Blue Is the Warmest Colour
|Blue Is the Warmest Colour|
French release poster
|Directed by||Abdellatif Kechiche|
|Produced by||Abdellatif Kechiche
|Screenplay by||Abdellatif Kechiche
|Based on||Blue Is the Warmest Color
by Julie Maroh
|Cinematography||Sofian El Fani|
|Edited by||Albertine Lastera
France 2 Cinéma
Radio Télévision Belge Francofone
|Distributed by||Wild Bunch (France)
Sundance Selects (US)
|Running time||179 minutes|
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (French: La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 – "The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2"), also known as Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2, is a 2013 French romantic drama film written, produced, and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The film revolves around Adèle (Exarchopoulos), a French teenager who discovers desire and freedom when a blue-haired lesbian painter (Seydoux) enters her life.
At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the film unanimously won the Palme d'Or from the official jury and the FIPRESCI Prize. It is the first film to have the Palme d'Or awarded to both the director and the lead actresses, with Seydoux and Exarchopoulos becoming the only women apart from director Jane Campion to have ever won the award.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour is based on the 2010 French graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, which was published in North America in 2013. The film had its North American première at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival. It has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Film not in the English Language. Many critics declared it to be the best film of 2013.
Adèle is an introverted 17-year-old high-school student whose classmates gossip constantly about boys. While crossing the street one day, she passes by a woman with short blue hair and is instantly attracted. She dates a boy at her school for a short while and they have sex, but she is ultimately dissatisfied and breaks off their relationship. After having vivid fantasies about the woman she saw on the street and having one of her female friends behave flirtatiously towards her, she becomes troubled about her sexual identity. One friend, the openly gay Valentin, seems to understand her confusion and takes her to a gay dance bar. After some time, Adèle leaves and walks into a lesbian bar, where she experiences assertive advances from some of the women. The blue haired woman is also there and intervenes, claiming Adèle is her cousin to those pursuing Adèle. The woman is Emma, a graduating art student. They become friends and begin to spend more time with each other. Adèle's friends suspect her of being a lesbian and ostracize her at school. Despite the backlash, she becomes very close to Emma. Their bond increases and before long, the two share a kiss at a picnic. They later make love and begin a passionate relationship. Emma's artsy family is very welcoming to the couple, but Adèle tells her conservative, working-class parents that Emma is just a tutor for philosophy class.
In the years that follow, the two women live with each other as lovers. Adèle finishes school and joins the teaching staff at a local elementary school, while Emma continues her painting career. Adèle feels ill at ease among Emma's intellectual friends; though Emma encourages her budding writing talents, Adèle feels more comfortable under her wing and seemingly has no desire to be anything other than the person she was when they first met. They gradually begin to realise how little they have in common. Emotional complexities manifest in the relationship and Adèle, in an impulsive moment of loneliness and confusion, sleeps with a male colleague.
Emma becomes aware of the brief fling and kicks Adèle out of their apartment, leaving Adèle heartbroken and alone. Time passes and although Adèle finds satisfaction in her job as a kindergarten teacher, an indescribable sadness begins to overwhelm her. The two eventually meet again in a restaurant. Adèle is still very deeply in love with Emma and despite the powerful attraction that is clearly still there between them, Emma is currently in a committed partnership with Lise, the pregnant woman at the party they threw a few years earlier, who now has a young daughter. It is implied that the two had known each other for years, and had become reacquainted during the party. Adèle is devastated, but holds it in. Emma admits that she does not feel sexually fulfilled but has accepted it as a part of her new phase in life. She reassures Adèle, though, that their relationship was special: "I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will. All my life long." The two part on peaceable terms. Once Emma leaves, Adèle collapses in despair.
