Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Cannes review of Blue is the Warmest Colour

The lesbian drama from Abdellatif Kechiche features some astonishing acting

Thu, May 23, 2013, 22:16




Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux, Aurelien Recoing

In competition, 179 min

The latest drama from Abdellatif Kechiche, French-Tunisian director of Couscous, really grows on you. It would want to. Clocking in at nearly three hours, this intensely focused study of a relationship is by far the longest film in competition. There are no earth-shaking events. A teenage girl from an ordinary background falls for a bohemian girl with blue hair. They eventually get together. They drift apart. They meet up again. You could imagine the tale being told in a wispy 70-minute vignette. But Kechiche’s intention – fully realised – is to immerse the viewer completely in the nuances of the relationship. By the close, one feels (and this is not meant as a facetious dig) one has lived through the girls’ experiences in something like real time.

Such are the peculiar rules of the festival that it is not possible to win the Palme d’Or and a major acting prize. If, however, this extraordinary film does not take the top gong (and it may well), it will almost certainly secure a joint best-actress prize for Léa Seydoux (as the experienced Emma) and Adèle Exarchopoulos (as the initially naïve Adèle). The two actors make an extraordinary connection and work hard at communicating the slightest calibrations in their romantic relations. Much attention will, inevitably, be focused on the explicit nature (and the sheer length) of the numerous sex scenes. Kechiche’s purpose is clear: he wants to demonstrate the powerful influence that sexual desire has on the emotions. But the volume of panting may cause some viewers to turn away.

Elsewhere, as well as trading in emotional intensity, the film has some interesting things to say about class and social status. Emma’s bohemian crew are kind to Adèle, but they seem insensitively bewildered by the news that – despite being a decent writer — she is quite happy teaching schoolchildren. A new kind of hip snobbery is a at work.

Shot largely in close-ups, featuring mobile camera work by Sofian El Fani, Warmest Colour gets closer to accurately charting the dynamics of romantic love than any picture in recent memory. It also confirms that, after a slightly sluggish start, Cannes 2013 is now really delivering the goods.