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Analysis / Blue Is the Warmest Color

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Franco-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche first wanted to explore the story of a school teacher due to his preoccupations with social class. While he may be aware that he is now a member of the cultural elite in France for being the most critically acclaimed French filmmaker in the birthplace of cinema, among its philosophy, culture, and je ne sais quoi, he is very much aware that he is not French enough due to his working class roots and his immigrant background. Kechiche emigrated with his family to France during the Tunisian Revolution and there is a strong possibility that he may have met a lot of racism such as being patronized for his cultural heritage and race through insincere compliments, and implicit disapproval for being an immigrant and speaking the French language while not being truly so. He still sees himself as part of the working class that he lives in the 18th arrondisement of Paris near where the immigrants live. He claims that he is aware that people only embrace his films in spite of his race because he’s very good and because of his unique brand of filmmaking. His approach is unconventional that according to Adèle Exarchopoulos who plays the protagonist said that she can handle the technical aspects of the film if she wishes to. She can tinker with the lighting and sound, she can even stand as a camera woman or to serve as an assistant for the cinematographer. Kechiche left the camera running between takes so that the actors will deliver a performance that’s so natural that by the time filming starts, they will forget that there’s a camera.

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Adèle Exarchopoulos has a lot of footage where the other actors are caught up by the naturalistic acting that they ended up calling her by her own name. The director then proposed that the character be named after her.

Kechiche’s duality in his cultural heritage has influenced his work so much that he favored natural acting because he wants realism in his work. He doesn’t want to go for the stylistic approach and theories involved in filmmaking primarily because his characters are working class whose lives haven’t been privileged to bask in the comforts of ivory tower knowledge. He values the practice and instinctive feel that art brings. He is not after the theory and criticism that goes along with it that he wants his films and actors to breathe naturally and to let them improvise so as to depict how these characters actually talk and act. He wants his films to preclude analysis as much as possible and he achieved it with supreme excellence with Blue is the Warmest Color.

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When watching it, there's a visceral and raw feeling that is needed to process everything. There's complete immersion in the moment and while there's no denying in finding over thinking as to why Emma would say this or why Adèle would do that, there's a quick setting of everything aside because there's no want of missing anything. This is exactly what the director intended; he filmed Adèle in every moment whether she leaves her home for school, her confusion when she sleeps with Thomas, when she cries where her tears and snot mix, even while she sleeps and eats. There's a taking on a journey where the viewer would be with her every step of the way that they see things from her perspective and that the only motives and emotions which certainly is hers. Not even Emma, the person whom she shares everything with. Since the film captured Adèle in every scene and the camera lingers even in her surroundings, one would be completely in the moment and it is only until when the credits roll that emotions can go from whole to frayed. One effect that this film left on its viewers is that it forces introspection since the characters don’t explicitly say what they feel but we know more than we are let on since every emotion is written all over their faces. This gives a very unique perspective for the viewer for they are given the opportunity to interpret the characters in their own way since emotions are viewed subjectively. It makes every interpretation valid despite the presence of seemingly contradictory elements but can be tied together coherently if one is given the time to process things. After watching it, one will start to question everything on why Adèle feels alone and why she still clings to Emma even though she is no longer that interested in educating her about high art. To process everything that is thought of while watching it and finding it lingering over a tiny detail that leaves questions as trying to connect it with the holistic picture that having of this film with zeal. There are only two movies that can leave with this effect: Inception and this one, although it would have to say that this film is more powerful in terms of emotional impact and rawness. While Inception can keep anyone thinking for a couple of days, Blue… can leave the viewer hungry for more than a month and even the preceding seven months before watching it.

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Blue… achieved its universal appeal by not focusing on the marginalization of two women in love. Adèle appears to be closeted at work but this was not particularly emphasized and Emma seems to be fine with this. With the exception of the bullying scene which finds it painful to watch, the minority aspect of being in a lesbian relationship wasn’t addressed for the entirety of the film; it focused on the life of Adèle, from her transition to adolescence to adulthood even to her relationship with Emma which is the center of her existence. However, the film’s centerpiece is Adèle’s life. So what comprises it? Her confusion, happiness, hunger, desire, her one moment of certainty where she and Emma make love for the first time, her work and passion for literature, even her indescribable sadness. There are also lots of mealtime scenes, sex, going to school, coming home from her work, and all those minutiae that every human being has experienced in life where nothing happens and everything happens. In this regard, the film achieved its universal and raw appeal.

