Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:01 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I was a bit surprised by the first shots of Blue is the Warmest Color. I’d been anticipating a movie set in Paris; this film was obviously taking place in a more provincial spot (Lille, I’m told). And that turned out to be a major factor: Blue’s story doesn’t unfold in the France to which so many movies have accustomed us – the France of Cousin Cousine (which my girlfriend as the time called “the French-est movie I’ve ever seen”), that place of exotic couplings and casual infidelities, treated with blissful tolerance by all. Blue takes place in a very different universe: where infidelities wound deeply, and attitudes toward the film’s central relationship vary significantly – even between the two women involved -- based on upbringing, class and cultural context. .


Yes, there are two "Frances": Paris, and the rest, which is completely different. Actually French provincial life has been the subject of many famous novels (Madame Bovary being probably the most celebrated), movies, paintings even. It's possible that Paris is, abroad and especially in the US, the place one immediately associates with the country itself, but as the French know well, the "real" France, with its good sides but also its most, let's say, strict aspects, is very different. And very interesting, too.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:53 pm

I was a bit surprised by the first shots of Blue is the Warmest Color. I’d been anticipating a movie set in Paris; this film was obviously taking place in a more provincial spot (Lille, I’m told). And that turned out to be a major factor: Blue’s story doesn’t unfold in the France to which so many movies have accustomed us – the France of Cousin Cousine (which my girlfriend as the time called “the French-est movie I’ve ever seen”), that place of exotic couplings and casual infidelities, treated with blissful tolerance by all. Blue takes place in a very different universe: where infidelities wound deeply, and attitudes toward the film’s central relationship vary significantly – even between the two women involved -- based on upbringing, class and cultural context.

Let’s say something at the start: though the up-and-down of the love affair is the largest focus of the film‘s narrative, calling this a film about a lesbian relationship sells it short. I think the French title, La Vie d’Adele, gives a better notion of the overall scope. This is a film about a singular young woman, how she moves through a formative period of her life (it appears, roughly, the years from 17 through 22), finding out who she is and what she wants (sometimes matched with what she craves, sometimes not), and discovering over that time what things will remain elusive for her.

There’s a repeated motif in the film: Adele walking away from a place she can’t bear to be anymore, ignoring anyone who calls out to her. Each of these moments find Adele in a heightened emotional state – upset at being thrown over by the girl at school who kissed her; stalking in confusion out of the male gay bar; following Emma in pure infatuation, while her schoolmates shout after her; and, in the closing moments, fleeing the art gallery where she feels out of place. Adele’s alienation from so many different scenes strikes me as one of the film’s chief subjects. She stakes out her independent territory early on: letting the would-be boyfriend know she doesn’t need a teacher explaining to her what she’s supposed to feel about a piece of literature; she trusts her own intense feelings. Yet she’s held from behind by elements of provincialism – it’s unclear if she ever lets her parents know what’s going on between her and Emma, but she certainly keeps it secret a long time; she also obviously doesn’t discuss it with her eventual co-workers, to the point the guys chase after her. At the same time, she’s not really suited to life among the literati (Emma’s friends) either -- maybe because many of them are the sort who DO let a teacher/guru tell them what to think. She’s cordial enough with them, but they (except for the actor who’s also not long for the arts world) frequently seem to be judging her…judging her for what she isn’t (a creative artist). The lack of such a skill makes them see her as frivolous – even though, from what we can, Adele might be as good as (or better) at teaching as Emma is at her art. Adele’s lack of (from that world’s point of view) the right kind of ambition in the end costs her Emma (Emma uses the infidelity as an excuse to end the romance, but it’s hard not to imagine she’d already initiated the new, easier relationship, even if it wasn’t consummated by then). Adele’s issue over the course of the film is that she’s, in many ways, an ordinary young woman whose independence of thought and carnal longings push her into a world to which she’s no more suited than to her backward hometown.