The film concludes with Adèle at Emma's new art exhibition. Hanging on one wall is a nude painting that Emma once did of her during the sensual bloom of their life together. Though Emma acknowledges her, her attention is primarily on the gallery's other guests and Lise. Adèle congratulates Emma on the success of her art and leaves after a brief conversation with a young man she met earlier in the film. He chases after her but heads in the wrong direction. Adèle walks away into an ambiguous future as a hang is played over the soundtrack and the film ends.
- Léa Seydoux as Emma
- Adèle Exarchopoulos as Adèle
- Salim Kechiouche as Samir
- Aurélien Recoing as Adèle's father
- Catherine Salée as Adèle's mother
- Benjamin Siksou as Antoine
- Mona Walravens as Lise
- Alma Jodorowsky as Béatrice
- Jérémie Laheurte as Thomas
- Anne Loiret as Emma's mother
- Benoît Pilot as Emma's stepfather
- Sandor Funtek as Valentin
- Fanny Maurin as Amélie
- Maelys Cabezon as Laetitia
- Stéphane Mercoyrol as Joachim
- Aurelie Lemanceau as Sabine
Director and screenwriter Abdellatif Kechiche developed the premise for Blue Is the Warmest Colour while directing his second feature film, Games of Love and Chance. He met teachers "who felt very strongly about reading, painting, writing" and it inspired him to develop a script which charts the personal life and career of a female French teacher. However, the concept was only finalised a few years later when Kechiche chanced upon Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, and he saw how he could link his screenplay about a school teacher with Maroh's love story between two young women.
In late 2011, a casting call was held in Paris to find the ideal actress for the role of Adèle. Casting director Sophie Blanvillain first spotted Adèle Exarchopoulos and then arranged for her to meet Abdellatif Kechiche. Exarchopoulos described how her auditions with Kechiche over the course of two months consisted of improvisation of scenarios, discussions and also of them both sitting in a café, without talking, while he quietly observed her. It was later, a day before the New Year, that Kechiche decided to offer Exarchopoulos the leading role in the film; as he said in an interview, "I chose Adèle the minute I saw her. I had taken her for lunch at a brasserie. She ordered lemon tart and when I saw the way she ate it I thought, 'It's her!'"
On the other hand, Léa Seydoux was cast for the role of Emma, ten months before principal photography began in March 2012. Kechiche felt that Seydoux "shared her character's beauty, voice, intelligence and freedom" and that she has "something of an Arabic soul". He added on saying, "What was decisive during our meeting was her take on society: She's very much tuned in to the world around her. She possesses a real social awareness, she has a real engagement with the world, very similar to my own. I was able to realise to how great an extent, as I spent a whole year with her between the time she was chosen for the role and the end of shooting." Speaking to Indiewire on the preparation for her role, Seydoux said "During those ten months (before shooting) I was already meeting with him (Kechiche) and being directed. We would spend hours talking about women and life; I also took painting and sculpting lessons, and read a lot about art and philosophy."
Initially planned to be shot in two and a half months, the film took five, from March to August 2012 for a budget of €4 million. Seven hundred and fifty hours of dailies were shot. Shooting took place in Lille as well as Roubaix and Liévin.
Upon its premiere at the 2013 Cannes Festival, a report from the French Audiovisual and Cinematographic Union (Syndicat des professionnels de l'industrie de l'audiovisuel et du cinéma) criticised the working conditions from which the crew suffered. According to the report, members of the crew said the production occurred in a "heavy" atmosphere with behaviour close to "moral harassment", which led some members of the crew and workers to quit. Further criticism targeted disrupted working patterns and salaries. Technicians accused director Abdellatif Kechiche of harassment, unpaid overtime and violations of labour laws.
In September 2013, the two main actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, also complained about Kechiche's behaviour during the shooting. They described the experience as "horrible", and said they would not work with him again. Exarchopoloulos later stated on their rift: "No, it was real, but it was not as big as it looks. For me, a shoot is a human adventure, and in every adventure you have some conflict." In an interview in January 2014, Seydoux clarified: "I'm still very happy with this film. It was hard to film it and maybe people think I was complaining and being spoilt, but that's not it. I just said it was hard. The truth is it was extremely hard but that's OK. I don't mind that it was hard. I like to be tested. Life is much harder. He's a very honest director and I love his cinema. I really like him as a director. The way he treats us? So what!"
