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A tale of two women

india Updated: May 25, 2013 19:32 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times
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Although for most part of the ongoing 66th Cannes Film Festival, Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis seemed like a sure Palm d’Or clincher with the movie also being on the top of the critics’ favourite list, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour is now racing towards the winning post. And there is just a day to go before the Steven Spielberg jury of eight men and women (Vidya Balan included) declares the winners on Sunday (May 26).

Blue is the Warmest Colour is a sexually explicit film on lesbian love. It features long sequences of graphically real sex between two attractive young actresses. It can well be termed pornographic, though opinion among critics is divided. The veteran Indian movie critic, Saibal Chatterjee, had a dissenting note on this view. “Pornography is a very lose term”, he said.

Be that as it may, the Screen critic, Fionnuala Halligan, quipped in her blog: “Blue Is The Warmest Colour is the five-star, must-see, talk of the Croisette. It does feature lengthy sequences of graphic, real sex between two gorgeous young actresses, but that’s not the [only] reason why the film was so warmly received; it’s also a deeply tender look at first love.” Indeed it is.

Tunisian-born Abdellatif Kechiche’s drama, Blue is the Warmest Colour, comes after his immensely disappointing Black Venus (also at Cannes in an earlier year), and this latest work of his is as gentle a love story as it is a passionate unfolding of unsimulated sex between two young girls. It details not just sex, but also a young girl’s discovery of adulthood in the arms of an older girl. Despite being three hours long, the movie does not sag at any point, thanks largely to the wonderful performances by Lea Seydoux and newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos, who may even go on to win the Best Actress Palm.

Loosely adapted by Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix from the prize-winning Gallic novel by Julie Maroh, the script spans 10 years in the life of a high school student, Adele (Exarchopoulos), who lives in a blue-collar home at Lille. We see her first during an unfulfilling heterosexual relationship with a fellow classmate, and later she gets connects with a blue haired art school student, Emma (Seydoux), in a lesbian bar. As the years roll by, Adele becomes a Kindergarten teacher and Emma an artist, specialising in female nudes. They move in together, forging a sexual bond that not many directors would dare to explore and portray at such length and in such detail. The women are shown in various positions, their moans captured in all their intensity and the flesh exposed with little hesitation.

But then sex and love though powerfully uniting entities can sometimes lose to class differences, and the two women clearly belong to different social strata. And this is precisely what happens to them, though Adele’s heterosexual fling comes as an excuse for Emma to call off the relationship.

Blue is the Warmest Colour may not be a piece of great story telling, but it is the virtual performance by especially 19-year-old Exarchopoulos that holds the frames together in an extraordinarily compelling way. She manages to portray feelings and emotions that are only suggested in other works. She captures both ecstasy and agony in all their exciting splendour. Seydoux is equally good in the role of an older and more mature partner, who knows that their class difference will always be an obstacle.

As the film ends, we are made to believe that lesbianism in Adele’s life is finally over.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 23 years)