The Beauty of ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ Past the Controversy
What an odd story, so French in a sense, this Blue is the Warmest Color, released 22 November, in an inextricable mix of joy and pain. Franco-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche’s fifth feature film has first had the honour, Sunday 26 May, of receiving the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival, the greatest tribute filmmakers might dream of.
There are two more reasons to rejoice to add to the first. To be the seventh Palme to have been awarded to a French film since the creation of the prize in 1995, which is a relatively rare event — and what makes it all the more so precious.
To also be the first one to have been attributed to the film’s creator and to his two actresses at the same time, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos: unheard-of. All of which should constitute enough conditions for their genuine happiness until the film is released, as it is already critically acclaimed and sold throughout the world.
Yet the exact opposite of bliss came to happen: a litany of polemics which has culminated with a back-and-forth media quarrel opposing Abdellatif Kechiche to Léa Seydoux. Strangely enough, while one might have anticipated a general outcry given the nature of the topic (the flame and sexual passion of two young girls), backstage rumours (disgruntled technicians, the scandalized author of the original cartoon, and offended actresses) are what sparked things off. So much so, that the film’s release and the expectations it aroused are now clouded.
POLITICISATION OF THE FLESH
At a time when Blue is the Warmest Colour is finally going to be exposed to the public, a review of the core matter of the film is well-needed: its beauty and emotion, the incredible directing talent it demonstrates. Likewise, this exemplary way of evoking a relation between two people of the same sex and to acknowledge it for what it is: a love story like any other, beyond all prejudices.
This politicization of the flesh, the voicing of an immediate social charge through language, the link between a potent specificity and an overt universalism are at the core of Abdellatif Kechiche’s films. This is what makes him the worthy successor of a political, cultural, and artistic tradition that is fundamentally French. A taste for potentially antagonizing topics, the love of the French language, a realism enhanced by the world’s radiant sensuality, the importance given to social determinisms and human injustice, the bitter-tasting lucidity of judgment upon the facts of life, it is in these respects, also, that the director can legitimately claim to fall in with such French figures as Voltaire, Marivaux, Auguste, Jean Renoir and Maurice Pialat.
That, is all the more so remarkable since Abdellatif Kechiche also is the director who, since his first feature film, Poetical Refugee, in 2000, has had the question of colonization radiate with the most strength in contemporary French society, or at least what persists of it more or less consciously within both intimate and social relationships. This tension between a raging non-reconciliation and a stirring love for what French tradition does best, Blue is the Warmest Color raises it to its acme. Here is, probably, what makes the Palme d’Or as enthralling as explosive.
Source: “La Vie d’Adèle”, la beauté au-delà de la polémique, Le Monde