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Blue is the Warmest Color - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Blue is the Warmest Color
Directing: B+
Acting: A
Writing: A-
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B-

The French have a reputation for being sexually liberated, and judging by Blue is the Warmest Color, they really want that reputation upheld. This movie earns its NC-17 rating many times over, with at least one straight sex scene and several lesbian sex scenes that are not just frank, but appear quite real. With one exception, the scenes actually work in context, and the impressive performances all around never waver. They do go on a bit long, though. How much lesbian sex do we need to see, really? It gets to a point where I felt like I'd been educated to a far greater degree than could possibly have been necessary.

And that brings me to this movie's one major flaw that, much more so than the massive amount of sex, is likely to be a deal breaker for many: It's three hours long. As Roger Ebert liked to say, "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short," but it turns out there's some gray area there. Blue is the Warmest Color is a beautifully shot, intimate love story with riveting performances -- and it's easily an hour too long. Did they even hire an editor? Oh, wait -- they have five credited editors! Something doesn't add up. There are many stories that, when told compellingly, justify a long run time. This is not one of them. Scenes go on too long, and entire scenes that could easily have been cut are left in.

As such, what could have been a superb, two-hour movie is rendered a merely good three-hour movie. Its Palme d'Or prize at Cannes is arguably justified, but it also tests the viewers' patience. I'm supposed to be absorbed by the story, but even emotional scenes go on so long that all I can think about is why the fuck the bawling Adèle refuses to wipe her nose. She's got snot flowing into her mouth. The sex scenes got a little awkward; the snot was disgusting.

Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a junior in high school, just beginning to understand her own sexuality. It takes roughly a third of the movie for her to meet Emma (Léa Seydoux), the older woman with whom she goes on this romantic and sexual journey. Before that, she attempts a relationship with a boy from her school -- hence the one straight sex scene (also pretty graphic). But something is missing, and soon enough she ends it, leaving the boy understandably hurt. Adèle goes out with a gay friend, wanders over to a lesbian bar (a rather hopping one, I might add), and here she meets Emma. They had exchanged glances on the street earlier, many scenes before. Emma meets Adèle outside of school, prompting homophobic hostility from her friends. They're all fine with the gay guy she's friends with, but any hint of lesbianism from Adèle, who instinctively enforces denial, and they act betrayed. "We've slept in the same bed naked!" says one. Since when do high school friends sleep together naked? Is this a French thing?

Emma is also young, but she is out of high school. Both women are almost impossibly beautiful, making for the kind of onscreen lesbian romance many lesbians tend to resent -- straight guys are going to love the sex scenes in this movie. At one point the two of them even do the "scissoring" thing. I've been told by a friend, "I don't know any lesbians who really do that." They do plenty of other eye-popping stuff, with their faces and fingers and crotches, that looks pretty realistic, though. In one party scene, a guy talks about how mysterious is the female orgasm. I watched those sex scenes and found myself wondering how long it takes them to get exhausted and give up. How many takes did they do those scenes in?

Still, there's something undeniably important about the sex, in context. (There just didn't need to be so much of it onscreen.) This is the case with any relationship: sex is an indelible part of it; without the sex; it arguably doesn’t count as a relationship. Can a relationship work without it? These characters forge an intense connection, and it is largely physical. Adèle is transformed from an insecure teenager to a young woman capable of asserting herself. But, in her first real relationship, she also makes real mistakes. She is unfaithful and hooks up with a male coworker, leaving Emma understandably devastated and furious. This scene, of a relationship breaking down with astounding swiftness, is intense. Maybe it would have had greater impact had it come earlier in the film. And then, there's a surprising lot more of the film afterward. Did I mention this movie is too long?

The cinematography is often gorgeous, with beautiful close-ups of these women's faces in front of the sun at the park in the fall among falling leaves. The camera often emphases Adèle's face, and particularly her mouth with its overbite, which somehow enhances her beauty. Emma is the one with blue hair, and it absolutely suits her. Later she is seen with hair taken straight to blonde, and it emphasizes how much better she looked with the blue. She's also beautiful, though, either way. Both their faces fill the screen like works of art. An over-abundance of close-ups can be annoying, but here, they work. They underscore the intimacy between these two characters.

Only once, during a scene near the end, does Blue is the Warmest Color get unrealistic. Emma and Adèle have met at a café and they throw themselves at each other, Emma sticking her hand between Adèle's legs right there at the table. I was sure they would get arrested, or at least thrown out. None of the other patrons are noticing this at all? Apparently not. Are we supposed to buy this because they're French? A line has to be drawn somewhere. That said, that's the only exception to a broad frankness and realism to the depiction of this relationship, from beginning to end. You can't help but feel bad for Adèle, as she struggles to find herself, and loses herself, and finds herself again. It's a satisfying journey to go on with her, if a little exhausting after all that sex and multitude of unnecessarily extra scenes.

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux get it on for a bit too long in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR.

Overall: B+
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