In an interview in September 2013, director Abdellatif Kechiche stated that the film should not be released. Speaking to French magazine Télérama, Kechiche said "I think this film should not go out; it was too sullied", referring to the negative press about his on-set behavior.
Regarding his intention portraying young people, Kechiche claimed: "I almost wish I was born now, because young people seem to be much more beautiful and brighter than my generation. I want to pay them tribute."
Themes and interpretation
The film has raised analytical discussion over various themes presented in the film. One recurring thematic element addressed by critics and audiences is the division of social class and the exploration of freedom and love between the two central characters, Adèle and Emma.
The reference to social class is juxtaposed between the two dinner table scenes in the film, with Adèle's conservative middle-class family engaging in discussion over comparatively banal subjects to Emma's more open-minded upper-middle-class family, who focus their discussion primarily on more existential matters: art, career, life and passion. Perhaps one of the most significant differences between Adèle's and Emma's families is that Emma's is aware of their lesbian relationship, while Adèle's conservative parents are under the impression the girls are just friends. Some critics have noted that the difference of social class is an ongoing theme in Kechiche's filmography: "As in Kechiche’s earlier work, social class, and the divisions it creates, are a vital thread; he even changed the first name of the story’s passionate protagonist from Clémentine to that of his actress, partly because it means “justice” in Arabic. His fascination and familiarity with the world of pedagogy, as shown here in Adèle’s touching reverence for teaching, is another notable characteristic", was noted by a Film Comment critic.
One reviewer noted the political stance adopted by Adèle, which changes as her life experiences change and reflect her alternating views: "Blue is the Warmest Color is no different; at least, at first. Framed by black and Arab faces, Adèle marches in a protest to demand better funding for education. The music, On lâche rien ("We will never give up!"), by the Algerian-born Kaddour Haddadi, is the official song of the French Communist Party. Yet, soon after she begins her relationship with Emma, we see Adèle marching again, hip-to-hip with her new lover, at a gay pride parade."
Blue Is the Warmest Colour is also filled with visual symbolism. The colour blue is used extensively throughout the film—from the lighting in the gay club Adèle visits, to the dress she wears in the last scene and most notably, in Emma's hair and eyes. For Adèle, blue represents an envoy of curiosity, ecstasy, love and ultimately, sadness. Adèle also references Pablo Picasso a number of times, who famously went through a melancholy Blue Period. As Emma grows out of her relationship with Adèle and their passion wanes, she removes the blue from her hair and adopts a more natural, conservative hairstyle. There is also a profusion of imagery of food in the film, from the regularly consumed spaghetti to Adèle's first experience tasting oysters. Relationships—both heterosexual and homosexual—are also a common dynamic throughout the film: from Adèle's exploration of failed first romance with Thomas, to her affair with a male colleague, and to her love and loss with Emma. Adèle isn't overtly depicted as a lesbian; she has an encounter with a man, and multiple female encounters, and even by the end of the film, her sexuality remains unclear.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour had its world premiere at the 66th Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013. It received a standing ovation and ranked highest in critics' polls at the festival. In August 2013, the film had its North American premiere at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival and was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2013.
