Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Verdict: A mess
Y’know in the 70s you had to find a special cinema in a back ally, Taxi Driver style, to watch porn on the big screen, now you just put it in a 3 hour French art film. I mean I like to structure my reviews with a little introductory paragraph before a premise summary before getting into the meat of the review, and with this one it was really hard to decide what would be the funniest way to start the review because this film gives you so much damn material. Aside from the fact it couldn’t get much more French if they’d have had a man in a striped top carrying a baguette on a bicycle under the Eiffel tower, had Marion Cotillard singing Je Ne Regrette Rien, and Liam Neeson running round killing dangerous Europeans types looking for his taken daughter, it is just impossible to even talk about Blue Is the Warmest Color without falling into fits of giggles.
The film follows Adèle growing up in a world of conservative attitudes to homosexuality and starts a passionate romance with Léa Seydoux, (Spectre, Inglourious Basterds), and that’s really all the plot there is. Aside from all the fuss that’s been kicked up about it, it is, in the end a fairly standard romance. 2001: A Space Odyssey cuts out millions of years with one cut, tells the entire story of humanity in 2 hours and 41 minutes and is still too long, Blue is the Warmest Color tells what is in the end a pretty bog standard narrative and takes over 3 hours. That’s the first problem with the film; it is wildly self indulgent. Much has been made of some gratuitous sex scenes, and we’ll get onto them, but they’re not the only things about Blue is the Warmest Color that’s just too long, (and no I don’t mean the surprise dong), there are several scenes where Adele does some walking, and oh look she’s still walking, and and look she’s doing some more walking and oh OK now something’s happening. I have a thesis that absolutely no film needs to be three hours long, infact, no film should be, and I am yet to be proved wrong. I mean for god’s sake, they say James Cameron, (Aliens, Titanic), and Quentin Tarantino, (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), need to cut their films but my god what this film needs is an editor with a chainsaw.
I’m not gong to approach the controversy surrounding the very long, very explicit sex scene in this film, I’m just going to talk about how it works, or doesn’t, in the film. This isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a film that we’ve watched at film society that’s dealt with sexual themes in a blunt way, very recently I reviewed The Falling, (review here) , and before that, Norwegian Wood, (review here), and both times there were titters from the crowd, because in both cases it’s just handled very badly. If you want a film that actually handles lesbian sex in a very explicit but also very tender and emotional manner, I would point you in the direction of Carol, in which the sex scene is somewhat infamous now for just how good it is. I do believe that it’s well within film’s rights to be erotic, I mean if cinema is meant to scare you, enchant you, bring up all of these emotions why can’t it titillate? Blue is the Warmest Color doesn’t, even though I think it tries. The fact that it’s too long and frequently shot in wide shots often puts on in mind, (and I’m borrowing my friend’s description here because they’re right goddammit), of the scene in Team America: World Police but with people and not puppets where it’s another position, and another position and ANOTHER position, and now it’s the same one but the other way around, and it just keeps going. I mean just on a biological level I’m questioning how some of these positions are pleasurable for either party. In the end it just gets comical through excess, and it takes away any meaning it may have. In the end the film might have something to say about, who knows, but it all gets lost in the excess.
There are other problems, everyone seems to love the performances but I’m not convinced. Exarchopoulos spends the whole time with her mouth slightly open in a way that just makes her look slightly stupid. Aside from a scene towards the end she spends the whole film looking blank and emotionless, she just comes across as inscrutable and frankly dull and her character is kind of non existent and non fleshed out. The film is also incredibly pretentious, there’s something about French films about artists where people go on endlessly about the importance of art and philosophy for no reason other than the director thinks that the heart of French art is all these big important ideas that really get under my skin. Things to Come for me had the same problem, but it’s not just that, it’s also ‘oh we’re going to hang on her face for five fucking minutes because I’m an artist’. If I hear Léa Seydoux, who incidentally I now know aspects of her body more intimately than I really ever wanted to, give a AS level philosophy standard breakdown of Satre one more time I am gong to break something. I mean for god’s sake Wisecrack on BoJack Horseman, (link here) does a better job explaining these things. There’s also a problem of understanding how much time has passed and therefor how long they’ve been together and how invested I should feel. There’s also a scene in a cafe that, whilst it is quite striking, is completely implausible and well, they would have gotten thrown out before any of the really serious stuff starts and well there are people just chatting and eating their dinner as if nothing is happening and it’s just ridiculous.
There’s a Kermode and Mayo review of Fifty Shades of Grey, (link here). Simon Mayo introduces it by going, “there’s this new film and it has bums and stuff” and Mark Kermode retorts by saying “yeah well that’s really the problem”, meaning whenever it’s bought up, because of it’s content people snicker, and I think the same thing applies to Blue is the Warmest Color. We had an interval, because the film is much too long, I didn’t fall asleep but it was touch and go at points. At the interval we weren’t talking about LGBT rights or feminism, we were talking about the use of prosthetic vaginas, which I didn’t even know existed outside the sex toy realm, and we were talking about how one might feel uncomfortable with a male director telling his cast to do these incredibly intimate acts and we were talking about Team America: World Police. It distracts from the point and it verges on fetishistic.
Of course the French would give it the Palme D’Or.
I say no.