As soon as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color
premiered in Cannes last May, frenzied discussion engulfed the film. Whether people found it exhilarating or exploitative, it seemed no one could shut up about this three-hour French saga about first love between two young women. The seven-minute sex scene monopolized much of the conversation, with a video montage that captures the responses of real lesbians eventually going viral. But for all the hooting—laudatory or incensed—it has unleashed, Blue Is the Warmest Color
isn’t strident or demagogic. Instead, the film spends its 179 minutes slowly wringing you out like an old rag, until you’re finally tossed roughly over the line, depleted, devastated and stunned at what has just transpired. The film charts the evolution of the relationship between Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos, whose astounding performance will knock the wind out of you), and Emma (Léa Seydoux), who is a few years older. From the initial moment the two lock eyes, their connection is as electric as the shock of blue through Emma’s hair. Sometimes that connection plays out explosively, as in the aforementioned sex scene, but there are far more scenes devoted to quotidian routines and banal conversation. Minutes after exiting the theater, you’re unlikely to recall much of what Adèle and Emma talked about. But you’ll remember the frantically searching expressions on Exarchopoulos’ face, the looks of cool composure on Seydoux’s, the unrelenting urgency and desperation that infuse their exchanges. As much as response to Blue Is the Warmest Color
has focused on the depictions of lesbian sex, the characters’ sexual orientation isn’t the crux of the film. It’s more than incidental, but this isn’t a gay-rights drama. It’s an epic tale of love between two people who just happen to be women, and that’s hopefully what will allow it to endure.