First love, when it grabs hold and takes over, is a maddening, all-consuming, intoxicating surrender of the senses. Cinema has plumbed all manners of depths to this topic, but perhaps not as emotionally and erotically charged as Abdellatif Kechiche’s long, languorous, explicitly bold love story Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2). Having seized the Palme d’Or in Cannes under Farhadi, Soderbergh and Gray’s noses, the jury under Spielberg’s tutelage have been accused of jumping the bandwagon of France’s political polemics. Kechiche’s film won Cannes during the same week same-sex marriage was legalised in France. Perhaps it’s deliberate, but what unfolds onscreen for an epic three-hour run-time with barely an intermission is enough evidence to show that this is not another coming-of-age movie. The gamut of human emotions on display here is enough to win any award on the planet.
Kechiche’s premise is familiar – a young, unblossomed bud finds an older, more experienced butterfly and embarks on a turbulent yet liberating romance – but his approach on the material is something to behold. Shot in unflinching, observant realism, most scenes that unfold in Blue feel like they’ve been plucked out of real life, the foibles that accompany the protagonist Adèle’s tumultuous awakening is convincing as it is deeply moving. Kechiche’s style is remarkable for holding back no punches, leaving no stone unturned, sugarcoating no feelings, locating his camera in extreme close-ups – tears, snots and all – and shoots every minutiae, every flicker of Adèle and blue-haired bohemian painter Emma’s emotions that often seem an intrusion to a very private affair.
And then there’s the much-ballyhooed lesbian sex – all shot in lucid, confronting detail that makes the shag-a-thon in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution look tame. Whilst doubtlessly brave, these scenes raise some questionable debates about how the actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux’s epic lovemaking is often viewed from the male perspective, and that one can’t fault Seydoux for pulling out her support of the film. She has a point, as these scenes when taken out of context dip into exploitative territory. But then the director has a fine point of argument, too, if anybody ever paid attention to the thesis Kechiche is making. That sex is the ultimate expression of fierce love. That to make love is to bare one’s self into absolute, unaffected intimacy. Viewed from this perspective, those long shared orgasms are totally justified.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche | CAST: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Benjamin Siksou | SCREENPLAY: Abdellatif Kechiche | DISTRIBUTOR: Artificial Eye | RUNNING-TIME: 795 mins | GENRE: Drama/Romance | COUNTRY: France