I’m not sure what this says about me, but a number of films recently touted as sexually-charged have, for me, fallen short of what the hot-hot buzz promised. Yeah, there are sex scenes in the film…but whoever spread that initial rumor about one lasting a sizzling 20 minutes either lost his watch or was hypnotized. Three-four minutes, tops, is about as long as the first/most-celebrated one felt. I can, however, understand why some are taken aback by these scenes: they’re far more carnal than we usually see. Even some of the “bolder” sex scenes in normal films are lushly romantic, full of cross-fades and swelling music. Here, it’s a lot more about where fingers and tongues go – which is to say, about sex as most humans actually experience it. I’d argue this down-in-the-trenches approach works for this film because, if Adele is being shaken out of a bourgeois upbringing, we need to see what it is that’s got such force to do the job. However, reticent Adele may be in public, in the privacy of the bedroom it’s clear what’s driving her on. (So much so that, in the startling scene near the end, her craving for Emma brings her close to public sex – a real leap of faith for her. This seems to astonish even Emma…who wants it just as badly, but has seemingly made her decision to settle into something tamer but more stable)

When watching Exarchopoulos, it’s hard not to think of another Adele – Adjani’s Adele H, who nearly 40 years ago emerged with a similarly beautiful young face and carried a French movie. Exarchopoulos, despite her age, seems a more evolved actress than Adjani was at the time – I always felt Truffaut was doing a lot of the lifting back then; here, I think Exarchopoulos shows an impressive range. As far as her look…I suppose it’s a valid criticism of the film that Kekiche makes it easier for heterosexual audiences by casting not a stereotypical lesbian, but a ripe young feminine beauty to whom many (esp. men) will respond. All I can say is, I was blissfully happy just to look at her, and her lower lip is to die for.

If I haven’t conveyed it: I think this is a pretty wonderful film.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:40 pm

Sabin wrote: No words though, which seems an abrupt departure for these characters.


Well, I mean... on this side of the Atlantic we don't talk too much during this kind of activities I guess...

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:30 am

Italiano wrote
But they ARE hungry in the rest of the movie too - hungry (and very realistically so) for food, for example, but hungry for emotions too, in the way most young people are. So why not for sex? Why should sex be treated differently? Why should it do "more for the characters"? Oh, according to the conventional American school of screenwriting it should, I know - but then American movies never show us sex anyway, real, believable sex I mean (unless one is handicapped or a prostitute or both), so I'm not sure that their rules should be applied here. And real life, thank God, doesnt really work like a well-made American screenplay - you know, first act, second act, etc.

There are two things here that are worth discussing. The first is a point I didn't find time for but it's something that Kechiche does that I really liked about the film. I have no idea what lens he was using but as this was a three hour film of close-ups, it is also a three hour film of mouths, speaking, consuming food, and doing both. And of course in the case of Adele and Emma, pleasing themselves and each other sexually. No words though, which seems an abrupt departure for these characters. No doubt Kechiche is trying to say something about them, but it's not that the sex doesn't build their characters as I assume you mean by the American screenwriting comment, but I can't imagine wishing that this three hour movie was a little bit longer leading up to the sex conforms to the point you're making. Likewise, I just don't like how he directed the scene and shot it. Again, the idea of this is fine. Maybe great. I just don't like how it was done.

There’s a nice definition of the difference between Erotica and Pornography. Erotica is about sex between people. Pornography is about sex between genitalias. I’d say that technically speaking as well as in spirit, these scenes are hardly pornographic.

Replace the word "genitalia" with "erogenous zones" and I think the definition works for me. After all, don't the foot fetishists deserve pornography of their own? The furies? Warm, comforting hands moving slowly across a bunny costume? :)

But not, they are not pornographic. They're absolutely "porny" though. Which a film arrests its mise-en-scene in a 80-to-zero fashion because two ladies are scissoring, in no way, shape or form is that pornographic. But it's porny.
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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:15 am

Not pornographic at all then.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Uri » Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:06 am

ITALIANO wrote:I don't know if these scenes are pornographic,


There’s a nice definition of the difference between Erotica and Pornography. Erotica is about sex between people. Pornography is about sex between genitalias. I’d say that technically speaking as well as in spirit, these scenes are hardly pornographic.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:34 am

Sabin wrote: No longer are we watching Adele and Emma, but two hungry creatures of sexual performance.



But they ARE hungry in the rest of the movie too - hungry (and very realistically so) for food, for example, but hungry for emotions too, in the way most young people are. So why not for sex? Why should sex be treated differently? Why should it do "more for the characters"? Oh, according to the conventional American school of screenwriting it should, I know - but then American movies never show us sex anyway, real, believable sex I mean (unless one is handicapped or a prostitute or both), so I'm not sure that their rules should be applied here. And real life, thank God, doesnt really work like a well-made American screenplay - you know, first act, second act, etc.

