display | more...

Is a French film released in November 2013 starring Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, and directed by one Abdellatif Kéchiche. Its original title in French was "La vie d'Adele, chapitres 1 & 2." Which means, "Adele's Life, chapters 1 and 2." However it's based on a bande dessinée by a Julie Maroh called "Le bleu est une couleur chaude," which means, "Blue is a warm colour," but the translation to English of said BD is "Blue Angel." Lost yet?

Anyhow. The film shot to prominence by baiting moral guardians as well as winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival. It is about Adele, an ordinary high school student, who flirts with and dates the boys because people somehow expect her to, but finds it all a bit of a dull experience. Until she runs into a university art student, Emma, who is older, more experienced, and has blue hair, hence the title. A tempestuous love affair ensues, and the resulting explicit shagging is why it caused such a stir in the tabloid press. Allegedly it was unsimulated sex. There was the usual guffawing about how YOUR CHILDREN could be polluted by accidentally wandering in to it (unlikely, it is rated 18) as well as foaming from feminist and LGBT quadrants about how it was objectifying and heteronormative and too "pornified." There was then further manufactroversy when the actresses had a falling out in the run up to its release with the director about how he was some sort of a creephat and didn't dare kick up a fuss beforehand in case he fired them (although it must be noted that practically he could not; if he did that he'd have to hire replacements and re-shoot everything up to that point and spend valuable budget). Incidentally, it was all a manufactroversy - it wasn't real sex, they made rubber moulds of their undercarriages and filmed them interacting with same, and this was reportedly indistinguishable from their real-life quim. Though more on that later. If you haven't seen it, then SPOILERS AHOY because this is absolutely excellent and muchly recommended.

Now, when I went to see it, I was expecting it to be fairly average artified Franco-smut like Baise Moi or one of the many other schlocky exploitation films that materialised back in the 1970s following the success of Last Tango in Paris. It really is not. It's far, far better than that.

The film takes place over an unspecified number of years and starts when Adele is in premiére at school. That's Lower 6th for Brits, or junior year for our colonial cousins. We see her going through the motions in her school life, reading stuff by Marivaux and similar writers, and with her friends, or at least fellow inmates of said lycée. They're all girls and all going on about how it's Adele who needs to get her ashes hauled and this rather handsome chappie called Thomas is keen on her. She goes out with him a few times, although she seems only partly interested. While going back home after one of these outings she runs into Emma who's with her girlfriend and their heads are mutually turned, although there's no contact other than that for a while.

Doesn't stop her, in bed that night, wanking herself furiously while fantasising about said Emma.

Anyhow, she and Thomas do make with the boning but although it's enjoyable for her, it's emotionally... unsatisfying. She's not all that interested, to be fair. A fellow student, Valentin, who is gay, takes her out to a gay bar and there she wanders off and ends up in a lesbian bar where she runs into Emma for real. It's fair to say that she sticks out massively in the LGBT environment and clearly is inexperienced. She arranges to meet Emma after school one afternoon and they go to a park, where Emma draws her (being an art student) and swap numbers. There's footage of them out places, and of course, the shagging.

There is one sex scene in this film that must be about 10 minutes long and it is this scene that has caused such manufactroversy as stated above. I'm not sure whether to believe the rubber undercarriage story or not, because it's filmed in such a way that we can't tell for sure if it's real or simulated. Put it this way. We don't see anything going in anywhere, nor do we see candid shots of how the moustache was invented. We do see Adele's quim for about 2 seconds total, and also Thomas's gentleman sausage for half a second (albeit in a state which would fail the Mull of Kintyre test.) It's passionate as all heck though, I will give it that. Still, this is only one small segment of the film so I'll stop talking about it.

There's then the bit where both Adele and Emma meet each others' parents. Emma's parents know she's gay and don't bat an eyelid whatsoever. Adele's parents don't know and it's a bit awkward that Emma is there solely as the person giving Adele help with her philosophy classes (this is compulsory in France, incidentally.) Emma stays the night and there is another sex scene which is all tense because they don't want Adele's parents to rumble them or be disturbed by excessive noise. Eventually, Adele finishes lycée and gets a job in a primary school and moves in with Emma, who in the ensuing flash-forward has lost her blue hair. Adele serves as Emma's muse as well as lover while Emma gets stuck in to her work more and more and starts to try to penetrate the fine arts scene, end up in galleries, and similar. Adele, feeling lonely, embarks on an affair with a colleague (which we don't see) and a screaming, throwing-things row ensues, and Adele is unceremoniously ejected from the house.

