This ardent and affecting French love story, now unfairly categorized as "that three-hour lesbian movie," hits wide release after taking home the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Sparks will fly. And not just for the explicit girl-on-girl action that takes up only a small percentage of its running time. In detailing the relationship between blue-collar Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), 15, and Emma (Léa Seydoux), an older, sophisticated art student, Blue Is the Warmest Color sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance. Director and co-writer Abdellatif Kechiche (The Secret of the Grain) follows Adèle and Emma through a decade of roller-coaster emotions that are shaped and broken by sex, love, betrayal and an unforgiving class system. The politics of the film, loosely adapted from Julie Maroh's 2010 graphic novel, can be read on the expressive faces of these two unlikely lovers. Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, who deservedly shared the acting prize at Cannes, give performances of unparalleled intimacy. Seydoux, 28, claimed the nude scenes made her feel like a prostitute but denies the sex was real ("We had fake pussies on. You have something to protect and tape it under. I don't make love onscreen"). Nonetheless, she achieves a stabbing pathos as Emma painfully parts with Adèle. Exarchopoulos, 19, is a ball of fire in a breakthrough performance of startling power. Though she finds a fulfilling career as a teacher, Adèle never loses the stinging memory of her first amour. Love hurts in Blue Is the Warmest Color. That's why it sticks with you.
From The Archives Issue 1195: November 7, 2013