Revolving around a passionate relationship between two women, French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’Or winning romantic drama Blue Is the Warmest Colour has been hit by a backlash since claiming the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize in May.
The explicit scenes of lesbian sex and the director’s demanding working methods have both come in for so much flak in recent months that the controversy has threatened to overshadow the film itself. Yet if you come to Blue Is the Warmest Colour without preconceptions, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the intensity of the drama and the integrity of the performances.
Newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos is a revelation as working-class teenager Adèle and Léa Seydoux is no less impressive as upper-middle-class art student Emma, the blue-haired bohemian with whom Adèle embarks on a life-changing affair.
The scenes of their lovemaking certainly have an eye-opening frankness, but the camera’s intimate gaze peers into all aspects of their lives with equal honesty and candour. Indeed, the couple’s characters are revealed at the dining table as much as in bed, with contrasting meal scenes with their respective families (spaghetti versus oysters) highlighting both the social gulf between the lovers and their appetite for life.
And it’s not just in bed that the characters stand naked. As Adéle goes through the turmoil of first love, Exarchopoulos lets us see every flicker of emotion, from ecstasy and heartbreak to guilt and grief.
Certificate 18. Runtime 180 mins. Director Abdellatif Kechiche.