French Film “Blue is the Warmest Colour” Enraptures.

Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Blue is the Warmest Colour.

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.

Abdellatif Kechiche , Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux at Cannes.

Abdellatif Kechiche , Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, all smiles at Cannes despite the murmurings.

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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Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Brilliant “Once Upon A Time In Anatolia”, Where All the World’s a Country.

There’s a famous Italian saying which goes tutto il mondo e’ un paese. It’s sometimes translated as it’s a small world. But we use that in English when we’re far from home and we see something or someone that we only expect to see at home.

Whereas what the Italians mean when they say all the world’s a country, is that even here, miles from home, people live their lives worrying about the same things, and moving to the same rhythms as we all do, wherever we happen to come from. If you want to witness what that looks like, look no further than the brilliant new film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan (pronounced Jay-lan).

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia picked up the runners-up prize at Cannes last year. Unforgivably, the jury gave the Palme d’Or to Malick’s hopelessly overblown The Tree Of Life instead, reviewed here earlier. More fool them, this is a proper film.

In his interview with the London Independent here, Bilge Ceylan says that his latest film owes more to 19th century Russian literature than it does to any fellow film maker, not withstanding its title. And there’s no mistaking the air of doom and that sense of existential angst that hangs over the film, calling to mind the moral fog that so many of Dostoyevsky’s troubled characters are forced to wade through. But more than anything else, it’s the shadow of Chekov that so impressively shrouds it.

As with all of his plays, what we get here is a small group of figures in isolation who offer up a picture of the world in microcosm. A ne’er-do-well and his simpleton brother have killed a man, but they can’t remember where they buried the body. So the film charts the night and early morning as they, the police, the doctor and prosecutor traipse wearily across the barren landscape until they eventually unearth it.

But the actual crime is merely the excuse, the MacGuffin as Hitchcock called it, which allows us to witness the details of the humdrum existence that they lead, and the way in which they and their separate lives are all interconnected. Inevitably, in the course of their journey into the night, they and we discover the particular hidden histories that they are each defined by.

This is a palpable advance on the film that Bilge Ceylan was best known for up until now. Climates, his forth from ’06, had a wonderfully evocative dream sequence on the beach, and an impressively feral and all too believable sex scene at its centre. But the long stretches of ennui and detachment in between were all too life-like. That might be what life is like, but it’s not what most of us want our films to be like. Drama is what you’re left with when all of that has been excised.

Here in contrast, all the time that ticks over in between what little there is in the way of conventional plot is quietly thought-provoking, and serves to build an increasingly complex portrait of everyday lives.

It’s a man’s world to be sure. But as the fleeting apparition of the mayor’s beautiful daughter demonstrates, these are men whose lives revolve around trying to come to terms with the absence of the women in their lives, for whatever their different reasons, and the loneliness that engulfs them ever after.

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