Heart's so blue
A touching melodrama of sapphic love found and lost
With the label "lesbian love story" and its infamous lovemaking scene, Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie D'Adele), winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, can expect to draw crowds who're tempted by the promise of flesh and sex.
Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adele) In French with English and Thai subtitles at House RCA.
But audiences who want to scrutinise the scene of sapphic lust might be surprised. After an hour, Blue reveals that it is actually a love story. And that makes this movie highly interesting.
The majority of gay films put an emphasis, sometimes overly, on flying the flag of homosexuality. There are a few gay-themed movies _ Blue, of course, and Brokeback Mountain _ that transcend that self-imposed agenda, as well as stereotypical gender lines and discrimination.
A love story is a love story, regardless of sexuality. Watching Blue, audiences might forget that they are watching homosexual lovers.
The film, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche from the graphic novel by Julie Maroh, tells the story of Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), a high school student from a working class family. One day on the street, Adele is struck by a coup de foudre _ with one glance, she experiences love at first sight that turns into the love of her life. The subject is Emma (Lea Seydoux), a tomboy art student with hair dyed aquamarine.
Adele is the emotional centre of the story, and self-doubt and self-limitations are tested to the poignant end when she begins a passionate relationship with the blue-haired girl.
There has been some debate over whether this movie won the prestigious Palme d'Or award because of the director's artistic prowess, or thanks to the wonderful performance by both actresses. But that's not the point. Just feel the movie.
Do not intellectualise it, just enjoy this film as it is a memorable love story _ a melodrama of love found and lost, but a solid and heartbreaking one.
Exarchopoulos and Seydoux will and should be remembered for their stellar performances. The chemistry between two lovers is always palpable. Exarchopoulos in particular breathes life into and give multiple dimensions to Adele. Shy, smart and insecure, she appears in almost every scene (actually, almost every shot), and the camera, which stays close to her throughout the film, captures her eyes so vividly that they tell us that whatever she is looking for, she does not know it, nor will she ever find it.
It is so hard to forget this tragic character enslaved by first love, the only love, and her wandering through life.
Seydoux, a popular French actress who also played an assassin in Mission Impossible 3, subtly gets under the skin of the bourgeois dyke, an art student who parrots French philosophers' maxims to impress and sway her young girlfriend. Emma is a cool artsy type, while Adele is a simple girl who wants a simple life. Their incompatibility implies differences in the characters' origin and social class, and again it makes the film less about homosexual love than about ill-fitting romance.
Though not the sex. The notorious sex scenes have drawn criticism from some feminists and lesbians _ and praise from others. Some critics questioned whether those lovemaking scenes are realistic, or are they dictated by the mainstream "male gaze" of the director.
Interestingly, Exarchopoulos said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal: "You don't have to be a lesbian to know how to make love to a woman. So does that mean if a woman makes love to another woman for the first time with no prior experience that she's not doing it right?"
For this reviewer, the sex scenes are just too long, and can be chopped by half without affecting the story.
It is understandable why Julie Maroh, the writer of the original graphic novel, was upset with the movie. The novel is quite political, and it's more about the coming of age of a lesbian teenager in a homophobic environment. The movie is a more of a love story _ a visual presentation of how love and heartbreak feel to a young woman.
In the book, Adele is disowned by her family. Yet she never fits into the homosexual life. In the book, Emma and Adele are thrown out of the house after their parents find them naked in bed. In the book, Emma simply walks naked to the kitchen to get some milk from the refrigerator. For me, this sounds more like a lesbian movie.