Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) – Review

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One thing highlighted here, at something of a tangent, is that we can pretty much be sure that being a teenager is hard work. This much hasn’t changed in all the time I’ve not been one, some twenty-five years since I reached my nineteenth birthday. Having been one and also owning (by owning, I mean ‘paying for’) one of my own (soon to be two, in fact) you would think that the experiences witnessed here would not really hold much of a surprise for me. And if the truth be told, they don’t. Touted by many as one of the leading ‘foreign language’ efforts this year and a Palme D’Or Winner at Cannes to boot (thank you very much), it goes to prove that no matter where you’re from, how much money you have or whether you have boobs, boxers or you’re somewhere in-between, you’re almost inevitably likely to be going emotionally bonkers for at least a couple of years. Pheromone or Testosterone, it does not make a jot of difference. Mother Nature is here to dip her fingers in your hormonal gray matter and squish it all about, just for fun. You may not like it, but get used to it, because it’s going to happen anyway. As sure as blue hair is silly on a married woman of forty, but acceptable on one much younger or significantly older, these characters will look back, like I did (as you may have done already) and thought, “just what was I thinking?”

All of this prancing about the subject of “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” in this review is a long way of saying something quite obvious. Teenagers are complicated, they do irrational things and for more than half the time, patently have absolutely no idea what it is they want, much less what they need. This is part of their charm. This is what makes them so interesting. They have gone way past the point of believing in everything and have lurched, sulkily dragging their feet, to the complete polar opposite, where little means anything to them. Self-obsessed, narcissistic and each one a full-blown unrecognised genius at the centre of their universe that we simply orbit for their benefit  due to their own perceived abilities, which are at best inflated, and at worst, entirely imagined. Nevertheless, they do make for very interesting cinema. Why do you think there are so many coming-of-age dramas? Ah yes, the warm smug ‘I told you so’ moment that all of us over forty can enjoy at the expense of those younger, fitter and better looking than ourselves. The world may indeed be yours, you pretty young thing, but you are too bloody stupid to appreciate it. Not a new philosophy, I know, but for that reason alone, it might just be true. We are a generation beyond and unlike the pretty young things; we already know that we know nothing.

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So, bearing all this tiresome reality in mind, we are introduced to Adèle, who you might surmise quite quickly, from conversations about boys with her friends, is on the cusp of an emotional awakening. Her world is simple, friendship, school, her cosy bed and a seemingly happy home life that suggests she is nothing more or less than average. We are privy to her relationships that seem transient and quietly guarded. In fact, she could be any unremarkable seventeen-year-old that is almost always late for the school bus, but is still getting on with life, with the aid of cigarettes and alcohol and the occasional dalliance with a boy that she knows deep down, is not for her.

A casual, almost accidental encounter with a school friend confirms a physical desire that she has secretly been manifesting only in her dreams and it is at this point that her development as a character begins to have some merit.

If you can put aside your cynicism for a minute or two, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a very watchable film. Surprisingly though, it stereotypes quite vigorously. Not just in its approach to sexuality, but it also envelopes the viewer in a somewhat blinkered and idealistic view of a contemporary Europe, packed to the brim with free-loving types who live to share food with massive groups of people they don’t really know and talk to critically pointless ends about philosophy and art in an effort to appear intellectual. Perhaps this reviewer has seen too many films that expound the virtues of dressing comfortably and imaginatively, sitting cross-legged with a guitar in an olive grove with your friends, eating pasta and talking bollocks about how blind everybody else is.

Regardless, for originality, BITWC doesn’t really score highly. As mentioned in the first paragraph, this is not new ground we’re treading on. The vagaries of youth, such as they are, are well documented, so really you have to question the point of a coming-of-age drama that firstly fails to provide anything new but secondly, potentially aggravates its audience that has been annoyed by this xenophobic short-sightedness before.

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As a piece of entertainment, conservatively, it is borderline offensive whilst still remaining interesting enough of a subject at its core to sit through its exhaustive running time (just shy of three hours, really?) but this will be a niche night out and many will not sit still for a French film that is nearly three hours long, even if you do throw in some very explicit sex scenes as a come-on, given that it is unapologetically snooty and many of the characters contained within are horribly facile and subsequently repellent.

Adèle, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos is notable only as a character because she represents, albeit eloquently and intimately, an anchor of recognition and standard for the audience. Her life is not particularly interesting or incendiary. Even her relationship with Emma, played here by the more experienced Lea Seydoux, is arguably more mainstream than the makers would have you believe.

Which then begs the question, once more, of why the film-makers decided this was a story worth telling? Certainly, the acting performances from the main players and most of the support is excellent and the direction and cinematography are also very impressive. The script lacks originality and tone and sometimes (only sometimes, mind you) fails to meet the expectations of the characters for whom the words are speaking.

In summary, a very accomplished piece of work which, whilst technically impressive, lacks an emotional punch or absorbing narrative to ice the cake of its artistic intent.

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