La Vie d’Adèle—Chapitres 1 et 2 aka Blue is the Warmest Colour was the hit of this year’s Cannes Film Festival winning top honors and scoring its young stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos the first ever shared acting Palme d’Or. It also stirred up some controversy for its very graphic depiction of lesbian sex and the intensity of the film shoot for its two young actresses. But beyond the stories about the film, it is a beautiful movie exploring first love and longing, that watches a young woman come into her own.
As the film opens, Adèle is a high school student in Lille dealing with boys and sex and all the things high school kids do everywhere. She sleeps with a cute guy only to break up with him because she realizes that she is strangely attracted to a girl with blue hair that she passes in the street. Later she meets the blue haired girl in a gay bar, and the two begin a passionate affair. It is here that the much talked about lesbian sex comes in. There is one very long, very explicit scene, which serves to tell the audience how intense the relationship is for both of the girls. (I’m not sure it had to go on as long as it did, but it is not all that film is about.) Emma of the blue hair is a somewhat older and clearly more worldly art student at École des Beaux-Arts, and she hangs with a very arty set, which confounds Adèle, just as Emma cannot fathom that Adèle would prefer to be a teacher rather than become a writer. Emma plays mentor to Adèle, and Adèle, muse for Emma. The film stays with the two of them for a number of years as they grow together and apart, but it is Adèle’s story and her evolution that drives the story.
While both actresses are wonderful, Adèle Exarchopoulos who plays Adèle is really exceptional. The camera is with her most of the film, and her ability to convey an amazing range of emotions, often as the same time, heralds an actress to watch. Not that Lea Seydoux is a slouch. The film is an incredible character study of a girl that it is hard not to care about. But Blue is the Warmest Colour is obviously not for everyone. It clocks in at just under 3 hours long (179 minutes!) and is rated NC-17 for its very explicit sex scenes. And you have to be willing to read subtitles. I know that seems like a lot to some people, but if you are looking for a film with depth and some great performances, go see it!