Blue is the Warmest Color, Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, Wild Bunch, October 9, 2013 (France)
Screenplay: Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix, based on the french graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color (Le bleu est une couleur chaude) by Julie Maroh
Starring: Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos
It’s simple. Simple as a passing glance and it’s love at first sight. For how endlessly complicated love can be, how conversely succinct too. Although I am admittedly a sucker for any good love story, I am particularly partial to those that stick to the basics. With such a nuanced emotion, why muddy the waters? An excellent template of the less is more aesthetic is the song “Love” by John Lennon (with a title alone that follows the golden rule). Despite or perhaps because of the simplicity of its melody and lyrics, Lennon nails it. A similar approach is employed by the film Blue is the Warmest Color to tell Adèle’s deeply affecting coming of age story. Applying the Lennon lyrics (italicized following) to the film, I see why I am drawn to a narrative that sifts through the intricate, often thorny subject of love in favor of revealing the transparent beauty and simple purity at its core.
Love is real, real is love. Start at the beginning. Like a geometric proof, the beginning is the place to list given statements or subscribed-to facts. Love is real. An example of why we know this is true can be found within the beginnings of life itself. A baby is born into love, or at least hopefully so. For some, by extension, life is also born out of a physical act of love. Illustrations are abundant in the animal world as well lending evidence that love is not merely a human construct seeded in dreamy or hopeful rumination. Love exists. Love is real. Therefore, the possibility of it being ignited from a passing glance follows logic. Boundaries of suppositions cannot be imposed regarding when and where love can appear.
Love is feeling, feeling love. When Adèle wanders past a blue-haired beauty on the street, the attraction is palpable. Their eyes lock, remaining so as each of the women continue on their separate ways. Their heads turn in accord with the electricity of the moment and so as not to allow their eyes to break the magnetic connection. But a moment is nothing if not fleeting and even if it seems capable of holding lifetimes within its clutch, it remains a moment and nothing more, quickly over. But not before its seeds have taken root.
Love is wanting to be loved. Adèle is not unlike any teenager in her want for experience. Such inquisitiveness at that flowering age in life is universal. There comes a time when the world expands, opening eyes and hearts with a ravaging mix of confused and exciting emotions that crash together like polarizing jet streams colliding into a perfect storm. It is no wonder that the first love is often said to be the one you remember the whole life through.
Love is touch, touch is love. Scenes portraying sex in Blue is the Warmest Color are some of the more talked about scenes of the film, but it is important to note that while they are indeed raw they are not unnatural. The physicality is eye-opening but not gratuitous. These scenes are necessary in that they grant access to intimacy and experience in an immediate and powerful way similar to how a completely different type of intimacy also lends insight into the physical senses of touch and taste as we watch Adèle swallowing an oyster for the first time or lapping up a particularly delicious plate full of spaghetti.
Love is reaching, reaching love. The aforementioned passing glance of glances on the street between Adèle and Emma later becomes a first conversation, awkward and yet titillating with an ever-intensifying attraction cementing.
Love is asking to be loved. In witnessing love’s beginnings in this film, we are privy to moments often reserved for backstory. But without seeing the entire trajectory, Adèle’s plight in particular would not be adequately or so richly developed.
Love is you. You and me. To feel the full weight of Adèle and Emma’s connection, it is indeed important to witness the entire arc of how it came to be. This would not be possible if we did not see the confusion that results from Adèle’s previous sexual encounter as she goes through the motions of what she believes she is supposed to be doing only to then feel lost in the wake of not feeling more. We would not understand the significance or sudden click when Adèle’s world opens up before her as she experiences emotions that were previously and confoundingly absent.
Love is knowing we can be. Adèle’s happiness does not come before she experiences shock and fear at school as she is labelled a lesbian by a cruel, ignorant classmate. We understand the magnitude of Adèle’s hurt and confusion because we see her as she is: a young woman who at this point in her life has no real grasp of her own identity (sexual or beyond) or what life and love are all about. It is exhilarating to watch Adèle’s awakening, not only to her own emotions but also to possibilities that previously did not exist within her world.
Love is free, free is love. Rich or poor or in between, love is accessible to all. In these days that feature constant reminders and symptoms regarding the dilemma of a rapidly vanishing middle class, such a sentiment is reassuring. The universe draws Adèle and Emma together in a bond of love, free from obstacles that exist elsewhere due to gender, economic or racial divides, or even geographical influences. Love remains above the fray.
Love is living, living love. Watching Adèle and Emma settle into an initial routine of domestic bliss is joyful. To see two people in love living in their day to day and to observe the transformation of Adèle’s innocence into experience is immensely satisfying. Adèle and Emma are two people who are incredibly likable and so we want to see them together as much as they themselves want to be together.
Love is needing to be loved. Lennon concludes his simple yet profound little ditty with six words that are the nucleus of it all. We all need to be loved. Separated by choice or religion or any of life’s meddling influences, within the core of the heart is a need to be loved. If it implies a fragility it is because love and life are just that, impossibly fragile, requiring constant nourishment to survive.
Blue is the Warmest Color is a love story that will stick with me for a long time thanks to its simple yet deeply moving story, it’s whimsical, improvisational yet serious approach, and because of two downright masterful performances by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux that bring Adèle and Emma so lovingly to life.
Emma (Léa Seydoux): But I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. All my life long.