Thursday, 28 November 2013

Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013, Abdellatif Kechiche)

This year's Palme D'or winner is remarkably compelling given its seemingly simple agenda and 3hr running time. This sustainability is perhaps gained thanks to the enigma at its centre; the character of Adèle, who in her transition to womanhood loses herself in a labyrinth of longing and misplaced passion.  

Blue Is The Warmest Color may have garnered a reputation as the brazen lesbian Cannes prize winner but there's nothing aggressively controversial in its depiction of a physical relationship between two women. One might expect shock tactics or a fleeting sense of a tapped-in zeitgeist but this is a tender and intensified look at relationships and a particular individual to match Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films and Bergman's Summer With Monika.

The sexually confused 17 year old Adèle is played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, an actress whose natural features bring out the character's childlike naivety; her wide eyes and often relaxed mouth reminds of a young person a drift in their thoughts, a dreamer, perhaps with an id not yet tainted by ego. Her meeting with Emma, played by the increasingly impressive Léa Seydoux, is brought on by an instant infatuation with the blue haired lesbian as Adèle pursues and whose attention is quickly requited.

The two form an instant bond that flowers into a relationship, Emma in the driving seat as the younger less experienced Adèle follows suite. Seydoux brings an intimidating cool to her role and a feeling of danger that proves to be a red herring of sorts as the blue haired sexual leader falls victim to her lover's internal confusion. 

Adèle in a state of arrested development - her want to be a primary school teacher more of a desire to stay close to a youth no longer belonging to her than advancing into adulthood. She is also incredibly opaque and in the end gauging how much her time with Emma meant to her and what it stood for is a mystery. Heartbreak is apparent but just as Emma convinces Adèle that she does in fact like shellfish it's hard to shake the feeling that her experience in lesbianism was more of an experiment than either had realised. Something she had to try. The two women's subsequent meeting after their breakup also tells of a relationship built more on the psychical and an idealism from the younger and aimed at the older. 

Adèle is an un-fillable void, an example of an individual (literature and film mostly paint these female) who knows what they don't want but not entirely what they do want or need. We all know, or have known, someone like this in our lives and these people drift through life aimlessly thinking the next experience will fulfil them and so often forget that their quest leaves behind it large waves in which others are hurt. In a scene involving a garden party, Emma and/or Adèle have chosen to project Pandora's Box which of course starred Louise Brooks as female sexuality unleashed, or rather running amok and the inherent dangers of this. A fitting textural background.

Abdellatif Kechiche chooses to frame his subjects throughout, capturing only the head and sometimes shoulders. A fairly consistent approach of direction that brings an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia to the unfolding 179 minutes; containing the confusion and angst of Adèle's emotions tightly within the frame, keeping her imprisoned by her own ambivalence and at times others' ignorance. 

Like a philosophy class featured early on in the film that pondered either the negative or reinforcing nature of regret, did Adèle's meeting and subsequent relationship with Emma enlighten her to what she gained or only further highlighted what she lacks? The answer is most likely the latter but while the audience may come out knowing a little more about this troubled soul, Kechiche's lingering final shot of Adèle asks more importantly, what has she learned of herself through this ordeal? 

Superbly acted and expertly paced, Blue Is The Warmest Color fully warrants its sizeable length and draws us in to the world of a yet unknowable female force, making for a captivating decent not only into female sexuality but of a lost sexuality and the wrath of its wake.

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