Sex, especially, doesn't. It often, especially I'd say at a certain age, doesn't have much to do with obvious psychology or character development. It's just hunger, and this is what this movie is (also) about. And whats wrong with "eroticism" per se? Or even with porn? I don't know if these scenes are pornographic, because I dont watch porn so I can't compare (and I don't watch it, I must point it out, not for moral reasons, but because, much more simply, it doesn't turn me on). But even if we classify them as "porn", I dont care, I just know that that's the way it happens in real life, and that they feel right for the characters, and that's enough for me. Especially when you read American reviews of this movie, you feel that they are unprepared, unconfortable with these parts of the movie, so they desperately try to either justify them, or to dismiss them, or to classify them. And I think they dramatically miss the point of the movie (do they also feel guilty because they get aroused by these scenes? It's possible).

But for example the day after watching this movie I saw the much-praised Before Midnight. Not a terrible movie, of course. A reasonably intelligent one, even. But so - how shall I put it - much less believable. And we get lots of talk and jokes about sex (interestingly, mostly about oral sex - but of course this is an American movie). And it's all so light, and pleasant - and safe. Is this the kind of cinema we want?

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Uri » Mon Dec 02, 2013 5:29 am

The public dispute regarding the title of this film, whether it should be called The Life of Adele or Blue is the Warmest Color can offer us a key for reading it. If the narrative of this film is about the relationship between these two people, Adele and Emma, then the former name defines Adele’s take on it – Emma was her life. For Emma, Adele was her blue period (it’s no coincidence Picasso was featured heavily in the first conversation these two had). It may have been the warmest, most passionate time of her life, but being an artist, she has the ability to compartmentalize Adele as a muse of a particular, time framed artistic phase and move on. And this is really what I find to be the real fascinating and exciting aspect of BitWC, and it’s the way it examines, through both its content and form, this tension between life and art, and in particular, the tension between being a “real” woman and, by definition, by being a woman depicted in a work of art, being an objet d’art, being the subject of an outsider’s, male (or what is depicted culturally as male like) gaze. And by doing so, it’s also a (rare) attempt at turning the object, Adele, into a subject.

Viewing the female psyche the female body have always been a fundamental element in western Art – first one paints a vase with flowers, then a naked woman. And from practically the first frame, BitWC is filled with examples of artistic depictions of the female subject, from the book that is being discussed by Adele’s class through lingering shots of various female nudes showed in the museum Emma and Adele are visiting to the finale in the Art gallery. The traditional, (or classical if you want) heritage of this artistic study of what is the essence of being female, which is predominantly male, is being confronted but also validated by having the Artist/Muse dynamics being manifested by two women and by the way they are both assimilating traditional gender (as well as social – class and background are very much evident too) roles and being looked at by others (it’s a very clear butch/femme coupling). And the “porno” stuff here should be evaluated through this perspective. Shouldn't a true, sincere study, not of women but the way women are looked at, can be complete without a frank depiction of the way female sexuality, again, not “is” but is artistically depicted, or dramatized, or stylized or rather fantasized/objectified.

And coming back to all the seemingly non relevant stuff and gossip about feuds surrounding BitWC, the publicized reports about frictions between Kechiche and his leading ladies can be a kind of extrapolation of the theme of the film. By dismissing Exarchopoulos’ professionalism as an actress, whether it’s true or not, he again raises the question of who’s the “owner” of the performance we see on screen, who’s there in the film, the book the painting – is it the woman we think we see up there or is it just a fragment of the artist’s imagination and does the object could have, should it have, a voice of its own. Does Adele really have a life of her own or is she just a brush of (blue) color.

ps Welcome back, Sabin.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:12 pm

You're back!

Wanna see pictures of my new kid? :)
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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:19 pm

A thought popped into my head two hours into Blue is the Warmest Color. I was reminded in two very specific ways to Brokeback Mountain. Don’t bail on this notion yet! Firstly, I was reminded of how Ang Lee’s then-overrated/now-immortalized love story excelled so much more as a portrait of yearning, alienation, lust, and obsessive love, and a very short-lived dialogue about what to make of this alleged progressive watershed film and its eternally miserable characters? And I was also reminded of how both Brokeback Mountain and Blue is the Warmest Color were very difficult to put in boxes. One of the gayest aspects of the gay cowboy movie was how it conformed (aspired?) to melodrama, that the structural thing that perhaps made it less gay might actually be the gayest thing about it. It’s queer emotional palette.

