Saturday, November 23, 2013

Close-ups of Life: Blue is the Warmest Color

In his epic examination of an 18-year-old girl named Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who discovers her attraction to other women and immerses herself in a passionate love affair with an older woman named Emma (Léa Seydoux), director Abdellatif Kechiche favors close-ups and realism. Consequently, you get a lot of close-ups of eating, especially shots of people stuffing themselves with huge forkfuls of spaghetti and, of course, you get close-ups of kissing and nearly real-time lovemaking between Adèle and Emma. You might think the film didn’t need so many shots of eating or kissing or sucking, but all of the eating and lengthy lovemaking are part of the film’s effective naturalism that successfully portrays the intensity and emotion of Adèle’s love for Emma.

Adèle Exarchopoulos, easily my choice for Best Actress so far this year, with her soft, dark eyes, her round cheeks, and her full lips, fares well in all the close-ups and delivers a performance so real that you find yourself wishing she’d wipe the snot from her lip when she sobs over her break-up with her lover. As a teenager finishing high school, focusing on French literature, Adèle loves reading, loves eating – which she does a lot – and yearns for companionship. She hangs around with a clique of friends, but they are none too sensitive or helpful when it comes to Adèle’s search for her identity and her yearning for sensuality which, I suppose, is what the eating is all about. In one excellent scene, she finds herself in an explosive argument when her so-called friends accuse her of being a lesbian. It is the most realistically staged heated argument I've seen in a while.

But Adèle doesn’t stay with these friends for very long. She falls in love with Emma, discovers an insatiable desire for sensuality, becomes a teacher, and demonstrates a penchant for teaching little children. In another realistically staged scene involving a lengthy party thrown by Emma for her artsy friends who ramble on about existentialism and orgasms, Adèle starts to realize that Emma's world might not be the right fit for her. Adèle is growing up, learning her place in the world, and making mistakes that lead to a lot of emotional pain for her. Throughout this three-hour odyssey, Adèle Exarchopoulos as Adèle is always engaging as an actress. She makes it impossible not to care about this young woman learning the hard way who she is and what her place in the world might be.

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