The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Blue is the Warmest Colour – so much more than just the sex

with 15 comments

blue is the warmest colour

So finally it arrived to Sweden, the talked-about-movie from Cannes: Blue is the Warmest Colour.

The question was if I was going to see it at all. I’ve written before about how much I hate long sex scenes, and this was exactly what this film was going to contain. If you’d believe how the talk about it went, it would be as good as a porn movie in the amount of sex it presented. And from the initial praise it had received, it had gone into a backlash. The actors seemed unhappy about it and there were also voices raised about the way that the lesbian sex was displayed: in a way that wasn’t realistic and through a lens coloured by a “male gaze”, if I understood the criticism correctly. Another illustration of male fantasies. Did I really need that? Besides it clocked about three hours, which seemed a lot. But after some inner debate I gave in and decided to give it a chance. After all: I wanted to check out what the buzz was about. Keep up with the debate, see what the celebrities in Cannes saw, even though I admittedly was very late to the show.

And I didn’t regret my decision a bit. No, I haven’t changed my mind about sex scenes in movies at all. I can see why there needs to be sex scenes in this film, since the physical attraction between the two women is what keeps them together for several years, despite the difficulties they have because of their different social backgrounds. Even after they’ve separated, the attraction is still there. It’s reasonable that we see a bit of that, but if you ask me, the scenes are overly long. The movie wouldn’t lose anything if you made them shorter. But I suppose they’re good for the ticket sales. It would have been a lot harder to sell a three hour long foreign movie with subtitles about the ups and downs in the life of a lesbian couple if there was no sex in it.

Natural performance
I tell you, this film is so much more than just the sex. It contains two of the best acting performances I’ve seen this year and I wouldn’t hold one over the other. They both have that kind of performance that doesn’t feel like a performance at all, but as if they’re playing themselves. It’s as if you’re watching a documentary and it’s hard to imagine that there exists such a thing as a written script with a dialogue that has been set on beforehand. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was improvised – and in such a good way!

What I also loved about the movie is that while it is a film about the love relationship between two women, it’s not primarily a movie about lesbian love, but rather a movie about two people in love, who happen to have the same sex, which makes the film much more universal than it otherwise would have been. Naturally there are a few issues that are special for a same-sex couple that comes up, like the harassment that the younger woman Adèle is exposed to at school and how difficult it is for her to come out to her parents. But those are minor side stories compared to the major conflict in the film, which is about class, heritage, what you get from your parents and how you gravitate towards people who are like you and are alienated by “the others”.

The three hours passed ever so quickly – well apart from the sex scenes then, which I just waited out – and when the movie ended, I was reluctant to part from Emma and Adèle. I wanted to know how life would turn out to them in the years to come. It’s unlikely that it will ever happen, considering what a negative experience the recording seems to have been, but if Abdellatif Kechiche decided to make a “Before” series out of this, returning to the same characters in ten years, I would definitely be there to see it.

Blue is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adèle, Abdellatif Kechiche, FR 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

15 Responses

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  1. Great write-up, Jessica. Very curious about this one.


    January 9, 2014 at 1:27 am

    • Thanks! If you get across it, watch it! Don’t let the three hour run time intimidate you. It doesn’t feel that long at all.


      January 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm

  2. Have to agree with you about the sex scenes, I did not feel they added much to the movie and there were way too many of them. Apart from that it is a great movie though.


    January 9, 2014 at 7:19 am

  3. Interesting write up Jessica. Really interested to check this one out as I know it’s caused a bit of a stir. Just need to find a spare 3 hours to put to one side first.

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    January 9, 2014 at 9:52 am

    • Thank you! I hope you can find the time because it’s definitely worth it. A very good movie, putting many aother performances at shame.


      January 9, 2014 at 11:31 pm

  4. Good review.

    I loved this film, mainly for the refreshing fearless performances by the 2 actresses, with Exarchopoulos giving the best performance I’ve seen this year.

    The main sex scene is too long & I put that down to the overindulgence by the director. This film would not have lost anything by reducing some of the scenes. There are some scenes which for me raise the issue of the male gaze, many shots of bottoms, bottoms getting slapped & a shower scene, all a bit unnecessary.

    The film has it’s flaws but the acting was fantastic & fully understand why Exarchopoulos & Seydoux were also awarded the Palme d ‘Or with the director at Cannes.


    January 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

    • Thank you! I agree with everything you say. The acting is fantastic. Exarchopoulos has gotten most praise, but I thought they were equally good both of them.


      January 9, 2014 at 11:32 pm

  5. […] A 2013 film I have seriously been dragging my heels to finally tackle is BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR. With that in mind, I believe I might just have to finally get to it after reading Jessica’s tender review. […]

  6. Excellent review Jessica. I’m really looking forward to this one. Winning at Cannes always sparks my interest. And I’ll be sure not to watch this with my mum! 😉

    Mark Walker

    January 11, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    • Thank you! See it on your own is my recommendation.


      January 12, 2014 at 9:46 am

  7. Excellent review.
    Unfortunately, I found it very disappointing. I couldn’t connect with any of it. For a three hour running time, I was surprised by how underdeveloped their relationship was.
    Exarchopoulos & Seydoux were both excellent though.

    Lights Camera Reaction

    January 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    • Thanks! Yes, sometimes this happens, unfortunately, that you just don’t connect. I can’t pinpoint why I did, but I really liked the way that we got to see their relation get sour over the years and felt invested and close enough. I cared about both of them. It was just the sex I didn’t care for.


      January 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

  8. […] Blue is the Warmest Color This movie quickly got a reputation for its sexual content. But far more interesting than the sex scenes is to see how the relationship evolves and what a struggle it can be to overcome class differences. […]

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