Abdellatif Kechiche won this year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes with his sixth film, Blue is the Warmest Colour, though its original title, The Life of Adèle chapters 1 & 2, is the better description.
The 20 year old Adèle Exarchopoulos gives an astonishing performance as the eponymous heroine in the three hour film that charts her journey from tentative teenager into a fully formed woman.
The Italians use the word colpito, literally struck down to describe the moment of falling in love. And nowhere will you see it better captured than when Adèle first catches sight of the blue haired Emma, played by Léa Seydoux. What follows is a magnificently painful burrowing into the warren of a relationship.
Inevitably, the barely ten minutes of passionate sex that this includes is what has generated all the interest and controversy since the film first surfaced this year at Cannes. With the actresses apparently complaining of exploitation, and the director angrily defending himself.
It’s not hard to see why the actresses might feel somewhat sullied, betrayed even by the resulting film. Not because of the sex scenes, but because of the depth and rawness of emotion on view, and the way in which they, and especially Adèle expose themselves so completely before us.
It would be all too easy to be flippant about a film like this. It’s all so very French. It’s a three hour film about beautiful girls who draw lovingly on an endless supply of cigarettes in between discussing existentialism and art and falling in and out of love with each other. And all in a way that’s both beautiful to watch, completely believable, and somehow never pretentious.
And this being Ireland, it gets an 18 certificate. After all, that’s the last thing any of us would want our teenage boys and girls watching when they could be at home instead looking at hardcore porn in the comfort of their bedrooms.
But the film transcends all of that. Because the journey that the actresses and the director take you on is so intimate, so emotionally engaging and so rapturously captured that it’s impossible not to be completely taken in. And for once, that 3 hour duration is justified. As with the number of words Tolstoy took, sometimes you need the space that time gives you to be able to fully delve into your story. And to convey all the emotion involved.
Comfortably, and by a considerable distance, the film of the year. You can see the trailer here.
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