If one were to ask someone their definition of life, they will invariably take their time to respond because it is so complex, convoluted, simple, holistic and piecemeal all at the same time. This is also how one will feel until now if one were to watch it for eight times.

Objectively, one of the qualities of a great film is that when you watch it again you will see something new and noticed things that you never had before. This is due to the film’s approach where it mirrors real life and most likely the viewer himself has gone through what Adèle had. But communication, like emotion wouldn’t be the same every time you encounter it. You will see things in a different context and your own experiences and changes in perspective will add to those modifications of how you see the situations and the characters. It's believe that when having an experience like that of Adèle and have watched this film again, it will see things differently. While this may not be new to films to adore and have a lukewarm reception to, the change in perspective for Blue… will be poignant because there's had a strong reaction to the scenes which reminds of how powerful the emotions are. Like her, one will regret nothing and will do it all over again.

In terms of the lesbian relationship, the very fact that they’re both women is hand waved. Even where Adèle dances during her birthday party alone because Emma wasn’t there to share it with her is not evocative because of their closeted relationship. It is the longing for your beloved and where her absence is absolutely painful but you embrace it for all its worth because this is where your love anchors itself for the moment. The next scene has Adèle dancing to Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” which completely captures about how she feels for Emma. Who wouldn’t want to dance to a song where you are missing your lover and the music is in synchronicity with how you feel. This scene is remarkably poignant for it captures the joy, ecstasy and pain of first love.

The relationship of the two girls is asymmetrical since it is shown that Emma is the higher power in the relationship from owning the house that they live in, how Adèle cooks and cleans up after the party that is thrown in her honor, Emma is clearly that person who reminds us of those that we truly long for but is ultimately out of our reach. Who hasn’t experienced what Adèle felt? Who hasn’t felt that they are the ones who need this person more than he/she will ever need you? Any lesbian who pursued women would feel somehow what she feels. There's knowing that giving more than it should and it’s a possibility that it may be futile but continuing anyway. Adèle is completely and totally in love with Emma that one wonders why she stayed with her when it’s a strong possibility that Emma doesn’t see herself being with her for the rest of her life. A film critic said that Adèle feels alone and anyone could agree with this but it doesn’t explain her hunger.

Hunger is the theme of the film. From the lingering shots of the camera as though the director doesn’t want to miss anything and captures Adèle in her biggest moments to the tiniest details in her life, Blue is the color motif that completely incites the most emotion to Adele and to the viewer and it also symbolizes her voracious appetite. Blue is interpreted among various viewers as sexual and emotional happiness, longing, and even Emma. The latter is debatable however because even before she appeared, the color was already prominent and Adèle’s appetite has already been a character establishing moment from food to literature, and a desire to understand the world she lives in. Adèle is constantly looking to expand herself which is why she can’t get enough. One example also is her passion for teaching because she says that school has opened a lot of possibilities for her and showed her new ways of looking at things that her friends and family hasn’t given her. It also explains her dream of traveling and her struggles with philosophy and literary criticism. Apologies that one cannot claim the next words as their idea and meant this as a compliment to the film critic, Adèle will consider film reviews and critical analyses about the movie as bullshit no matter how much consideration of this work as a labor of love. She is completely in the moment because as she says, she doesn’t like it when teachers analyze books or literary texts because it impedes her imagination and it doesn’t allow her to experience the intricacy of her emotions that is brought about by reading. Adèle finds it absolutely amazing that she has a lot of qualities in her that she doesn’t know she possesses which are begging to be untapped. She deeply cherishes this Eureka moments. To her, analysis renders everything as absolute and it becomes impersonal, she doesn’t want things to be narrowed down for she feels that her creative process may be invalidated.

