Blue is the Warmest Color
The essay included with the Criterion Collection's recent release of "Blue is the Warmest Color," written by B. Ruby Rich, suggests that the film entered into a world "beset by a peculiar amnesia, according to which no director had ever made an art film with sex scenes (particularly not lesbian ones) before." It's an incredibly astute point, one which Rich goes onto illuminate: the sex scenes in this much talked about picture - explicit, yes, and significant in length, yes - commandeered the entire cultural conversation surrounding it, diverting attention away from anything else that occurs within the film's three-hour runtime.
That's a damn shame. Winner of last year's Palme D'or, for the best picture at the Cannes Film Festival, "Blue" is a coming-of-age movie exacting in its precision, most notably when it drifts outside the bedroom. This is no "melodramatic things happened, and then she became a woman instead of a girl" picture. Stars Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulous, as an adventurous art student and her younger, coming-to-terms-with-her-sexuality paramour, are able to inject subtleties and grace notes into a very well-worn story. If you're blinded by the ten-minute sex scene, then you're missing everything that's impressive about the film: the way it dramatizes the passing of time through character development instead of via filmmaking techniques, and the way Seydoux and Exarchopoulous are able to drain all vanity out of their performances (look at those messing eating scenes, and no, that's not a euphanism) throughout the picture, for example. The sex scenes here (much has been made of a heterosexual director filming lesbian sex, for what it's worth, and indeed, there's a questionable fetishization to the way the scenes at-hand are framed and shot) shouldn't be dominating the conversation, it shouldn't even be a footnote - it's the least affecting part of this particularly naturalistic bildungsroman.
Fair warning, however, to fans: this Criterion release of the picture is likely to be followed by yet another Criterion release of the picture. The company's website warns that a "special edition" will be released in the future, and as such, the release detailed here has nary a single extra feature. Kechiche has gone on record saying he'd like to extend the film. Its alternate title - "The Life of Adele, Parts I and II" - even suggests that the film was meant to run in two separate feature-length sections. It may be worth holding out for the coming special edition, then: you can likely expect not just extra features on the future release, but an extra edition of the movie.
However, past all the controversy, and unvarnished by extra features, what director Abdellatif Kechiche and his crew created here - in the three-hour, currently released version - is still clearly nothing less than a human epic.
"Blue is the Warmest Color"