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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Movie Review: Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

Like the warm color that filters out of undefined sky, blue is a soothing color. Yet blue in reality is a cool color, the kind that makes you shiver so slightly when its intensity is mixed with ice.  That personifies the character of Emma, played by French actress Lea Seydoux, the seduction magnet who allures Adele from the safe world of high school in “Blue is the Warmest Color.”   Based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, the movie follows a confused school girl named Adele, who has bee-stung lips and reckless hair and becomes the orifice of social testing grounds of love, lesbianism, and sexual definition.  Director Abdellatif Kechiche took on adult subject matter and implanted it into a 15-year-old teenager who has no moral compass but does have sexual urges that determine her direction into the world of who wanted her vs. what she would have.  Adele, played by Adele Exachopoulos, is subtle in her expression and wise beyond her years.  Her resistance to her character and frigidness to the world in the beginning scenes open the door to layers of emotional conditioning.
One cannot speculate about whether Kechiche is unraveling the confusion of an adolescent or exposing experimental sex as a socially acceptable art form.  Some scenes work, others don’t.  The movie starts out with Adele’s lunch mates rating male students in the cafeteria.  They determine that Thomas, a hottie one year above her, is hooked on her.  A few weeks later, Thomas and Adele go on a date.  By the second date, they are in bed. She enjoys sex but not to the point where she craves him again.  Her confusion is accentuated by her passing a blue-haired girl in the street on her way to meet Thomas.  She has a fantasy about it at night.
Adele and Thomas end their short-lived tryst and she moves on to another classmate, locking lips with the new girl.  The other girl is caught in the moment and tells Adele the next day it was nothing, sending the lead female into a tailspin.  She is emotionally unspun at this point and goes tearing into the night with her male best friend Antoine, a gay classmate played by Benjamin Siksou.  He is a real asset to the movie, an anchor to Adele and a person who can always draw out what she is feeling.  Adele’s other friends are less forgiving.  Alma Jodorowsky, who plays Beatrice, is French film dynasty, the daughter of a director.  Her lunch room antics cast doubt on every high school girl’s purity, including the premonition they have slept with everyone they look lustfully at.  Beatrice accuses Adele of sleeping with Thomas before she does and of going down on a woman before it happens, and openly calls her trash when she doesn’t get the answer she wants.  There is also a scene where homosexuality and lesbianism are shamed by the high school group.  Beatrice is perhaps sexually frustrated herself, leading her to want to know everything about everyone before they can get into a position of confessing.
The movie is interspersed with philosophical and literary dialogue reserved for only the finest minds of French salons derived from the Enlightenment period.   Adele must explore topics of tragedy in literature and life as her teacher tries to explain that disappointment is inevitable.  In science class, a teacher challenges Adele and her classmates with the notion that natural laws are fixed yet can be compared to vices.  Although the science teacher emphasizes that vices are choices that are pivotal to abandoning morals, things like gravity are forces that are constant.  One student says, “Gravity is a vice you can’t avoid,” turning the teacher’s precept on its head.  The teacher asks the students what a pathological scruple is—adhering to a moral transcription that cannot be altered or challenged.  The students say natural laws are like vices: there is no fixed morality in the universe.  Dialogue like this cannot be found in American teenage movies.   “Reality Bites” and “Breakfast Club” come the closest to challenging the moral order.
Not only does Adele have to cope with a bipolar sexual strategy, but she debates the relevance of Sartre with her would-be lover, Emma, who is an art student.  Emma only spits out half-truths about art, image, and meaning.  She opens Adele to a new world and does not rush the sex.  Adele likes the subtlety of her new, slow-moving attraction, but as an impulsive teenager she can’t always control her urges and responses.  She wants Emma but needs a guide to define what she needs.  Emma and Adele take a walk through a museum in which they observe naked female statutes and paintings of naked, full-bodied women.  There is a foreshadowing that questions whether attraction to the same sex is natural or against the grain of universal order.   The director leaves the interpretation to the audience.
The movie has meaningful scenes and dialogue smattered with raw scenes of meaningless casual sex and the pain of growing up.  It’s hard to imagine a thoughtful 15-year-old so wise about literature but so unsure of her sexual impulses.  It leaves one feeling that it was just the will of the director, who wanted a visualization of two women engaging in sexual identity, a visual tapestry for the satisfaction of the adult world that has pawned them into an era of Enlightenment merged with the indulgence of cheap vices.  A teenager cannot really understand what will bring her true satisfaction.  Grade: B

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