One could be personally floored to also get to view things from this perspective for anyone who enjoys analysis and criticism. To admit that enjoying literature more if analyzing it to gain a deeper understanding and marvelling when unweaving the rainbow. One will apologize sincerely to those that they thought less worthy and would be ashamed of their arrogance. Not knowing that such a beautiful statement from Adèle is borne out of this need to be instinctive and to live in the moment. Thinking that Adèle is fond of blank slates just as this film also adores it. There are no preconceived notions, no templates for anything. What works and what delivers most must be favored which Kechiche also has repeatedly shown in his films, hunger to live the life that you want, hunger for food and companionship, hunger to be recognized and respected is a driving force that will propel you to explore unlimited possibilities. The director favors the working class because of their rawness, their ingenuity that is off the beaten track just as he feels that works of art that preclude analysis is the real deal from which theory and criticism is borne from, and not begotten by it in spite of what people may believe.

Kechiche stated that differences in social class severed the relationship between the girls, one would agree, another would disagree. While we may not ignore that Adèle feels intellectually inferior to Emma’s friends about their discussions on high art and who may never have to experience manual labor for the entirety of their lives, it is their individual differences as people, in their creative and professional pursuits, and in each other’s need for recognition and ambition. Basically speaking, there is nothing between these two that complement each other. For things, ideas, and people with differences that exist in harmony, we are reminded of the yin and yang. One person's take on this is not new and unique but it allows to explain. The two halves are curved that when one recedes the other meets it, while the lighter side is in stark difference with the darker shade, there is no one else to complement it because the other half while it is ostensibly a contrast, is the only thing that completes the whole concept for them to exist as one. Sadly, Adèle and Emma do not have this. Fortunately though, the actresses have a unique complicity that shows in their scenes together. Which is why as a viewer that finding it difficult to believe that social class is the main reason for their break up because surely Emma didn’t find Adèle’s humor and uncomplicated attitude appealing because of her working class roots. It is Adèle the person. While Kechiche believes that social differences are so pervasive that it permeated every aspect of their lives, it is more than that because they both have no interest in each other’s vocation and they did not blame their social status for this. One would also believe that because of the actresses’ generosity to each other, we are shown an attraction that goes beyond the social differences but to the unique qualities that each person has. What Emma had in common with Adèle is that she found it refreshing and absolutely amazing that her boundaries are lowered when she met her. She possibly realized how she can find someone like Adèle as the most intriguing, attractive and most beautiful person to grace her with her presence that she was also struck like a force of wind that can only be rivaled by her passion for art that for some time, it seems that her attraction to Adèle briefly surpassed it considering that this is the primary driving force in her life. It is an amazing and passionate relationship even though it didn’t survive its problems.

Another amazing thing with this film is how it has sparked discussions and debates from the representation of women in film, the male gaze theory, to the film itself and its characters. Anyone would admire a film that has a problem where the audience themselves find it difficult to find a solution for considering that they are privileged to see things from another dimension that the characters don’t have. As the revered cosmologist Carl Sagan said, with two dimensions we have a square, for three dimensions a cube, for four dimensions the tesseract. Now we as the audience are given a lot of dimensions and it’s absolutely limitless for each has a unique perspective. The good about this is that even we ourselves find it difficult to save the relationship even if we can cite countless ways on how Emma and Adèle could have improved themselves for the sake of their union. The film is realistic in its depiction of a relationship because it shows that what they have is common but unique, Adèle and Emma could have done paradigm shifts concerning how they view each other’s interests but we know that it is never that easy and simple. How wonderful it is that we have empathized with them and totally understood that difficulty because it’s utterly unfortunate when we have a character that has a lot of hang ups and quite compelling dilemmas, but is so poorly written that we are seething with anger as we tell him to snap out of it as though it’s that simple. Then again, there are countless of these stories but it takes a good writer to do them well because even knowledge of good tropes and theories in storytelling isn’t a guarantee that your work will be good.

Existentialism is a device that was used as a seduction tool for Emma as well as to the highlight the differences between the two girls. Emma is right in this regard when she states that we are defined by our actions. Our word is only as good as the action that defines it. No matter what your reasons are for failing to deliver, whether your child has died or something as nonsensical as your excuses for your irresponsibility, you have failed and this is what only matters.

Adèle on the other hand believes that she is not only defined by what she does, what she likes and her social status. Since Existentialism states that there is no higher principle, we can be whoever we want to be and this gives us a huge responsibility. What we think of as dignified is only created by human beings and that there is no absolute truth. We can interpret this as something distressing but we can shift our context and make it mean that we have no limits. Then again it is in bad faith if we neglect our responsibility.

