of the past year, maybe even several years, maybe even decade.  Let us enjoy, Blue is the Warmest Color.

What is the story anyway?  Glad you asked.  Loosely based on the 2010 graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh (I say loosely since even though the basic storyline of the film follows the novel, there are several major differences - one quite major indeed) Kechiche's film is about the love story between a high school girl just now struggling with her sexuality, and what is expected of her in today's society, and the slightly older art school woman with whom she falls immediately and madly and deeply in love.  Being French, the film never delves very deep into what Hollywood would perceive as a necessary melodrama, instead opting for a fluid storyline that never finds the need to explain itself all too much.  With that style, the film allows the two actresses the freedom to pull off two of the finest, subtly provocative performances of recent years.  These two actresses are the mostly unknown Adele Exarchopoulos (Oscar talk, albeit of the dark horse variety, is starting to buzz about) as Adele (the character's name was changed from the much better Clementine of the novel), the young sexually awakening protagonist of the love story, and the somewhat better known Lea Seydoux (Farewell My Queen, Inglourious Basterds) as Emma, Adele's blue-haired objet de amour (and yes, blue is a colour that runs through the movie like a sweetly overpowering palette).  Both give stunning, naturalistic performances, that compliment the smooth, realistic direction of Kechiche.

Yet, the controversy surrounding the film, from the blatant sexuality to word of laughter during Academy screenings to the director badmouthing the film and his actresses, not to mention the dreaded mark of Cain, ie the NC-17 rating, even with its pedigree of a Cannes victory last May, certainly makes the film a tough sell in US multiplexes (even many arthouses are fearful of booking the film) but it is just as certainly a film that should be seen by those who love honest, sometimes brutally so, storytelling, and bravura filmmaking that hearkens toward the cinema of the Dardenne Brothers (much of Blue reminded this critic of the Dardenne's Rosetta).  It's a real shame that many in this country will not see this film, but as I said before, such people probably do not deserve to see such a film full of stark and unblinking beauty as Blue is the Warmest Colour.  I'm just glad I wasn't one of those undeserving masses, for this is a film that will most certainly be a major player in my yearly best of list.  If you are lucky, it may very well be in yours as well.