When you type ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour…’ into Google, the first predicted result is: ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour sex.’ A quick scan of the hoard of reviews would indicate that everyone with an Internet connection has an opinion on the numerous explicit scenes in Abdellatif Kechiche’s film about a love affair between two young French women. I read a lot of the reviews before I watched the film (never a good idea) and was therefore expecting a lot. My boyfriend was too. When I told him it was a French film about a lesbian love affair he put down his iPad quicker than you could say ‘girl-on-girl’ and settled in to be suitably titillated. What we got was a marathon of elegant cinematography, phenomenal acting from the two stars, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, punctuated, unfortunately, by some pretty ill conceived sex scenes. The first cacophony of thighs, lip smacking and bottom grabbing stormed onto screen an hour and ten minutes in. The ‘male gaze’ theory has been bandied about in reviews of the scene and it is tempting to dismiss such a complaint, after all, what is a little patriarchy once it’s won the Palme d‘Or? Unfortunately, it seems to me that Kechiche has done very little to dissuade this charge, employing the visual conventions of the pornographic genre in his shooting of the scene. Maybe it was an ironic, post-feminist statement on the part of Kechiche but whatever his intentions, it did not succeed in contributing to the narrative as affectively as many have wishfully claimed. The film had so triumphantly portrayed the butterflies-in-the-stomach excitement of a first love that when the sex did arrive, it was somewhat superfluous. It has led me to wonder, if a super-hero film is only as good as its villain, can a love film only be as good as its sex scenes?
Thankfully, this is by no means the case for Blue is the Warmest Colour. It is a testament to the brilliance of the other two and a quarter hours that you soon forget Emma and Adele’s squirming and embrace a superb love story. Steven Spielberg’s decision to award the Palme d’Or not only to Kechiche but to Seydoux and Exarchopoulos as well is an indication of the strength and dedication of their performances. The most unforgettable scene is one in which the tempestuous affair reaches a unfortunate and dramatic climax. It is an incredible performance in which both actresses deliver the most astounding interpretation of the intensity of young love and it’s inevitable heartbreak.
Watch it, not for the sex, but in spite of it, as a film that will make you question the nature of love, friendship and relationships in general.
Blue is the Warmest Colour will be released on DVD in early 2014.
By Alice Hoad