(Photo : Sundance Selects)
Sexual identity has been explored in a number of LGBT films in which a young man and woman tries find his/her place in society. For Abdellatif Kechiche's fourth feature film, "Blue is the Warmest Color," the director creates a fascinating portrait of a girl discovering herself.
The film tells the story of Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) who forms a relationship with Emma (Lea Seydoux), a lesbian she meets at a bar. The film is divided into two chapters; the early high school years when the couple first meets and the later years when they begin to live together.
Adele is an introverted girl who never had serious relationship. After being pressured by her friend she attempts to date a senior in high school, Samir (Salim Kechiouche). The two go out for food, a movie and later have sex. However Adele realizes something isn't working. Instead she is constantly thinking about a girl (Emma) she encountered on the streets. In search of exploration she goes out with her gay friend and out of curiosity follows a group of lesbians to a bar. There she encounters Emma and a mutual attraction develops.
Exarchopoulos adds a sense of confusion and shame to Adele. During her early scenes with Emma, the relationship seems at ease and the carnal passion takes over. However she is never able to tell her parents that she is in a relationship with Emma. When Emma goes over her house for dinner, Adele tells her parents that Emma is her philosophy tutor. Then when the couple starts to live together she begins to feel lonely. At this point, Kechiche rids the movie of sex and instead focuses on Adele's internal feelings. In one scene when Adele is going to sleep, Emma tells her she should do something with her life that will make her feel fulfilled. The scene puts the relationship at unease and Adele remains quiet. The scene also gives the sense that the two girls no longer have anything in common. Exarchopoulos accentuates a sense of anger but at the same time discomfort. Another scene where Exarchopoulos demonstrates her confusion is during a party with Emma's friends. When Emma's friend Lise arrives, Adele admires her pregnant stomach. A close-up reveals the character's awe and a betrayal of insecurity in this particular moment. The scene is followed by Adele serving all of Emma's friends. It only enhances the disconnect that Adele feels and the dismantling of the relationship.
Seydoux brings a security and firmness to her character. Emma knows what she wants to be an artist and is secure of her sexuality. She is open about her sexual preferences with her family. When she brings Adele to her house, she introduces her as her girlfriend. However her overbearing personality eventually takes over. In one scene where Adele is trying to serve Emma breakfast, Emma ignores Adele because she is on the phone trying to fix an issue with her art exposition. In the aforementioned scene in bed, Emma is trying to push Adele to be an artist. Seydoux brings an aggressive tone to her voice as if she disagreed with Adele's career path.
Kechiche adds to Adele's unease and claustrophobia in the way he shoots the film. He uses extreme close-ups emphasizing body parts and faces, almost pushing the viewer into an area he/she is not used to seeing so close. Kechiche particularly emphasizes Adele's face. When she has sex with Samir, there is disappointment while Samir kisses her. The dinner scene with her parents also emphasizes her anxiety of being with Emma. When Adele first walks into the gay bar Kechiche emphasizes the women couples as well as Adele's reaction to them. The result is a girl who is both curious but at the same time uncomfortable.
One scene that also emphasizes her claustrophobia and her inability to cope with her sexuality is when her friends question whether she is a lesbian. Kechiche not only shoots with extreme close-ups but also cuts quickly creating an emotionally jarring scene.
Kechiche has already taken a hit with the film because of four sex scenes and there is no doubt that these scenes are bound push audiences away because of their explicit nature. However the scenes add another level to the girl's relationship. The first two show the passion and desire these two women have. The first scene between the two, which lasts an extensive ten minutes, is graphic and at the same time foreshadows how this relationship could end. He chooses to shoot the scenes with a wide angle and when he cuts to the close-ups of their faces there is no sign of tenderness. Instead their faces react to the carnal impulses and the pleasure they are feeling. However the later scenes are a bit tamer and show the two girls being playful and interacting not only sexually but also conversing.
The film is wonderfully paced but may seem a bit over long by the end as Kechiche continuously cuts to school children. While it shows Adele's day time job ultimately the scenes slow the film down.
"Blue is the Warmest Color" is ultimately an incredible journey that features two of the most powerful performances of the year.