Aside from discussions of the workplace Abdellatif Kechiche directed (that guy really needs a gag order), that seems to be the point of discussion that I am most interested in, which is to say this three-hour lesbian epic co-existing with these male gaze sex scenes. Perhaps male gaze is simplistic, but they have a transformative power to be sure. But into what? They are shot differently than anything else in the film, divorced from POV and character psychology. No longer are we watching Adele and Emma, but two hungry creatures of sexual performance. Honestly, I look at what works so well about the preceding hour of first person singular desire, and I’m not sure if Abdellatif Kechiche knows how to make a film that eventually traipses into a mutual meeting of the minds where one person absorbs another and they exist together. That kind of thing. What am I saying: the sex scenes are erotic because of what we are seeing and not what they mean, and that is male, hetero-normative, and if not porn then at least “porny”.

Let’s look at Brokeback Mountain again (at this point, I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m comparing these two because they are both gay mainstream watershed films): when Ennis and Jack first have sex, it is sex that stems from circumstance and psychology. They are sleeping, it is cold, it is subconscious instinct, they awaken, they are still grabbed this force, they commence without apology or at times understanding. Obviously, I’m not the right audience to judge if that scene is erotic, but there is a charge to it that deepens the character. The sex scenes in Blue is the Warmest Color are certainly very erotic, but I’m not sure they do much for the characters because the movie Kechiche is making feels uncertain when it moves beyond Adele’s first-person singular experience. Adele and Emma’s life together consists of meeting with the parents, a reasonably clichéd scene of Adele learning to eat shellfish, more sex, posing for a painting, and we’ve jumped ahead presumably years. Now their relationship is on the decline. The film finds stronger standing again when Adele is alone. Let me risk putting myself in a hetero-normative box again by citing another “mainstream watershed gay film” (not parentheses), Mulholland Drive, and how that masterpiece just ditched the middle portion altogether. All that boring “We’re together!” stuff. Watch Blue is the Warmest Color and tell me Kechiche isn’t bored by it too.

This is the year that my ability to evaluate films has failed me. This above sounds negative, right? Or at least that I am discussing all the ways in which this movie doesn’t work. Indeed had Abdellatif Kechiche simply made in lieu of a years-spanning three hour Blue is the Warmest Color, simply a feature-length version of Part 1 of Julie Maroh’s comic book, a self-contained feature about finding that person, it might be the triumphant whole that its parts often feel. Parts 1 & 2 together feel like Blue is the Warmest Color: The Rise and Fall of Two Predestined to Fail Lesbian Archetypes. And archetypes they are; this is no meeting of the minds, but rather meeting of the “things characters say who are written to be intellectuals”. Watching Frances Ha again, I found a little of the same thing, but it’s knowing and played for comedy. The emotions are real though, and one of the reasons why the film is often so successful is because Léa Seydoux is playing her archetype for camp while Adele Exarchopoulos at times does not appear to be acting. The collision between their faces not engulfing each other is often more engrossing than when they are because of the confident, fun behind Seydoux’s approach and how Exarchopoulos appears to be experiencing everything for the first time. She might not be a first-time performer but she sure feels like one. I say that in the best way. It’s the best acting I’ve seen this year and your heart breaks for her even though the film doesn’t always deserve it.

So, I’ve paid my $16 to see it (aaah!), I’ve formed my thoughts, what box do I leave this flawed film? Not simply a flawed film, but a film that all-but screams out for a different trajectory altogether. It must be seen. Kechiche’s movie is no sacred cow. It doesn’t entirely work, but what does is masterful. I object to sex scenes between these two characters without psychology, but not necessarily the content of them. If real lesbians don't have sex like this, then these two characters do. I object to character etchings that feel a bit simplistic, but not the emotions behind it. It stretches into narrative territories it is not prepared to venture, like lives, and I wish more films were guilty of the same sins.
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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:06 pm

This may sound like an extremely pedestrian thing to start with when praising a movie, but my immediate reaction once Blue is the Warmest Color ended was that I couldn't believe I had just sat through a three hour movie, it all seemed to move so quickly. In fact, I remember looking at my watch at what I assumed was the one-hour mark, only to find that over two hours had already passed. I'd admittedly found the prospect of a three-hour sit daunting (one reason why the task of submitting myself to another Hobbit movie in a few weeks feels overwhelming), but I found the material very engrossing from beginning to end, and so on that very basic level, I have to tip my hat to a movie that managed to fit in so much without wearing out its welcome.

