Tuesday, December 03, 2013

"Blue Is the Warmest Color": Lesbian drama is too long, but it makes many interesting points

Blue Is the Warmest Color”, based on the novel of that name (“Le bleu est une couleur chaude)” by Julie Maroh, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, (and titled “La Vie d’Adele” in France) is, to put it mildly, just too long, running almost three hours.  Well, big canvas movies of that length were common a half century ago, but intimate dramas not so much.
  
The film is full wide-screen, “2.35:1” but the young female characters are constantly in your face – meaning a conventional aspect might have worked better. The movie is like an erotic stage play.  It moves outside into the real world very little.  But it still touches on some interesting areas.
As the film opens, Adele (played by Adele Exarchopoulous) is a teenager in secondary school, who happens to meet the artist Emma (Lea Seydoux). There is a very interesting gay disco scene (both men and women. Adele falls in love and the women start a relationship. 
  
It is not immediately clear if Adele has reached the age of consent under French law.  About half way through the film, some of the intimate scenes start, which earned the film an NC-17 rating.
  
In time, Adele graduates, and goes to college (or some sort) and becomes a pre-school and elementary school  teacher.  There is an interesting conversation about over-qualification, of people spending years in school and not finding good employment.  The scenes in school are interesting.  Adele connects quite well with pre-school children, and gets them engaged when she reads to them.   At one point she reads from a book that may be “My Pet Goat”, which George W. Bush was reading to kids when 9/11 happened.  (At least it’s not “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.)  In another scene, she gives dictation, the way we had it in French class in the US in middle school.  Did you know how to “peel an onion” in France? The scenes with kids cut in quickly and abruptly after the intimate scenes, or other scenes where she is shown smoking.  The teaching job is presented as requiring a great deal of intimacy or personal monitoring of tots: in one scene, the kids take a nap on the common rug, which is divided up by little crib-like barriers.  I never saw this happen when I worked as a sub a few years ago.
   
Emma and Adele became friends and lovers partly because they shared a common outlook.  They have a conversation about the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre (“Nausea”), whether existence precedes essence.  You can’t hide inside a “clam” and pretend not to exist.  They also share some Anthony-Bourdain-like culinary adventures with almost live oysters.  They aren’t “free fish”.
  
Emma is quite dedicated to integrity in her own art.  She refuses to make even slight changes in a particular painting in order to sell it.  That sounds like a writer refusing to change a novel to suit a publisher (there is a legal case about this (my main blog, Nov. 19, 2013).

Adele eventually has a brief heterosexual fling with a filmmaker-art-collector (a character who reminded me of Clive Barker's "Gentle"), making Emma jealous, even childishly so, setting up the "climax" of the film. 
  
   
The official site (from distributor Wild Bunch) is here

I saw the film at a late afternoon show at the Landmark E Street in downtown Washington DC before a small audience.
  
Wikipedia attribution link, Paris picture.  My visits: 1999, 2001.  

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