15-year-old, introverted high-school student Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) discovers sexual desire when she meets blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux) in the critically-acclaimed film from screenwriter/director Abdellatif Kechiche.
The film left me conflicted. On one side, it’s a beautiful story about love told from a “Cinema Verité” perspective. On the other, I think it lacks… directing. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are incredible and I felt for the characters and what they were going through. But peculiar choices in the way the film was shot and edited kept me from falling in love with it. I’ve never seen another Kechiche film so I can’t make any comparisons in his craft as a filmmaker and will therefore judge Blue Is the Warmest Color alone. I’ll also omit any mistreatments that seem to have happened during production as it has – in my opinion – nothing to do with the final result and my overall experience of the film. There it goes…
Kechiche made the odd choice of shooting the vast majority of his film with close-up shots. Yes, yes, I hear you: this is a love story, it should be intimate and close-up shots create exactly that. Well, yes indeed. Only if those close-ups were used in certain scenes, not the whole flick. Having full and medium shots most of the time and then go into close-ups for a short while makes that particular scene look intimate. And sometimes, it results in odd-looking scenes when actors are eating spaghettis mouth opened. It messes with the space and staging. For instance, in the scene when Adèle follows Emma in a gay bar, we follow Adèle in close-up making her way to the bar, looking for Emma. Cut to Emma in close-up which seems to notice her as if they were standing a couple of meters away from each other and about to make some conversation. Back to Adèle at the bar. Cut to a point of view of Adèle looking at Emma sitting at a table on a mezzanine maybe 10 or 15 meters away from her.
When Emma breaks up with Adèle, I genuinely felt bad for them.
The overuse of close-ups left me completely confused at was what really happening. And I felt willing for long and medium shots to get a better understanding of who’s where on multiple occasions. And the editing doesn’t really help. Again, I’m not saying the editing is bad or anything. Just confusing at times. The story sometimes jumps ahead a few years during a cut. No super, no inter-title, nothing, Just a change in Emma’s hairstyle and a new job for Adèle. Although I like the idea, some of the changes aforesaid are not obvious enough to be an indication of how much time has passed. Towards then end of the film, Adèle and Emma meet in a cafe after some time has passed shown through kids in Adèle’s class leaving for the summer and then coming back for a new year in school. They engage in a difficult discussion and we suddenly learn that 3 years have passed. It completely changes the weight of their encounter. Also, the movie is 3 hours long, and I got to say some of those 180 minutes could’ve been left in the editing room.
With all that said, the film sure has a powerful honesty to it. It is kind of a fun fact, but a couple of days after seeing Blue Is the Warmest Color, I saw a Hollywood romantic comedy which started with a breakup and ends happily. It became clear to me how fake breakups are in Hollywood movies. I never, for one second, believed the characters to be in love with one another. When Emma breaks up with Adèle, I genuinely felt bad for them. Their relationship felt real. Therefore, their breakup felt as well. That’s my praise for the writing and the performances.