What's really surprising about this was that the movie managed to do this almost in spite of an overall plot that I found somewhat generic. I have to say I was a bit surprised at some of the lack of story invention in such a wildly acclaimed movie. A number of the scenes in the early portion of the film track our protagonist dipping her toes into the gay world in a manner that didn't feel entirely unfamiliar from any number of gay dramas. And by the second chunk of the movie, once the fighting really starts, I thought to myself, wow, I've been watching THIS relationship break down in movies for years.

What I did very much like about the writing, though, and what I think really elevates the movie beyond a certain structural timidity, were the scene-to-scene specifics, which allow the film to touch on a whole slew of rich ideas. I LOVED the scene when Adele is talking to her friend about literature, and he explains that he needs to analyze great books in order to get the most out of them, while Adele argues that such analysis constricts her imagination. (I could easily imagine two viewers having the same conversation about this movie, with one person eager to unpack the film intellectually, and another just wanting to experience it on an emotional level.) I thought the contrast between the two dinner scenes with each girl bringing the other home to her family was sharp and insightful, and illustrated pretty wonderfully how each girl's family life affected who she is today. And I thought a lot of the small details in the central relationship were beautifully realized -- the restaurant bit when Adele asks to stick Emma's hand in her mouth seems bizarre when you think about it, but seemed to be a perfect encapsulation of what their relationship had been through and where it was at that point.

I guess a discussion of this movie should talk about the big sex scene, but I'm not sure I really have much to say about that. It's certainly very frank -- no one was kidding when they described it as graphic -- but it felt completely connected to the storyline. At that point in Adele's sexual awakening, the character is so eager to just rip the Band-Aid off, it feels absolutely earned to show this moment in all of its passionate intensity. I certainly didn't find it gratuitous, or for shock value.

I found both actresses to be pretty wonderful. I love the way Exarchopoulos's entire demeanor seems to shift over the course of the movie -- the shy, bookish high school student from the earlier half of the film grows into a much more confident young woman with a clearer idea of what she wants from some areas of life in the second, and yet the actress never lets the self-doubts and romantic confusion of the earlier portion completely disappear. It's a performance full of emotion as well as intelligence, and the actress gets one wonderful close-up after another to chart her character's growth. Seydoux has less of an obvious arc, but she's a great spitfire personality near the top of the movie -- the kind of cool chick who's completely repellent to some, but who would easily attract the affections of a girl like Adele -- and a well of angry emotion in the second half. (As I said, I didn't think the big fight scene was the most original moment in the movie, but it was superbly acted.)

Definitely recommended. I'm not as wildly enthusiastic as the Cannes jury was, but this is yet another one of the movies that has made this fall a pretty consistently rewarding time at the theater.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Greg » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:59 pm

Here's a problem I have with the title Blue Is The Warmest Color. I think of red as being the warmest color and blue as being the coolest color. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know if this is addressed in it or not.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Nov 01, 2013 4:54 pm

Greg wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:
How can one agree - or disagree - with banal statements, my dear Greg? They are just there to be remembered and repeated by banal people, I'm afraid.


Sort of like, I'm afraid, of how the substance of questions are ignored and replaced with snide comments from snide people, my dear Italiano.


So why do you keep asking - banal - questions, my dear Greg?

Anyway, I guess I am free to find certain themes more interesting than others.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby Greg » Fri Nov 01, 2013 4:44 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
How can one agree - or disagree - with banal statements, my dear Greg? They are just there to be remembered and repeated by banal people, I'm afraid.


Sort of like, I'm afraid, of how the substance of questions are ignored and replaced with snide comments from snide people, my dear Italiano.

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Re: Blue Is the Warmest Color reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:06 pm

Greg wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:Gravity is a movie about people lost in space; this is a movie about people lost in everyday life and emotions, like most of us, which makes it infinitely more interesting for me. . .


So, I take it you disagree with this quote by Roger Ebert, “It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.”



How can one agree - or disagree - with banal statements, my dear Greg? They are just there to be remembered and repeated by banal people, I'm afraid.


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