December 27 — January 02
Blue is the Warmest Color*
|Sat & Sun||2:00||5:30||9:00|
Unless otherwise noted, films begin on Friday and run through the next Thursday.
Moviegoers want films about relationships, about people—real, flesh-and-blood human beings. This, at least, is what many cinema fans declare, especially after a summer filled with pugilistic CGI robots, cartoon violence, and action scenes that flout the laws of physics. And every once in a while, a film is released that is about actual people. One particular film is a romance. The relationship is believable, the characters well-defined and sensitively portrayed. There is no moralizing, just situations that develop as they do in real life—messily. The love scenes are honest and not exploitative. They exist for a reason. They help dramatize the desperate nature of this attraction. The attractive couple is broken apart by fear and social pressures; they each marry someone else. It would be easier if they remained apart, lonely and incomplete. But they can’t stay away from one another. As often as they can, they must renew their love in a place that has special meaning to them both—the only place they can truly be free. This seems like a wonderful film, potential viewers think, and the reviews are universally ecstatic, too. But here’s the deal-breaker, sadly, for many of those moviegoers: the romantic leads are both men. The film is Brokeback Mountain. This isn’t the “real life” some people wanted to see. Undoubtedly, director Abdellatif Kechiche’s transcendent film, Blue Is the Warmest Color, will face some of that hostility. Its protagonist is a young woman undergoing a period of uncertainty about her life—typical in the years it covers, when she is finishing high school and her first few years of college. Who doesn’t remember this as a period of intense soul-searching, doubts about the future, the simultaneous thrill and fear of adulthood? The young woman, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), is intrigued by an upperclassman at her high school, an art student with blue hair. They meet later, become friends, and then lovers—until differences in their family backgrounds, career goals, and artistic beliefs gradually undermine the relationship. Kechiche doesn’t rush the story or pile on dramatic incidents in order to inflate the tragedy. At three hours, the film isn’t afraid to take its time, exploring both characters in depth and making their behavior and attitudes understandable to the audience. The dissolution of their love affair isn’t weighted down with inevitability, but when the end comes for them, it makes sense to us because we’ve come to know these characters and sympathize with both sides. Just like breakups in real life, neither party is completely at fault. Both make mistakes. In American cinema, a lengthy running time is almost always the exclusive domain of the sweeping epic, adventures or musicals or historical dramas covering monumental periods of human history, with multitudes of characters and lots of action. Moviegoers are trained to associate long running time to Important Subject Matter. Devoting three hours to the emotional growth of two characters over the span of only a few years seems odd: how can ordinary people be compelling or important if they’re not fighting battles or singing musical numbers? But patient viewers will find the intimate “warfare” that occurs in everyday relationships just as engaging and suspenseful. Aside from the running time, though, the real challenge to this film—which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival—is that the central relationship is between two women. Adèle’s partner is Emma (Léa Seydoux), and the film not only doesn’t shy away from the sexual aspects of their attraction, but one fairly explicit scene (which earned the film an NC-17 rating) makes it clear that sexual fulfillment is an important part of their relationship. The notorious scene is not exploitative, but it is frank and straightforward; the camera isn’t playing coy to titillate viewers. The unspoken message is: This is honesty, too. This is what loving couples do behind closed doors. If we want to understand these characters, we can’t show only the things that make us comfortable. Blue Is the Warmest Color is not for children, and some adults may be offended by part of the content, but no discerning viewer will fail to see that Kechiche is a humanist filmmaker, interested in human nature rather than moral judgments. The performances by Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are extraordinary; they were co-winners of the Best Actress Award at Cannes, which is appropriate because their performances are so complementary, so totally in tune with one another, that it seems impossible to call one “better” than the other. Exarchopoulos probably had the more difficult role: she is the main character, and it is Adèle’s maturation we witness, and Adèle who exhibits the changes in attitudes toward love—from pure, puppy-love glee to more sober, tough-minded commitment. But Seydoux has a tricky part, too, playing the oft-clichéd role of extraverted art student taking naïve youngster under her wing, and making her love feel genuine and heartfelt. Writing of this film for IndieWire, critic Jessica Kiang made this wonderful observation about the enduring power of the movies: “to submerge yourself in a story well-told is a way to live out other lives within your own, and through those complex and magical processes of identification, to breathe and dream and feel things that your own short span might otherwise never afford you.” Blue Is the Warmest Color captures this quality perfectly, introducing audiences to two thoroughly realistic lives that come to have great meaning to us, long after the final credits. The NC-17 rating isn’t just a badge of courage or bravado, it’s a signifier of real passion—passion between two individuals, passion of a filmmaker for moviemaking—and so rare is this level of cinematic passion nowadays that films like this can’t be recommended highly enough. Blue Is the Warmest Color is an unforgettable emotional experience, intimate yet “epic” in just how much it reveals about love, trust, commitment, and honesty.
Cinema NewsManhattan Short Presents Film of the Week. Each week the Festival Screens a Past Finalists Award Winning Film Online. Click here to watch the film short of the Week.
Monthly Cinema FlyerDownload Current Flyer as a PDF
Seniors/Students with valid ID: $7
*Please show SAC membership card to receive discount. R or MA rating requires purchase of ticket by parent or guardian of person under 17.