Finally Facing “Blue is the Warmest Color”

The core of “Blue is the Warmest Color” as seen by The Whirling Girlish.

by Andrea Jackson

Blue is the warmest color graphic novel illustrations

(photo via Washington Post)

My relationship with “Blue is the Warmest Color” thus far has been a complex one. I read a pile of reviews and articles, speculating, and dissecting the contents of this three hour long love story before I even went to go see it. I studied the previews over and over, and had the Lykke Li song “I Follow Rivers” stuck in my head for two weeks. It was not so much that I wanted to see what all the hype was after “Blue is the Warmest Color” won the highest award at Cannes Film Festival this year, but I was looking to be moved emotionally.

I have been tortured with the idea of writing about it ever since seeing it, fearing that  I won’t formulate the right sentences, or give the film itself justice. Naturally, I looked to see what others were saying, now that I had (sort of) formed some opinions about it myself. That’s when the pain started.

All of the articles talked about the explicit sex scenes associated with its unique NC-17 rating. I had known that the sex scenes were going to be groundbreaking, and was no new comer to the whirlwind of drama the media has created about them. But for me, “the” love making scene was so far away from what actually moved me about the film.

When it ended, and the viewer watched Adèle walk off down the street, my heart dropped. I was silent. I didn’t really know how I felt. I have felt this sensation before, but I didn’t know when. It was a tugging feeling in opposite directions. I realized that I was nostalgic for more of the story where Adèle  and Emma were happy together. However, I also don’t know if I would make them end up together, even if I had a say. It was a display of the idea that missing something doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to go back to that time, or person, it simply means “missing” or “longing”. In the long term, I don’t think Adèle and Emma were supposed to be together, but rather just supposed to be memorable chapters of  each others’ life stories.

The storyline played out to be very much Adèle’s own. This makes sense, as the original title, ” La Vie d’Adèle—Chapitres 1 et 2 ” translates into, “The Life of Adèle Chapters 1 and 2 “. A fitting title, being that real life has multiple chapters. Her story is just beginning. We see her grow over the course of several years, growing to love her, and accepting her faults. We become more familiar with the contentment she finds in the simple life she leads. We begin to identify the differences between herself and Emma, who seems to always seek more, and want more. I found something unsettling in the portion of the film where we see Emma and Adèle living together. At first, I was glad to see that they had made it through the trials and tribulations of the early years of their relationship, but then found myself asking, “now what?”. Adèle ended up asking herself the same thing.

Although the conflict in the story arises when Adèle cheats on Emma “two or three times” with a male colleague from work, when the movie ended, and I was able to reflect, I realized that their fate almost seemed inevitable. Was not Emma attracted to the pregnant lady at the party she and Adèle hosted at their home? Did not they end up together with a family, and three year old child? While it is easy to blame the demise on the relationship on just Adèle, I think Emma’s eventual forgiveness towards Adèle years later was actually derived from her realization that there were forces drawing them apart that both of them had to face. Sometimes, it just isn’t meant to work out the way we plan.

There has been a lot of feminist backlash towards the film about a male gaze from director Kechiche, as well as scrutiny about Adèle’s bisexual tendencies, and that she cheated on Emma with a man. Although I can see how these accusations have grounds for believing so, for me it was not the case. I think perhaps the love making had to be extreme, to weigh out and balance the subtle components of the entire movie. In the end, the smallest gestures and details of the film prove to be its primary constitution. Love is not just categorized into a couple of things, it is a combination of millions of smaller pieces.

 Ann Hornaday writes it best in an article about the film she wrote for The Washington Post. She writes, ” the myriad otherwise forgotten occurrences that comprise a love affair that, when it inevitably ends, turn out to have been the most important all along.”

Never before in storytelling, have I related and compared and contrasted myself so much with characters. Kechiche paints a portrait of a young girl in the most malleable years of her youth and the intensity of finding first love. He skips the drama and shows what real life is like. We do not see  Adèle confront her friends or family about her relationship with Emma, we just see her living her life post all of those seemingly monumental moments of one’s life. We see a relationship of true love after the glamour and glitz has worn off.

 Anthony Lane describes it beautifully in a review written for The New Yorker. He writes, ” How can it last? Emma is more worldly and less woundable, but Adèle, like any new recruit to a revolution, believes that it can and must endure.”

The film left me with a sense of inevitability, uncertainty, and mixed emotions. It leaves the viewer longing for love, perhaps longing for past love, and also a since of exciting hope for the future. It is a beautiful piece of art, which will serve as a model for love stories in the future. Disturbingly realistic acting, breathtaking scenes and a subtle yet powerful storyline are what make “Blue is the Warmest Color” the movie of this decade.


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