Emma is a complex human being that while she is sexy, confident, intelligent, talented and self-assured, she is also flawed by being self-serving when she tells Adèle that she should find things that will excite her creatively while not acknowledging the value of her own work as a schoolteacher and that she should not base her happiness on her. Emma is right but if her intentions are not wholly benevolent, does this make it any less so? Not at all, but this scene only goes to show how they are completely different and their flaws and shortcomings cannot be compensated by each other’s strengths which makes it absolutely difficult for both if they decide to make reparations to their relationship. It will require the greatest commitment that will ever be expected from them. Adèle is certainly for it but Emma may not. Does this make her a bad person? No, if it doesn’t serve her well, she may very well not. Still, one would want them to belong together.

Ask everyone you know who watched the film if they think that this is a lesbian film. Most heterosexuals will say that it is, while the homoromantic, bisexual and homosexual have said that it’s not. Some will say that it is a lesbian coming age of film because Adèle’s sexual awakening with a woman is the central theme of the story and it has permeated all areas of her life. According to the LGBT, it is not because the film is really a transition of Adèle’s life from adolescence to adulthood and that she fell in love with Emma not because she identifies as a lesbian but because she chooses her above all others. Her attraction to Beatrice is possibly only a reminder of the ardor that she wishes to feel upon seeing Emma that she will do whatever it takes to attain it, which can also be explained by the symbolism of the blue fingernails on Beatrice.

You may think that this is not a lesbian film. You can agree with any of you gay friends that it is really a coming of age story and that her relationship with Emma is shown only 60% of the time. One can also see Adèle falling in love with a man or a woman, but it's not to say this to invalidate any of your straight friends’ opinion for this will only cause an “us” and “them” mentality when what anyone really wants and what the rest of the LGBT also do want is to create a film that will not be only regarded as excellent in queer cinema but cinema itself in general. Which also begs us the question, what makes a lesbian film?

To say that lesbians are a minority and if it focused on the marginalization of two women in a relationship then that is a lesbian film. However, if there is no marginalization as is the case with Blue…, does this mean that lesbian films are defined by this only? If homophobia is virtually non-existent, will lesbian films still exist? Lesbian films are those that show the unique aspect of two women falling in love with each other. Men and women are fundamentally different but two people who are right for each other have similarities and differences that complement the other’s shortcomings, and where one lacks the other provides. As much as men find it easy to detach emotion from their cognitive faculties, women are emotionally complex and take to nurture naturally.

Two women together are different and the same like all others. However, their similarities as women will provide a passion and an emotional perfect storm of love, ardor, turmoil, and joy that can only be felt in a lesbian relationship because of how two women relate to each other. Their strengths as women can complement each other and offer something different and utterly beautiful that other half may not naturally have but is available to women only. This will make their relationship relatable to others and it will also have a universal appeal since both genders have masculine and feminine qualities. It will be a good for a film to unite these two qualities in a woman who is paired with another that has the same wholeness of personality and can be expressed in myriad ways.

There's wishful thinking it were that easy but clearly it is not. Since the inception of lesbian culture in film, each lesbian who is passionate about cinema fantasizes that someday she will make the Holy Grail of lesbian movies. How can one make something unique and universal and will age well all at the same time? Should we focus on women’s rights, the minority status, or should we redefine lesbian film, or should we not and let the story and the characters have room to breathe and develop naturally like this film did? At first when trying to define lesbian film, ask yourself should you raise the existential question of what is a lesbian. Maybe there is no need, but it will take a really gifted individual who will make this highly awaited film. Maybe it requires us not to think in linear terms like anyone does, maybe we should think out of the box and practice those lateral thinking exercises. Regardless, what we have is Blue is the Warmest Color, a raw masterpiece and a celebration of the senses.

Since the feelings about this film cannot be expressed in a few words, let one can say this in several. It is exciting, painful, simple, passionate, layered, alive, sweet, foreboding, bright, exhilarating, raw, visceral, frayed, coherent, piecemeal, communicative, contemplative, subtle, detailed, holistic, beautiful, ethereal, amazing, cruel and brilliant all at the same time. Such is life, regretting nothing and will do it all over again. Bon nuit.


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