Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)

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This is a reprint of my review from when I saw the film at the Brisbane International Film Festival in November 2013.

“I have infinite tenderness for you.”

(If that isn’t one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful lines I’ve heard this year, I don’t know what is)

I love it when things like how I ended up seeing this happen. Originally, I was to see Seduced and Abandoned on Sunday afternoon (which I was really excited for), but it got cancelled 5 minutes before the screening started. I had been dying to seeBlue, but due to schedules, pricing, tickets etc, I wasn’t going to be able to fit it in, which really sucked. But somehow, I was incredibly, incredibly lucky, and was still able to go down to the theatre where this was playing, having to go through a hail storm in order to do so. I’m so glad I did.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour is totally unique. I certainly haven’t, and I don’t think many people have, seen anything like this before, neither has a film like this (from memory) ever garnered such wide attention. But for all it’s uniqueness for creating a ‘relationship film’ unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with a couple that would probably never been seen this widely, something that I really appreciate about it is the fact that it is treated like any other love story, and shows everything that is shown in any other ‘relationship film’. It is not played for comedy or mocked, it does not hide anything that a usual love story would- sex scenes and otherwise. It doesn’t just pull the curtains back, it throws them wide open. This couple is treated no differently to any other you see on screen each day, whether that be Jesse and Celine in theBefore films or Jack and Rose in Titanic. It asks the audience, “if they can show it, why can’t we?”.

Of course, this could be crafted perfectly through writing and direction, but it would be all for nothing if it didn’t have tworevelatory, fearless performances behind it, as these characters require everything. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos are stunning in their roles and just give them everything they have, the latter of which is on screen, for all intents and purposes, every scene of the film (the French title doesn’t translate as The Life of Adele, Chapters 1 and 2 for nothing), and is just heart wrenchingly emotional and real, making you sympathise with her. These are break out performances here, and even though it would be a miracle if they were recognised come awards season, I hope in years to come this leads to more roles as incredible as these that will allow them to be recognised.

So, why only 4.5 stars? Well, as much as I praised it before for truly showing every aspect of a real relationship (because I have truly never seen anything like it), my main issue comes with, oddly enough, the talking point surrounding it, which is the sex scenes. As I said, I love the fact that every aspect is shown, so I’m not against what is shown at all, but it is perhaps the way in which it is shown that is questionable. These are incredibly graphic scenes, and they would be fine if they were a bit shorter in duration. They ‘drag on’ slightly, and “border on pornographic”, to quote Julie Maroh, an issue that would be prevalent regardless of the nature of the couple in the film, and really brings into question as to where to ‘draw the line’ in regards to what the director demands- how much is too much?

I guess the main issue is one that occurred to me after, which is that they didn’t add to the story, and wouldn’t in any circumstance. Yes, they showed them going to another level in their relationship and showed intimacy, which is in any romantic film, but above all, sex scenes must have meaning, a purpose, a way to advance the story, which wasn’t present in these. If they were removed, edited etc, it would have still been an incredible film in any scenario.

Questioning the sex scenes aside, however, this is an impeccable film. The writing, direction and performances are pitch perfect, as I previously said. It has one of the best uses of colour I’ve ever seen on film, the colour blue is present in nearly every scene, even the film is slightly tinted blue, and it just heightens every emotion, making it incredibly immediate and dramatic. It almost serves as another character. Additionally, the photography is also beautiful, capturing light and colour perfectly, making it feel all the more natural.

But in addition to this film being nearly all around perfect and without a doubt incredibly unique, I feel as though it will also go down in history as one that really raises the question of actor-director relationships. Where do you draw the line? How much is too much to ask of an actor? It’s definitely an interesting conversation for film makers, critics, and lovers alike. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos are undoubtedly incredible, but when claims that both them and other crew members have raised against Kechiche’s working practices are made and words like “moral harassment” are thrown around , they are impossible to ignore and not ask those previous questions.

Gripping, emotional, and stunning, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is an incredible film, elevated by two performances that just carry the film entirely, fearlessly and masterfully through very demanding roles, begging the question- how much is ‘too much’?

Rating: 4.5/5

-Ella

Blue is the Warmest Colour (the 2013 Palme d’Or winner) receives a limited release starting today (February 13), after playing at the Brisbane International Film Festival in November 2013.

R18+ (high impact sex scenes), 173 mins.

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