Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adele – Chapitres 1 & 2)

Blue is the Warmest Color

I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. All my life long.

Boy, does the list love coming-of-age stories. That this also won the Palme d’Or seemed to make it a near-certainty for the 2013 additions. I did a good bit of research into Blue is the Warmest Color before I went into it, and what I found served merely to clutter my expectations; opinions about the film were divided into those who heralded it as one of the best and most intimate coming-of-age films in recent memory, and those who just found it one-dimensional and overly long. It all made me really unsure of how I should go about readying myself before starting the film; what mindset I should watch it in. As it turns out, the powers that be seemed to be looking out for me in this particular instance. I started the film with basically no expectations, and after it was done, I knew exactly where I ended up in regards to my opinion, and it took what could perhaps be described as divine inspiration to lead me to my conclusion.

The film follows Adele, a young French student trying, just like every other female protagonist in a coming-of-age film, to figure out her place in the world and what she wants out of it. After trying things out with a boy she and her friends know is interested in her, she ultimately tries things a little differently after seeing a young woman with blue hair on her walk to school. Fate, as it is wont to do in situations like this, finds the two coming together, and the film is an exploration of two important chapters in Adele’s life with this blue-haired changer of worlds, hence the original French title. Pretty much the first thing I noticed about the film was how director Abdellatif Kechiche really, REALLY seemed to love close-up shots of his characters, which combined with the mostly handheld camerawork threatened to turn me off the film almost entirely. Not that close-ups are bad, but that almost every shot in the film was one seemed to be a tad overkill to me. At least at first. Then, in a random and innocuous moment of the film, it clicked; Kechiche wanted the film to not be about the cinematography or the production, or even the script. He wanted it to solely be about the characters; not just how they act and react, but how they feel, right down to the infinitesimal facial ticks and expressions that betray how they really think and feel inside. From that realization, the film blossomed like a radiant flower before me, and I began to take notice of how every little detail in the film, from the camerawork and the production, right down to the script, reflected exactly what the characters were feeling and thinking, from the smallest details of their mentalities to the overarching progression of their relationship together. I tried to figure out if Kechiche had meticulously planned every exacting detail of this film to such a degree that it showed a level of craftsmanship unknown to the field of directing at large, or if he had merely painted the overall strokes and let the individual pieces of the puzzle reveal their own intricacies to him through the work of the actors and the crew. After a bit of thinking in this regard, I eventually left it aside; it didn’t really matter how the resulting film had come to be, only that it had. The work done by everyone, from the two main actresses (including the revelation of newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos) to all the people behind the camera, I’d say, has never been better, and even with the controversy surrounding the supposed working conditions on the set under Kechiche, I’d still be excited for whatever the man has in the wings next; provided, of course, that he’s able to get similar results without being an overworking tyrant, from what I’ve heard of him. One other note that needs to be addressed in regards to this film is a key one, especially given that the rating of the film in America is NC-17, and for a good reason: the film has, others have estimated, about 15 minutes of combined sex scenes, and very graphic sex scenes at that, so if that might turn you away from the film as a whole, it’d be understandable, even though it’d be rather unfortunate.

Unlike so many of the other list films that have somewhat polarizing receptions, I was surprised to find that I didn’t end up in the middle of the two opposite reactions to the film. It was thanks to that sudden realization that I had in roughly the first half hour that I found myself squarely in the one camp; the one that found the film to be a masterwork, right down to the tiniest details. Sure, there may be a few reasons that people might find to not want to see this one, and like I said before, it’d be somewhat understandable, but they’d be missing out on one of the most intricate and detailed romantic coming-of-age films in recent memory. When this first won the Palme d’Or, I’d made the quick assumption that it had been mostly because of how candid the film had been about its central relationship. Now, I can see pretty clearly how this not only won, but won unanimously, and I’d be happy to add my voice to those who laud the film for all the reasons they do.

Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

And that be that for the 2013 additions. If I post some random ones in the meantime, it’d be nice, but I wouldn’t count on it, just in case. With that said, if I don’t; see you next year.

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One thought on “Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adele – Chapitres 1 & 2)

  1. I’ve read the graphic novel (though my library had issues with the book and nearly removed it for those same scenes) and I would like to watch it, as soon as I have $15 to burn for the Criterion print.

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