Love story 'Blue is the Warmest Color' courts acclaim — and controversy
Through all of this, the camera stays close, sometimes unnervingly so. In an early domestic scene, as the voracious Adèle wolfs down spaghetti Bolognese, we are treated to a detail-rich shot of her chewing, open mouth; at night we watch her sleeping and feel slightly creepy about it. And this is before her fantasies about the blue-haired girl begin, and before they manifest, in a series of lengthy, literal sex scenes that have inspired nervous laughter in darkened movie theaters, accusations of voyeurism, and that Idaho blackout, among other responses. Yet the camera's relentless, intrusive intimacy brings us as close to the inside of Adèle's head as she will allow anyone, including Emma, to get.
As for those scenes of grappling, slapping, tangled physicality — they're uncomfortable, and insistent, and they feel very real. Also, like we shouldn't be standing there watching for quite so long, though it's certain to be an edifying experience for many in the room. And it may be that Kechiche is intent on an exercise of compare and contrast, offering up these extended interludes, in which two female lovers try their best, for hours, to crawl inside each other's skin, as a sort of response to an early, abridged scene between Adèle and her boyfriend that ends unsatisfyingly for at least one of them.
There's a certain heavy, explanatory neatness to that, of a piece with other devices that sometimes drag at the film. Must there be two separate conversations about the delights of oyster eating, to trace Adèle's trajectory and palatal shift? Yes, Kechiche seems to feel, as if he'd just made a surprising discovery at a queer spoken word night in 1992. Gravely delivered classroom lectures, early in the film, likewise coincide miraculously, pointing always in the direction of Adèle's life — the coup de foudre, a discussion of predestination, another on the perversions of the natural world, another still on ineluctable tragedy.
One or two of these moments would suffice. But little of the time spent in Adèle's quiet company feels wasted. We sit with her for hours, quietly marking milestones in a relationship that blooms and deteriorates; standing nearby as Adèle falls apart, too; watching a heart expanding and breaking apart and reassembling, changed. *
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR opens Fri/1 in Bay Area theaters.
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