Formerly known as the X rating, NC-17 (No One 17 & Under Admitted) in the United States is almost a theatrical death wish for any film that receives it. A film that is given the rating by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is known to have either extreme violence or extreme sexual content that would not be suitable for an R rating. Few noteworthy films have been released with either the X or NC-17 rating but of those few one went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1969 – John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy. Due to America’s increasing acceptance of violence onscreen, NC-17 is given out nowadays primarily for a film having sexual content that is similar to something in the pornography realm. Blue is the Warmest Color is an NC-17 rated French film directed by Abdellatif Kechiche that straddles the line between love/sensuality and pornography.
Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a precocious young teenager going through her high school years as anyone of her same age would do. She has a warm and loving family, fun friends, but something is missing. One day while crossing the street, she encounters a dyed blue-haired woman named Emma (Léa Seydoux) who glances back at her but no words are uttered. Her mind continues to focus on this mystery woman until one day, by chance she walks into lesbian bar where Emma happens to be. They spark up a conversation and then one thing leads to another. Adèle then attempts to keep her relationship with Emma a secret from her family and friends for fear that they will reject her.
This is one of the best films focusing on relationships that I have ever had the chance to see. Every year romantic films come out by the truckload that are so implausible and overall bland and uninteresting that they turn the genre into a veritable crap-fest. Blue is the Warmest Color is a breath of fresh air into the genre that shows the true highs and lows of a relationship and how being with the one you love is a lot harder than what the Hollywood machine shows it to be. This film is unapologetic and unabashed in its view of a same-sex relationship and delves into the current world we live in and how acceptance is still a huge issue.
Performances all around are in the realm of being Oscar worthy. Exarchopoulos in particular is able to transform herself from an adolescent teen, not knowing what she wants, into a strong woman who is ultimately plagued by her own insecurities. She wants to be with Emma more than anything, but she feels that their relationship is burdened by Emma’s fledgling career. Seydoux on the other hand demonstrates the tribulations that arise when in a relationship with someone who isn’t at the same maturity level. She is a mentor of sorts and attempts to teach Exarchopoulos’ character that there is more to a relationship than just sex. Both women have an uncanny onscreen chemistry that immediately brings their relationship into the realm of complete and utter believability. Never once did I feel that these women wouldn’t make a great pairing in real life – their performances ooze a wonderment that most onscreen couples can’t ever deliver.
Praise aside, the film’s low points are the three major sex scenes that happen throughout. Firstly, they stumble on for way too long with jump cuts transitioning through the two women’s different sexual positions. Secondly, they are framed in a very pornographic nature with almost every shot being a wide one and an overabundance of light detracting from the rest of the film’s artistic nature. These scenes took me completely out of the film and broke up the overall flow that the film presents. Despite those minor objections, taken as a whole, Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the most engrossing, unapologetic romantic films that I have ever seen and is one that I immensely recommend.
FINAL TAKE: 10/11
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About the Movie
Synopsis: The story of two women that fall in love and the obstacles that they must overcome to keep their relationship intact.
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Alma Jodorowsky
Run time: 179 min