The Five Stars is an article series in which we chronicle films that have a lasting influence on us and that we feel are essential for any film lover. This series is dedicated to the late Roger Ebert
“I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. My whole life.”
Blue is the Warmest Color is the kind of love story I’ve been searching for all my life.
It’s not interested in telling a love story that caters to those who want happy endings.
Life isn’t like that.
It’s interested in showing the discovery of falling in love. The kind that makes you want to be alive, and the indescribable passion that comes from that love.
And like most love, inevitable heartbreak follows…
In a year that included; Gravity, Life of Pi, and the criminally underrated Short Term ’12, Blue is the Warmest Color emerged as my favorite of the bunch.
How did this obsession start?
Was it in the first ten minutes of the film? The convincing chemistry the two leads shared in every scene they were in?
Believe it or not, it started with the film’s trailer.
I couldn’t stop showing people this emotional and addiction-inducing trailer. I felt like a drug dealer passing around my best stuff for free, just to get them “hooked”.
After the high of the trailer had worn off, something troubling occurred to me.
Emotionally devastating films, such as The Theory of Everything, work better as trailers.
The fear of this letting me down was starting to hang like a heavy cloud above me. On my way to the theater, I was pulled over, and given a ticket. My throat clogged and my vision started to blur as a tear formed at the thought of this being a collosal disappointment.
When the trailers finally ceased and the first frame of the film appeared, I felt all my fears fade away.
The story begins, and ends, with Adele, played by the luminous Adele Exarchopoulos.
She is a shy, smart, naïve, and confused teenager. Her circle of friends are shallow and boy crazy. Her shyness is played up for laughs, and her naivety about boys is looked upon as her being a prude.
Abdellatif Kechiche’s direction of her early scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a coming of age film. Filmed mostly in closeups, you are glued to everyone’s face–better yet, their emotions. The classroom scene in particular features Adele keeping to herself, as she soaks up the teacher’s thoughts on literature.
He knew exactly what to show to make sure we’re on board for this three hour epic.
On her way to her first date with a good-looking, but boring boy from school, she passes by a woman with a unique hairstyle…
Going separate directions, in that one moment, they are drawn together. She doesn’t quite comprehend what happened, but we, the audience, know exactly what she’s feeling.
I think these long scenes of self discovery are very important because with each thing Adele does. There’s a scene in particular when she tries to picture herself with a boy but can’t. All she sees is the blue-haired woman she hasn’t even talked to. She’s starting to know what she wants…
When she has a breakdown with her friend Valentin about how sleeping with a boy didn’t cure her of feeling empty, I can hear myself saying, “You’re going to be okay. Everything will be okay.”
We want her to break the guy’s heart. We want her to move on, and find the girl with the blue hair. We feel like if she’s finally happy, we will be happy too. It’s like when a friend is dating someone who’s not right for them.
When they are free from that burden, we will also be free.
She meets the blue-haired Emma at a night club, played by Lea Seydoux.
They are no longer going separate directions. They’re finally in each other’s point of view and the best love story of the past 10 years starts to come to light.
Lea Seydoux plays Emma with a fierce confidence, reminiscent of a young Brando. Her swagger towards the character compliments the quiet and emotional nature of Adele’s personality.
I passionately dub this film, “The Odyssey of Love Stories” because of its three hour run time and for what happens after they meet.
Their conversations about life, art and food are about as naturalistic as they come. Adele’s fascination with Emma’s self assurance makes her want to be honest with herself.
With each passing minute, you can see them falling in love with each other. And in a weird way, I was falling in love with them too.
Blue is a color that is ever prevalent in this film, and I applaud the dedication it took to make sure it was apparent in every scene. From the moody atmosphere, to the sumptuous blue wardrobe, this film carries its color motif like a badge of honor.
Visuals are very important in any film, but in a Five Star film, the visuals are the film.
The masterful camera work, courtesy of Sofian El Fani, is simple, yet complex, and draw you into a story you can’t look away from.
It’s like the camera is hell-bent on capturing each passing glance, and each “misplaced” touch. Even in darkness, the film is lush and fueled with personality.
After they have their first couple of dates, they lay in the grass, too afraid to make a move on each other.
It’s the first time you feel like anything is possible, and the more the scene goes on, the more you want them to kiss. Those kind of scenes wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the two leads.
They’re fearless, and iconic.
I didn’t want to address the elephant in the room, but I have to.
Blue is the Warmest Color is known mostly for it’s graphic sex scenes that run over ten minutes long.
A question that comes up a lot is, “Do you think they add to the film?”, and I always answer them with the same answer.
These sex scenes are used as a way to show the primal nature of their love. Abdellatif Kechiche’s direction goes from subtle and caring to hot-blooded and bold during these scenes. He makes sure you know these two are literally hungry for each other.
To be so intertwined, both physically, and mentally, with someone you love, is compelling stuff. The sex scenes are essentially underlying the wonderful sentences of their love.
And then the film jumps a few years to show two new characters.
Emma has moved on from her trademark hairstyle and Adele is trying to become a teacher.
Still together, but absent.
Adele’s constant need for affection from Emma is proof that their love is no longer filled with passion and understanding.
I think it’s a very relatable situation.
How many times have you changed yourself to please someone you loved? Turned yourself into a mess of neediness and loneliness?
That’s what Adele has become: Pathetic. Weak. Needy.
Sadly, her need to feel loved leads to the best break up scene of all time.
Arriving home from her “meeting” with a fellow co-worker, she’s instantly confronted by a visibly emotional Emma.
Her blue eyes are filled with tears, and rage, and her confidence has turned into a full force of anger. They’ve spent years together and have grown apart, but Emma knows this is the end. This is her way out of her love story with Adele. It’s heartbreaking, but she’s found a way to be free from a love that no longer burns bright.
The fragile Adele is helpless to the constant insults that come her way. She pleads with Emma to forgive her, to take her back, which we all know won’t happen. It’s like watching the Titanic sink; We all know what’s going to happen, but we can’t take our eyes away.
And with a slap, years of love are undone.
Adele is now aimless and alone.
Adele Exarchopoulos carries this film from the beginning, even though she’s not our only emotional pull to the story. Her moments alone should’ve resulted in an Academy Award, because I could’ve easily watched her be lonely, and aimless, for another two hours.
Near the end when she and Emma meet again, it’s bittersweet and painful. The love they shared is gone, and all that remains are the words Emma said that put the final nail in their relationship.
“I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. My whole life.”
Sadly, these kind of films are not made anymore, and when they are made, they never reach their full potential. A pet peeve of mine is when people try to classify this as a film about lesbians.
Would you classify films that are about straight couples as a film about heterosexuals?
This is a film about love, plain and simple.
The Five Stars series is about sharing our love of something we find truly magical.
Thankfully, I’m still under Blue is the Warmest Color’s spell.
Currently streaming on Netflix and currently 50% off on Criterion
Images via IFC Films