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TIFF 2013: ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ finds brilliance in pairing daring emotional honesty with sexual frankness

Blue is the Warmest Colordownload (2)

Written by Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

France, 2013

In director Abdellatif Kechiche’s absorbing Blue is the Warmest Color, Adèle (newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a teenager whose growing pains are amplified by her attraction to women which she rightly sees as something a few of her classmates won’t be able to accept. The atmosphere at school is detrimental to Adele’s exploration of herself, and so it’s more than fortunate that the older, alluring, self-assured, and blue-haired Emma (Léa Seydoux of Inglourious Basterds) walks into her life. What follows from their meeting is an incredibly immersive love story that syncs the truth behind ardent, impulsive lust with the importance of emotional culpability in relationships.

Adèle and Emma’s first interactions segue from innocent, soft brushes with one another to a messy carnality that communicates a frenzied commitment to fuse together and know each other completely. They feed off each other and grow a life with one another that culminates in a relationship that all too fleetingly comes across as fully reciprocal and gloriously grandiose in its displays of affection. Emma is firmly rooted in the art world, presenting her lover on canvas to magnify and parade. Adèle slinks quietly around in her own story, finding it difficult to be open about her sexual identity despite the support of her girlfriend. It is the day to day lives of these women that Kechiche smartly centers in on. Eating, in particular, is fascinatingly filmed as a sloppy affair, with food energetically consumed and with such fervor that it often tumbles out of mouths. Seeing them work, have sex and eat elucidates to us the tiny decisions they make that eventually lead them to massive revelations.

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The strength of the narrative is that their love is anything but neat and packaged with a bow. It thoroughly captures the tumultuousness of Adele’s personal discovery in a precise and poignant way that lingers until the credits roll. While Emma is confident in body and career, Adèle’s story circles around self-acceptance. This comes out while they’re making love during a lengthy scene in which Emma is determined to utterly gratify Adele. Free to take the reigns of her body and every possible longing, Adèle returns Emma’s favors with remarkably uninhibited execution. The graphic sex is exhaustively devoted not just to visualizing pleasure but conveying that both want to make sure that their partner feels entirely taken care of. Female satisfaction is rendered visible here and demanded on screen as something part and parcel of a woman’s interaction with the world. It is demystified and fixated on as attainable. The actresses spectacularly tie the bold lust of the movie directly to emotional contentment and repercussion.

Just as critically expressed is that the sustainability of love is inextricably linked to trust. Doubt and restlessness creep into their lives with realistically gradual actions. Holding the audience’s attention through the rest of the movie is how the couple’s exchanges are as entrancing as they are painful. Although the running time is drawn out and not all scenes are essential, by the conclusion every element of the story feels uniquely underwritten for the better. The final work is coarse and feels akin to a rough draft whose daring impurities could have been scratched out or over-polished in the wrong hands. Blue is the Warmest Color stands as an irresistible cinematic event for its deconstruction of a woman’s desire to know her deepest feelings and translate them through her body. The film dances around the big questions about love and simultaneously leaves one electrified and despondent but unquestionably game for more.

– Lane Scarberry

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5th to 15th, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official site.

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