The film was screened at more than 131 territories and was commercially released on 9 October 2013 in France with a "12" rating. In the United States, the film was rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "explicit sexual content". It had a limited release at four theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on 25 October 2013, and expanded gradually in subsequent weeks. The film was released on 15 November 2013 in the United Kingdom and in Australia and New Zealand on 13 February 2014.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in France by Wild Side on 26 February 2014, and in North America through The Criterion Collection on 25 February 2014. A special edition of the film will be released at a later date by the same company. The film was also released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in Canada on February 25, 2014 by Mongrel Media, in the United Kingdom on March 17, 2014 by Artificial Eye and on June 18, 2014 in Australia by Transmission Films.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour grossed a worldwide total of $19,419,787. During its opening in France, the film debuted with a weekend total of $2.3 million on 285 screens for a $8,200 per-screen average. It took the fourth spot in its first weekend, which was seen as a "notably good showing because of its nearly three-hour length". The film had a limited release in the U.S, and it grossed an estimated $101,116 in its first weekend, with an average of $25,279 for four theaters in New York City and Los Angeles.
The film has received overwhelming critical acclaim, with a significant amount of the praise directed at the performance by Adèle Exarchopoulos. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 90% based on 154 reviews, with an average score of 8.1/10. The site's critical consensus is: "Raw, honest, powerfully acted, and deliciously intense, Blue Is the Warmest Color offers some of modern cinema's most elegantly composed, emotionally absorbing drama." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 88 averaged from 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
At Cannes, the film shocked some critics with its long and graphic sex scenes (although fake genitalia were used), leading them to state that the film may require some editing before it is screened in cinemas. Several critics placed the film as the front-runner to win the Palme d'Or and it went on to win the coveted prize. The judging panel, which included Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman, made an unprecedented move to award the top prize to the film's two main actresses along with the director. Jury president Steven Spielberg explained:
"The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning. The director did not put any constraints on the narrative and we were absolutely spellbound by the amazing performances of the two actresses, and especially the way the director observed his characters and just let the characters breathe."
Justin Chang, writing for Variety, said that the film contains "the most explosively graphic lesbian sex scenes in recent memory". Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter said that despite the film being three hours long, it "is held together by phenomenal turns from Léa Seydoux and newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, in what is clearly a breakout performance".
In The Daily Telegraph, Robbie Collin awarded the film a maximum of five stars and tipped it to win the Palme d'Or. He wrote: "Kechiche’s film is three hours long, and the only problem with that running time is that I could have happily watched it for another seven. It is an extraordinary, prolonged popping-candy explosion of pleasure, sadness, anger, lust and hope, and contained within it – although only just – are the two best performances of the festival, from Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux." Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw added that "it is genuinely passionate film-making" and changed his star rating for the film to five out of five stars after previously having awarded it only four. Stephen Garrett of The New York Observer said that the film was "nothing less than a triumph" and "is a major work of sexual awakening".
Andrew Chan of the Film Critics Circle of Australia writes, "Not unlike Wong Kar-wai's most matured effort in cinema, Happy Together, director Abdellatif Kechiche knows love and relationship well and the details he goes about everything is almost breathtaking to endure. There is a scene in the restaurant where two meet again, after years of separation, the tears that dwell on their eyes shows precisely how much they love each other, yet there is no way they will be together again. Blue Is the Warmest Colour is likely to be 2013's most powerful film and easily one of the best."
Movie Room Reviews praised the film giving it 4 1⁄2 stars saying "This is not a movie that deals with the intolerance of homosexuality or what it’s like to be a lesbian. It’s about wanting to explore that piece of yourself you know is there while still dealing with the awkwardness of youth."
The film was not without its criticisms, many of them about the sex scenes. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times described the film as "wildly undisciplined" and overlong and wrote that it "feels far more about Mr. Kechiche's desires than anything else".
Though source author Julie Maroh praised Kechiche's originality, describing his adaptation as "coherent, justified and fluid ... a masterstroke", she also felt that he failed to capture the lesbian heart of her story, and disappproved of the sex scenes. In a blog post, she said, "the heteronormative laughed because they don't understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it's not convincing, and found it ridiculous." She continued by writing that "as a feminist and lesbian spectator, I cannot endorse the direction Kechiche took on these matters. But I'm also looking forward to hearing what other women will think about it. This is simply my personal stance."
