Telluride 2013: “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival from a Jury headed by Steven Spielberg. Instead of the usual practice of awarding the Palme solely to director Abdellatif Kechiche (“The Secret of the Grain”), the Palme was shared with lead actresses Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos. All three were at the Telluride Film Festival with the film, based on a graphic novel, which has received controversy for its explicit lesbian sex scenes.

Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos, “The Roundup”) is a fifteen year old student from a working class background. Scenes of Adele’s literature class over-emphasize the idea of “love at first sight” which will soon become crucial to Adele. She begins a relationship with a boy from the school. The early scenes of this nearly three hour film are overlong and familiar from other films, only stressing Adele’s conventional student life.

Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in "Blue Is the Warmest Color"

Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

Adele sees a girl with blue-tinted hair (Lea Seydoux, “Midnight In Paris”) walking by with her arm around another girl. Eyes meet. Adele’s sexual fantasies are not of her boyfriend but of the blue-haired girl. Adele contrives to meet her fantasy object.

Eventually they hook up. The blue-haired girl is Emma, an artist. The intimate and frank love scenes between the two women emphasize the passionate nature of their attraction and the intensity that will suffuse their relationship. Both Seydoux and Exarchopoulos give deep performances. The pacing of the film improves considerably when both actresses are on-screen, playing off each other. Adele and Emma become a couple. Adele, who becomes a teacher, is also Emma’s muse, posing for her paintings. The fervor of their feelings toward each other also affects the stability of their bond.

Director Abdellatif Kechiche appeared with Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux at an outdoor panel at Telluride.

Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos at Telluride

Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos at Telluride

Exarchopoulos spoke about “confidence and trust” while making the film and added that, with love and passion, the relation of flesh is important. They did not want the frank scenes between the two women to be choreographed, they all trusted one another, gave everything, totally involving their bodies and emotion.

Kechiche said he did not want music during the intimate scenes and wanted things on film to happen naturally. He considers rehearsal as “kind of a safety net”.

Seydoux said “We had to forget the camera”, it “takes time to let oneself go.” She added that Kechiche prefers long takes and that all three (director and actresses) were “generous with one another” to convey the magnetism that makes the love story.

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