***Spoiler Warning: Let me just go ahead and state that I will at least in some ways be discussing the ending of this film here, because it is that ending that shapes a large part of my reaction to it, though at the same time, a large part of the film is more about the experience of seeing it, than about the actual plot, so I will leave it to the reader to decide for themselves whether to wait until after they have seen it to actually read this article.***
Let me just be very blunt up front. Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour (or, to use its original French title, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 i.e. “The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2”) is not a very sexy movie.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of sex in the movie. Some of it is definitely very graphic. There is a reason for the movie’s NC-17 rating. However, despite the near-constant emphasis on the sexuality of it’s young actors, despite the frequent display of the female body in various situations, despite all of the sweating, slapping, and bringing together of various body parts, in the end there is something very detached and almost clinical in its depictions both of nudity and sex.
The film has been described both as a “coming of age” movie, and as a film about sexual awakening, and in a way, both of these descriptions are accurate. Blue definitely depicts the growing up of its main character, Adele as she advances from a 15-year-old high school junior through her years of struggling to find her place in life as (at least where the film closes) a second-grade teacher. It also takes her from her first sexual encounter through a number of various relationships with characters of both genders, ultimately leaving her at least more experienced, if not particularly either more self-aware nor more enlightened.
There has, as is to be totally expected, been a lot of controversy around the film itself, from discussions as to whether the movie should be considered pornographic; to revelations about problems on set and with the director; to the author of the graphic novel upon which it is based, Julie Maroh, stating “As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I cannot endorse the direction Kechiche took on these matters. But I’m also looking forward to hearing what other women will think about it. This is simply my personal stance.” Personally, I’m not really interested in retreading that ground, and simply will suggest that if those are the things that interest you, then there are many other easy-to-find articles that you can read.
Instead, I really want to simply stick to my own feelings after having viewed the film, which, honestly, though I found it very interesting, in the end struck me as far too clinical to be erotic, and, in the end, far too lacking in any real growth for either of its main characters to be wholly satisfying.
One of the main problems I had with the film is that it is shot in a very much in-their-face manner. No, I do not mean in-your-face, I mean that it seems as though 75 percent of the film is shot from what seems to be a distance of no more than maybe eight inches from the characters’ faces. This emphasis on close-ups, while perhaps intended by the director to bring a sense of intimacy to these scenes, instead becomes by the end a source of distraction, and never really gives the audience a chance to see the bigger picture, in a way isolating the characters even in times when they are most trying, or at least should be trying, to become closer and relate more to each other.
Of course, it could be that that sense of isolation is intentional, as, at the end of the film, Adele is just as alone and lost, if not even more so, than she was at the beginning.
I noted at the beginning that the French title of this movie implies that this film is only meant to be the beginning of Adele’s life, and that there might be more “chapters” to come, and that is something I think I’d very much like to see, if for no other reason than to find out if Adele does ever find any true warmth.
- The Problem with Sex Scenes That Are Too Good (newyorker.com)
- Blue is the Warmest Color deals perfectly with falling in love (macleans.ca)
- Abdellatif Kechiche interview: ‘Do I need to be a woman to talk about love between women?’ (theguardian.com)