Richard Brody, writing in The New Yorker about "Sex Scenes That Are Too Good", stated:
- "The problem with Kechiche’s scenes is that they’re too good—too unusual, too challenging, too original—to be assimilated ... to the familiar moviegoing experience. Their duration alone is exceptional, as is their emphasis on the physical struggle, the passionate and uninhibited athleticism of sex, the profound marking of the characters' souls by their sexual relationship."
Film critic Top Ten lists
Various critics have named the film as one of the best of 2013.
- 1st – AlloCiné
- 1st – The Times
- 1st – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
- 1st – Susan G. Cole, NOW (Toronto)
- 1st – Michael Atkinson, Sundance Now
- 1st – Ann Lee, Metronews (UK)
- 1st – Guillaume Loison, Le Nouvel Observateur
- 1st – Stéphanie Lamome, Premiere (France)
- 1st – Philippe Rouyer, Positif
- 1st – Thomas Baurez, Studio Ciné Live
- 1st – Stéphanie Belpêche, Le JDD
- 1st – Romain Le Vern, TF1 News
- 1st – Michael Melinard, L'Humanité
- 1st – Evangeline Barbaroux, LCI
- 1st – Mehdi Omaïs, Metronews (France)
- 2nd – Carlos Aguilar, Indiewire 
- 2nd – Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice
- 2nd – Scott MacDonald, The A.V. Club
- 2nd – Peter Howell, The Star
- 3rd – Cahiers du cinéma
- 3rd – Jessica Kiang, Indiewire 
- 3rd – Sight & Sound
- 3rd – A. O. Scott, The New York Times
- 3rd – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
- 3rd – Dave Calhoun & Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
- 3rd – Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast
- 3rd – WhatCulture
- 4th – Scott Foundas & Justin Chang, Variety
- 4th – Michael Dunaway, Paste
- 4th – James Berardinelli, Reelviews
- 4th – Robert Horton, Seattle Weekly
- 5th – Eric Kohn, Indiewire
- 5th - Total Film's 50 Best Movies of 2013
- 5th – Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
- 5th – Brian D. Johnson, Maclean's
- 5th – Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
- 5th – Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
- 6th – Digital Spy
- 6th – Film.com
- 6th – Rich Cline, Contactmusic.com
- 6th – Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
- 6th – Clint O'Connor, Cleveland Plain Dealer
- 6th – Keith Phipps & Scott Tobias, The Dissolve
- 8th – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
- 8th – Jake Coyle, Associated Press
- 8th – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
- 8th – Robert Gifford, The Diamondback
- 9th – David Edelstein, Vulture
- 9th – Ben Kenigsberg, The A.V. Club
- 9th – Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush
- 9th – Guy Lodge, Hitfix
- 10th – IMDb Best of 2013 
- 10th – Chris Vognar, The Dallas Morning News
- 10 Best films of 2013 – Time Out London
- Best films of 2013 – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
- Best movies of the year – David Denby, The New Yorker
- Top Five Movies of 2013 – Daily Mail
The film won the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The actresses were also given the Palme as a special prize. Kechiche dedicated the award to "the youth of France" and the Tunisian revolution, where "they have the aspiration to be free, to express themselves and love in full freedom". At Cannes it also won the FIPRESCI Prize. In addition, this is also the first film adapted from either a graphic novel or a comic to win the Palme d'Or. In December 2013 it received the Louis Delluc Prize for best French film in 2013. The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 71st Golden Globe Awards and the BAFTA Award for Best Film not in the English Language. At the 39th César Awards, the film received eight nominations with Exarchopoulos winning the César Award for Most Promising Actress.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to La Vie d'Adèle.|
- Official website
- Blue Is the Warmest Color at the Internet Movie Database
- Blue Is the Warmest Color at Box Office Mojo
- Blue Is the Warmest Color at Rotten Tomatoes
- Blue Is the Warmest Color at Metacritic
- Cannes Film Festival press kit