It’s hard to see any movie with completely fresh eyes. Massive marketing campaigns make sure it’s impossible to entirely avoid trailers and puff piece news items about the biggest blockbusters. Then, when something small makes it through the noise, a lack of immediate wide release can make it just as hard to avoid as it slowly gains momentum. It’s almost a year since Blue is the Warmest Colour played at Canne, and it’s been a constant in movie festival coverage, movie review websites, and the general film world conversation as it has rolled out slowly around the globe. So I felt like there wasn’t much I didn’t already know about this movie before watching, and I was right.
One day, high school girl Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) sees Emma (Lea Seydoux) in a park is immediately infatuated. Adele attempts a relationship with the school dreamboat, but realises pretty quickly she’s lying to him and herself if she tries to pretend there’s any future in it. After a very brief, and very unsuccessful attempt at something more with a female fiend, she’s upset, but has learned that she’s into chicks and that’s time to pursue her obsession with Emma, the blue haired girl from the park.
When they finally meet in a gay bar, the older Emma leads the young Adele through her first experiences with real love and adulthood. Blue is the Warmest Colour follows the couple through every aspect of Adele’s first serious relationship and all the things that come with it, good and not so good.
Blue is the Warmest Colour has been a long time coming to wide release and has stirred up a few controversies as it’s played the festival circuit over the last year. First, there was the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Usually given to the director, the jury at the 2013 festival broke with tradition and awarded its top prize to director Abdellatif Kechichi, and the two leading ladies.
But soon after this group recognition, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux started speaking very publically and even more negatively about their experiences with the director, with statements like, “”Most people don’t even dare to ask the things that he did, and they’re more respectful”, and recollections like, “he picked up the little monitor he was viewing it through and threw it into the street, screaming, ‘I can’t work under these conditions!”
There’s also Julie March, author of the source graphic novel, who’s been vocal about Kechichi and his approach to the material, with comments like, “It appears to me that this was what was missing from the set: lesbians”.
And then, the big one, the long, explicit sex scenes. They seem to have somehow received more coverage than the movie itself. And while I don’t think any of this stuff should have any baring on the movie itself as a finished product, the huge amounts of coverage of all of these aspects made it impossible for me to watch the movie without thinking about them the entire time.
I realise the irony of my dedicating several paragraphs to all that stuff, highlighting it further while saying it’s bad that it overshadowed the movie, but that’s my experience with the movie, so that’s the only experience I can write about. And maybe all that behind the scenes coverage made Blue is the Warmest Colour more interesting for me. Because as good as the performances are, the story was a bit of a drag, the same sort of heavy relationship, heartbreak, coming if age stuff I’ve seen over and over and over again. And at close to three hours, that’s a long time to not really say anything new.