Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Movie Review - Blue Is the Warmest Color

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos
Year: 2013

For a foreign film that flew under a lot of radars, Blue Is the Warmest Color was one of the most provocative movies of the year.  Its subject matter alone elicited a ton of conversation, as did the behind-the-scenes reports.  If you haven't heard the buzz let me quickly fill you in; the film contains explicit lesbian sex scenes that were reportedly very difficult to film.  They were long, frequent, and produced graphically, with the actresses taking uncomfortably strict instruction from the director.  Rumors went flying about the scenes, interest was stirred up, and ultimately the film got extra attention, which may have been what they were going for all along.  But regardless, the movie became a must-watch among critics because of its hype & raw material.  And raw it was, a film I wouldn't flippantly recommend and one that is difficult to watch in many ways.

This is the story of Adele, a young girl attempting to discover what she wants out of life, a hard task for any teenager but one made more difficult by desires that you attempt to hide from even yourself.  Adele loves children, she loves to read, she enjoys school, she dates a bit, but true happiness eludes her until she begins to accept her attraction to other women.  And after a chance encounter with a fascinating female college student, Adele finds herself satisfied for the first time in her life.  The woman's name is Emma, an artist with blue hair, true style, and a cool radiance that envelops Adele's entire life.  She gives all of herself to this relationship and gets love in return, but her restlessness and her loneliness will eventually lead to trouble as she enters the difficult world of adulthood.

The French title of this film is La vie d'Adele and that encompasses the story much better than Blue Is the Warmest Color, a stupid title that never should have been introduced.  The movie is about Adele, nothing else, about her life, her days, her passions, her fears, and ultimately her becoming a woman.  We see her sleep, eat, shower, wipe her nose, orgasm, weep, play, fall in love.  And it's this gritty realism that makes the film good, makes you feel every single emotion alongside Adele.  And I would say that the character was played perfectly by Adele Exarchopoulos, but I'm not sure how much of it was acting and how much of it was just her look.  She is amazingly beautiful, captivating, and hard not to stare at.  I can't think that anyone could have done the part better, if only because it was literally impossible to stop watching her.  The same can't be said for Lea Seydoux; she could have been any actress and left me with barely any impression.

But although I was drawn in by the lead actress, the film wasn't perfect.  It's about twice as long as it should have been at three hours.  It was basically two parts: Adele's early life & her slightly later.  But I could have done with more of a snapshot and less of an epic.  The overt use of the color blue was interesting, but not really necessary; I'm not sure why the director chose to feature it so much.  And then there's the sex.  It was explicit, yes, but it wasn't pornographic.  It was basically a look into the bedroom of a young couple, allowing us to feel what they were feeling and see what they were doing with no filter.  It might keep some people from seeing the film and tempt others to get the DVD, but either way the nudity did belong in the film and didn't detract from the emotion of story.  Taken as a whole, this is an emotionally stirring film that relies heavily on one woman to carry the plot.  It's slow at times, quite long, and provocative; not a movie for everyone.  And although I liked it, I can't say it was amazing.  I liked Laurence Anyways so much more, if you're looking for an artistic French language film about alternative lifestyles.  In the end, Blue Is the Warmest Color is worthy of buzz but not brilliant, beautiful at times but not a masterpiece.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

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