The remainder of the film deals with Adele's attempts to get over the sudden and inauspicious collapse of her first real relationship. And in doing so, we can glean some details as to why it is that they split up in the first place. There is a scene in a coffee shop where they meet for the first time in ages and throw themselves atop each other but can't follow it through any further because Emma is with someone else now and they have a child (not together, but Emma's new partner Lise's by a previous relationship.)

See, Emma doesn't see Adele as an intellectual equal, is my theory. While Emma is still a student and has blue hair and suchlike, there is some commonality between them on that level; they're both dealing with the same sort of things. However after graduation and as Emma is climbing the greasy pole of the Lille art scene, and loses the blue hair (possibly to try to be taken more seriously), Adele feels increasingly out her depth. She doesn't know art, philosophy, literature, or similar, and has a fairly un-intellectual job as a primary school teacher. Emma's friends and colleagues are all massive intellectuals and have highbrow discussions over the colossal vat of pasta Adele's cooked for them. There is another interpretation that I had at the time, which was that Adele was somehow not good enough for the new, trying-to-be-taken-seriously Emma, which doesn't really paint Emma in a particularly good light, but that's by the bye. It's also implied that the relationship was based predominantly on sex anyhow, which we see quite a lot of, and that as a result, without anything else that Adele has to offer her, no wonder Emma shut her out (and, it was implied, was carrying on with Lise at the time on the side but Adele was too overawed and frightened of losing Emma that she didn't confront her about it.) Furthermore, during the coffee shop scene referred to above, Adele asks about how the sex is with Lise nowadays and although Emma doesn't answer when Adele enquires as to whether it's "rubbish," "dull," or "flat," it is implied to be so, and I think that maybe Emma is tempted to try to take Adele back solely as a bedwarmer, but (to her credit) does not.

It should also be noted that it is exceptionally well acted. The performers manage to capture all the emotional depth of it all without it becoming narmy. There's also plenty of humour involved as well. I think there was a missed opportunity to have Adele come out to her parents formally, though. However, while the sex may have been possibly fake the emotion was very real looking and with real tears as well as opposed to secreting eyedrops under the actors' lids which they can make dribble down their faces by scrunching up their eyes; whenever the characters were crying for whatever reason it was properly face-blotchy and on at least one occasion with lots of snot also (sorry). Also, the cinematography. One of the best and most distinctive things about the film that that Abdellatif Kéchiche did it almost entirely with close-ups on the characters' faces, especially Adele's. The result of this is that we, the audience, can really get under her skin and work out why she acts in the way she does. It also gives a sense that, during the first third and third third of the film, she's somehow adrift and lost. The only exceptions to this are when she's with Emma, whereupon there are fewer tight face shots, and right at the end, as she finally comes to terms with it and strides off into the distance down the road - alone, but with some idea of where she's going.

And, of course, the colour blue. It's not just Emma's hair that's blue. Lots of things in the film are blue and to my mind, it represents Adele's direction in life. When she's sleeping with Thomas, the bedsheets are blue and a fold of them sticks up in the shot; she stares at them in the afterglow, as opposed to at him, implying that her course should be elsewhere. Emma's hair, obviously, is blue, but it's when it ceases to be blue that the relationship starts to go down the toilet. When Emma walks out her life after the coffee shop scene, the entrance hall is blue, implying that she ought to get out there and find something else. And of course, while she is living with Emma, and at the very end, she wears blue clothes, implying that she is where she ought to be at that stage. Maybe I'm thinking too much into this, but then again, this is a French film and they're big on that sort of symbolism, so... yeah.

In short, you should definitively watch this. However, if you're a chap, if you go alone you'll probably gather a few evil looks from people who expect you to suddenly whip it out mid-performance and start bashing away. Ignore them. This is not the one-handed art-house film that certain folks were no doubt stereotyping it as. This is seriously smart cinema. It was also one of the few films over three hours that didn't drag at any point.

Finally, one excellent line that I'm going to try to use in my real life. "Que disait le ver en sortant l'assiette de spaghettis? Quel partouze!" Or, for us perfidious dwellers of the Anglo-Saxon world, "What did the worm say on leaving the plate of spaghetti? Great orgy!"

(IN1329)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.