I’d scold the French–yes, all of them, and not just the director of this movie, Abdellatif Kechiche–for making an unnecessarily long piece of art, but I’ve definitely lauded a work of equal length that came out within the last few months. Then again, that work contained a lot less ennui and a lot more Leo. To each their own.
I jest, sort of. Blue is the Warmest Color is a very beautiful movie, at its best. The light is radiant in practically every shot. Adèle Exarchopoulos is both completely magnetic and easily hatable as Adele, surpassed only by the object of her affections, Emma (Léa Seydoux). I say “hatable” partially out of envy, I suppose — this movie sort of exemplifies everything that we “sheltered” Americans have come to believe and stereotype about the oversexed, overtly comfortable French. Adele and Emma get it on so often and so well that it’s impossible not to be envious of them. Then again, the frequency is also exhausting, and that brings me back to my original point, which is that the movie is too long.
The French translation of this movie is “The Life of Adele,” and that’s honestly what I wanted more of. Less staring, less screwing, less thinking, less crying, more living! I get that those first four gerunds are, in fact, living, but I feel like this movie would have benefitted from more dialogue. It’s clear that Adele is more immature than she is mature, even if she’s capable (at age 20!) of having a meaningful relationship with a woman while still possibly identifying as straight, because she expresses her feelings and thoughts very inconsistently. And I love that about her. I found her rambles and soliloquies to be the most enjoyable part of the film, because they allowed us to get to know her better than she knew herself. And even though I hated when Adele’s school friends interrogated her about her new blue-haired friend — girls are absolutely cruel at that age — I thought those interactions informed us more than those she had with Emma. After awhile, her scenes with Emma, sex and otherwise, became tiresome and redundant. And, come to think of it, Emma was cruel in her own way. She came across incredibly confident in her own powers of seduction, and then later punished Adele for basically being 20. The ending for these two wasn’t happy or sad. It was just an ending. Ennui, as I said before. How French.
It’s hard to tell how much of Exarchopoulos is in the character of Adele — is it the character or the actress that hates for other people to see her smile? Is it the character or the actress who never fully closes her mouth? Is it the character or the actress who can’t really make eye contact with anyone? These nervous habits can be attributed to being just barely a twentysomething, but they could also be subtle additions by the actress. Either way, I found them brilliant (artistically) and frustrating (to watch). With Seydoux, on the other hand, it was clear that she was acting, but only in the sense that she’s more established, and older, and looks completely different in real life from the butch pixie she inhabits in this movie. Her effortlessness was more in her charisma; it’s easy to identify with Adele’s inexplicable attraction to her.
In the end, the question I really wanted answered was: Who is the bad influence here, Adele or Emma? Is Adele behaving like the child she is in an attempt to live an adult fantasy life? Is Emma enabling it? Is Emma doing more harm than good by warping Adele’s sense of herself? Is Adele living with utter delusions? Oh, and what about Emma’s girlfriend, Sabine? I felt bad for her. I’d also hoped she would have gotten more screen time in a three-hour movie, but this was basically the Adele and Emma show. I’m all for an occasional art film, and I do think the two leads were superb in their roles, but this movie went from poetic to emotionally and sexually exploitative in a matter of (180) minutes. Call me American, but I’d rather spend that time watching Leo fake a quaalude episode again.