Review: Blue is the Warmest Colour

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux


by Ross McIndoe

Since winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in May, Abdel Kechiche’s epic romantic drama Blue is the Warmest Colour has generated more hype, chatter and controversy than just about any other film this year. Thanks to some finicky regulations regarding release date, it won’t be eligible for the Academy Awards come February, but it will doubtlessly go down as the most talked about film of 2013.

A coming-of-age story wrapped up in a fiery romance, Blue is the Warmest Colour is the story of a young French woman named Adele and her first real love affair. Adele begins the movie still suffering through the suffocating final days of high school, clumsily trying to riddle herself out while fending off the interrogatory glances of her friends and doing her best to pass enough exams to fulfil her ambition of becoming a schoolteacher. Still uncertain of who she is, who she likes or who she wants to be, she finds herself instantaneously entranced by seductive artiste, Emma. Fully-formed, self-assured and clearly devoid of any doubt as to who she is or what she wants – it’s easy to understand why the blue-haired beauty holds such an intense allure for the inexperienced, uncertain Adele.

The film’s three hour running time allows it the freedom to work through each stage of their relationship slowly and organically. They begin nervous of one another, taking small shy steps into romance, tentatively letting the tension and attraction in the air between them build and build until it finally explodes, culminating in the now infamous sex scene(s) which, although cries of voyeurism and male-gaze indulgence might not be totally unfounded, vividly portray the carnal, ecstatic passion which they share at the moment in which they are madly, totally and tirelessly in love with every inch of one another.

For all the attention given to these scenes, almost none has been given to the one which counterbalances them. Many months down the line their relationship has been stretched and tested by old flames, differing careers and the general trial of keeping an attachment alive in the midst of the daily grind. The knowledge that they’re not as close as they once were plays on both their nerves and leaves them frayed, distrustful and quick to anger. Once again, a palpable tension builds and builds to a cataclysmic pay-off: they tear into each other once more with the same passion, same heat and feral energy only this time channelled into rage and hate in a tear-drenched, harrowing confrontation.

A lot has been said about the length of Blue is the Warmest Colour; both the three hours of the whole and the twelve minutes of the sex scenes have been written off in many quarters as indulgent or excessive. The great and greatly missed Roger Ebert had an aphorism for this: “No good film is too long and no bad movie is short enough”. This is much more than a good movie; it’s a truly excellent movie that harnesses every minute of its runtime to place a human relationship under an intense scrutinising glare and bring every crazy, angry, beautiful facet of it to light.

There are 187 minutes of this film: it would be sheer cinematic sacrilege to sacrifice a single one.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);