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Tuesday 11 April 2017

Review: Blue is the Warmest Colour

Posted in: Movies
By Jacqui Stanford - 28th January 2014


Blue is the Warmest Colour
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
R18, 187 min

Probably going on for longer than it should, stupendously dramatic and full of raucous over the top sex – Blue is the Warmest Colour is in every way the agonising deliciousness of the torrid lesbian romance it portrays so well. And it will probably divide you and your friends as much as she did ...

The much talked about French flick finally comes to New Zealand cinemas next month and is bound to get tongues wagging.

Blue is the Warmest Colour tells the ‘coming of age’ story of Adele, who we meet as she is a high school student on the cusp of Sapphic discovery with sultry Bon Jovi lookalike Emma (Lea Seydoux). We follow Adele through all the tumult of falling for someone you have an intense connection with, even if you may not actually be at all right for each other, and see how she comes out the other side.


Lead actress Adele Exarchopoulos is utterly brilliant in a film which allows her plenty of space to be so. Director Abdellatif Kechiche does not rush Adele’s story, he tells it painstakingly. His movie is beautifully shot, punctuated with glorious blues everywhere, in scene after slow scene which lingers on details like snotty tears, close ups on flawed make-up free faces, slurped spaghetti, free drunken dancing, and of course … dum dum dum … the sex.

The lesbian sex has been the most talked about aspect of Blue is the Warmest Colour. That’s because it clocks in at seven or so minutes (someone has timed it apparently) and because the film was directed by a man. “Explicit” has been the bandied about word. Some critics say it’s pure porn, others that it’s unrealistic straight male fantasy. I say it’s just sex.

To a card carrying lesbian who, shock horror, sleeps with women (well just one these days), it’s just sex. Oh it’s somewhat gratuitous – especially the ridiculous scissoring scene – but the intensity, position swapping and inexorable horniness of it all are simply reminiscent of what it’s like when your body has incredible chemistry with someone, especially when you are exploring another woman for the first time! So no, this R18 flick is not for prudes who like a quick lights off cuddle fuddle. In the vein of Room in Rome, it has long, active sex scenes. Two women sleep with each other and they really enjoy it. Shocking.

In a packed theatre, the sex scenes may be a little uncomfortable. Yet what might sit more uncomfortably are the vulnerability issues for the lead actresses.

Blue is the Warmest Colour is very invasive. The seven minutes of sex took ten days to film. Many of the scenes, such as the many rather creepy shots of Adele sleeping, are real. She was filmed so constantly they ended up using her real name to make things easier, resulting in endless intense close-ups which leave her no place to hide. She is a great actress and the invasiveness of it means her clear vulnerability comes across powerfully on screen. And yet the fact she and her co-star have categorically stated they will never work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again begs questions about whether too many lines were crossed.

As for that director, if you are already feeling outraged about the fact the film is made by a straight man, and can't see beyond that, you probably won’t like it. It’s that simple. Some queer reviewers have hated it simply because it’s not queer-made.


But there is so much more to Blue is the Warmest Colour than controversies about sex scenes and a straight male director. It tells a timeless, coming of age first love story, which could be straight or gay, in a way Hollywood never would. It’s utterly raw and almost realistic.

It might piss you off and make you write angry letters, or it might make you sit back and quietly take it all in.

You will have plenty of time to do that. The movie is just over three hours long. But it’s not boring. How can it be when it makes you feel like you are going through ‘it’ all once again, and stretching for inane adjectives to explain the ‘terror’, the ‘excitement’, the ‘dizzying lust’ - that pain that still chews at the very bottom of your stomach when you let your mind wander to your most scorching lesbian love.

Blue is the Warmest Colour opens in New Zealand theatres on 13 February. You can win tickets with here

Jacqui Stanford - 28th January 2014

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