Adèle Exarchopoulus gives us a master class in acting in Blue Is The Warmest Colour, so it’s only fitting that she appear in every scene. And that’s not an easy feat considering the movie is close to 3 hours long. She displays, with admirable ease, a high standard of acting, and her performance is so effortless that without even trying, I am drawn to her. I am drawn into her life and I feel the way she feels. Without her, this movie would’ve been an entirely different one.
Exarchopoulus plays Adèle, a shy and awkward 17-year old coming to terms with her adulthood and sexuality. Her story is not new, nor is it anything we haven’t seen before in other same-sex stories, but Exarchopoulus immerses herself so fully into her character that her trials and tribulations are exploited with considerable detail. Her degradations are so immediate, so fresh off her facial expressions and body language that she could tell us the whole story without having to utter a single word.
According to Wikipedia, Exarchopoulus’ parents enrolled her in acting classes at the age of nine as a way of getting her to overcome her shyness. I’d say her parents had foresight, because it’d be nigh impossible for a girl of considerable shyness to play the part of Adèle. There is enough sex in this movie to warrant its own income. And it’s all rather explicit. I read that fake genitals were used in the close ups. The scenes are so explicit that I doubt they’d have made a difference. What is the point of using fake genitals when your actresses have already gone so far?
The story is Adèle’s. She’s studying French lit in high school and has dreams of becoming a teacher. Teachers have always inspired her, now she wants to inspire others, she says. Her closest friends are made up of those stock high school girl types, the ones who only think about sex, push you into having sex, demand you share your escapades with them, and then tear your eyeballs out when you refuse, or when you show signs of being gay. There’s a scene that takes place in the school carpark where they accuse Adèle of being a lesbian. The acting is of such a high quality that had I been present in that compound, the result of the argument would’ve been drastically different.
Adèle explores by first dating the hunk of the school. Brad Pitt, the girls compare him to. He’s sweet enough. Funny. Charming. They sleep together. Her face is blank at the end. “Was it not good?”, he asks. “It was great”, she replies. She gets confused. She feels empty. She dumps him.
Some time later she follows her gay friend to a gay bar. She takes a stroll down the road and stumbles into a lesbian bar instead. There she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), the blue-haired, denim-clad sexual magnet who takes a liking to her. They see each other a few times. They have sex. Adèle is swept up in Emma’s thunderstorm — “I feel happiest here with you”. It’s all blissful.
Naturally, bliss doesn’t last long in the movies, and before long Emma is yelling and throwing Adèle’s clothes out of the closet. It’s about this time that Blue Is The Warmest Colour starts to take on traits from other romance films, but it never lets itself go completely. Tunisian-born French director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Exarchopoulus ensure that Adèle’s journey through life remains poignant without becoming repetitive. Her character is always grounded by her emotions, which she wears on her sleeves. We have seen homosexuals in other movies trying to get a grip on life, but never have we seen them struggle so hard to cope with reality. This is one of the all-time great performances.
There has been a lot of bad press circulating Kechiche and his behaviour during the filming of Blue. Both Exarchopoulus and Seydoux have vowed to never work with him again. I can only imagine the heartache they had to endure, smiling and kissing his cheek at Cannes. One of their sex scenes took 10 days to complete. A lot of pressure goes into sex scenes. The atmosphere has to remain light and welcoming. Taste and understanding have to play their part. If Kechiche was such a tyrant during filming, the set must have felt like the Roman bath at Caligula’s palace running on repeat for 10 days. Stanley Kubrick was a tyrant on film sets. He made Shelley Duvall cry herself dry for one of The Shining’s scenes. And yet consider The Shining; it is a masterpiece of horror. Blue Is The Warmest Colour is perhaps too young to be called a masterpiece, but when you sit back and watch it, what does it matter that its director went over schedule by two and a half months?
Best Moment | There is a lot of great stuff in this movie, but the scene involving Emma and Adèle’s heated argument is a sublime piece of filmmaking, backed up by two powerhouse performances. Just observe Exarchopoulus throughout this scene; her every tear, her every twitch and every sniff. Flawless.
Worst Moment | Adèle’s first lesbian kiss. I know its place within the story, but it felt all too easy for me.