Movie review: 'Blue is the Warmest Color' overdoes the sex scenes

For the News-DemocratNovember 11, 2013 

What It's About

Well, there is no tiptoeing around the graphic sex French film "Blue is the Warmest Color," which won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and now is released in the United States to much acclaim.

From my perspective, much time is wasted over the three hours by extensive, excessive sex scenes that some people will call artistic, but come on, really...

The film doesn't have the sleaziness of X-rated pornography nor the cheesiness of premium cable romps, but it is an exercise in endurance.

Told over a 10-year span (which is never revealed), the story centers on a young wholesome beauty named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), who is keen on getting a boyfriend at age 15. When she does, she feels something is missing, and becomes attracted to an older art student, the blue-haired Emma (Lea Seydoux). The passions of first love are explored explicitly and erotically.

Thus begins a coming-of-age cycle with one's sexuality front and center, as she grows into an adult, with a career as a teacher. Eventually, the women move in together, and face growing apart, but their intense relationship is presented very frankly and so intimate as to make some uncomfortable.


The camera loves Adele, and spends far too much time on her, so much so that it feels like the movie is made in real time. The director focuses on the minutae -- shots of her breathing, showering, walking down a street, killing time. She is a mesmerizing screen presence, but I grew impatient with her the main focus for nearly 3 1/2 hours. Exarchopoulos won the Cannes acting prize -- the ball is now in her court, seeing if her follow-up is worth all the fuss.

Seydoux and Exarchopoulos bare themselves, their hearts and souls in rather exhausting ways -- they give it all on screen.

Fascinating minor characters show up in party scenes where it's basically artists philosophizing about life and art, and there are adorable classroom scenes with Adele's young pupils. But the romance commands center stage.

What Works

What some call pretentious, others call art, so it is in the eye of the beholder.

What Doesn't Work

The director's obsession over the young actress begins to be intrusive.

2 stars out of 4

Director: Abdel Kechiche

Starring: Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux

Length: 3:20

Rated: NC-17 for explicit sexual content

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