Warm or Cool? Either way it’s BLUE.


What is it that happens to Adele and Emma? Well, who are they to begin with?

Adele enjoys eating, comes from a static and work-oriented family, is not in command of her sexual desires nor really aware their importance to her. She is certainly aware of her own lapses, intellectual shortcomings and inarticulate social skills.  She can barely say “Merci.” Her dreams are mundane: to become what she knows – a teacher. If she were American, she would be suburban.

She is lovely, awash in physicality, slyly shy, open.

Emma is the temperamental artist, comfortable with ideas and artistic society though she has her issues with the art establishment.  Her pursuit of her art leads her away from her voluptuous ardor of Adele to the sophisticated but cool relationship with Lise. Somehow this paves the way for her success. Her parents – step-father and mother – are, too, sophisticated art lovers and epicureans.  The two families could hardly be more different – one lives to eat, the other eats that they may talk about it.

Much of the criticism focuses on sex and length.  Most of the criticism of “the sex scene” centers on the lesbian duo, Emma and Adele. The film’s length 179 minutes is unusual enough to attract attention.

About length: please, we can all tell time. Only Remembrance of Things Past in the book world is more criticized for length. The question is not what to do with a restive viewer, but what about this film would make a viewer restive. Little, very little. This story thrives on its length. It takes three hours not to tell the story but to bring the viewer into, along, and through the story. It is an emotional journey that must not be rushed. It is the story of a young love turning slowly older with the prospect of lasting, as Emma says, “my whole life.”  Anyone who has loved – it goes without saying that he or she has also lost – knows that is true. Love may not be as long as suffering.

About sex. The scene all will refer to – they say it is eight minutes long –is extended, hot, and uncovered. It is enough to remind anyone of the best sex they have enjoyed or to wish that they had enjoyed such. No matter that critics of the film like to quote Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel (Le bleu est une couleur chaude) on which the film is based, as calling the scene “pornographique,” and also like to stir the pot by asking the actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Lèa Seydoux how it was filming the scene which, they say, occupied many uncomfortable hours over ten days. No. It is not pornographic and it is not about how the filming felt, at least not for the story. It is about love and bodily delight.

If the scene were alone in the movie, it would be open to those criticisms. But the scene is one of many most of which are about love: the dream-sequences and masturbation scene (self and other love), the scene itself (I consider the several love making scenes between the two women as one), the park bench scene, the hetrosexual Thomas-scene, and the restaurant scene. Only the last two are not about love. The Thomas-scene is about exploration and, perhaps, exploitation. In the restaurant scene Adèle more tries to seduce Emma than to express her love.  That scene is about sex and might be considered pornographic though it is not skin-filled.

In the early dream-sequence, Adèle sees Emma close up. The “love at first sight” her teacher refers to during their in-class reading is now embodied in Adèle’s attraction to the blue-haired girl she saw on the street.  In a sense it is herself, her own body, she is in love with that allows the attraction to spark into something more substantial. Her sensual radar are out and working. This is where the direction and story are so well done: How to express the physical in the emotional and the other way round?  Abdel Kechiche’s direction builds from the “eating metaphor” to the sexual acts as metaphor for love. Adèle eats like she loves like she cries. It is all oral, physical, and emotional, very little intellectual. She cannot discern. She cannot express in language. She can only act.  And the blunt act can never be enough in human society. Therein lies the tragedy. Adèle cannot fulfil Emma’s intellectual needs, and those needs are as palpable as the need for food, the need for affection, the need for sex. So? Adèle has to go.

In her bumbling, thoughtless way, Adèle affords Emma the easy way out. Infidelity. Adèle is not sure who was unfaithful first – Emma and Lise are repeatedly shown in enamored conversation, not all intellectual by the look on Emma’s face – and neither should the audience be so sure either. Emma is quick to finish it. And the rest is ennui and suffering.

Where do they go from there – there being the art opening where Emma portrays “suave” itself. She has clearly “arrived.” Adèle, too looks good, dressed in the blue of the title, the blue Emma has now forsaken in her success, but she is not, of course, good. The world of the intellect is still a foreign land. She is rooted in the physical. That is where she will remain. But wait . . .

The failed actor appears – Sir Galahad? Adèle has turned the corner. Is he going for his car? Will he find her? Well, if he does, she may sell out as has Emma to something less fulfilling but more livable than what she’s had. Being a French film that is where it stays. There will not be a sequel.

 

 

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