Palme d'Or-winning French love story, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, opens today in cinemas to quite the furore. Here, Rebecca Nicholson asks why it's creating such a fuss...
Considering it’s a three-hour-long French arthouse exploration of the power and pain of love, Blue is the Warmest Colour, has certainly got a lot of people interested. It’s hard to recall a film that has been released with so much chatter around it, and, wearyingly, much of this is down to the fact that it contains a lengthy, explicit sex scene - and that the sex scene is between two women.
The irony is that sexuality is almost incidental to the story, which is in fact a remarkable journey through passionate first love that follows a relationship from start to end. It’s more than just a romance, though - it’s also about how class divides us, and it’s about how we change ourselves to accommodate another person, and what we lose and gain in that. It’s far more thoughtful than the hype suggests, and the gut-punch performances of Adèle (Adele Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux) as the two leads are raw and stunning. This is a film that stays with you long after the closing credits.
That it is a lesbian love story is almost incidental, but not quite. Early on in the film, when Adele is at school and has a boyfriend but can’t quite work out what doesn’t feel right for her, she visits a gay bar. She’s nervous and awkward. I've been there - and the portrayal is excruciatingly honest.
Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux at the Cannes Film Festival [Getty]
In fact honesty and authenticity have been at the heart of the controversy. The internet has exploded with a heated debate about whether the main sex scene is representative of lesbian sex, or whether it is the fantasy of the male director Abdellatif Kechiche. It is long, and its length makes it uncomfortable rather than erotic, but I didn’t find it entirely absurd. It is ambitious, perhaps, but the extremes of it fit within the story. This is all-consuming lust and desire.
The sex scene is seven minutes out of its total 187 minutes. It speaks volumes about our collective maturity that this has become the focus of discussion. And in fact most of the controversy is around the film, rather than within it: the cast falling out with the director, the writer of the graphic novel on which it is based distancing herself from it, the endless arguments about its ‘realness’. The real shame is that this noise distracts from what is a stunning piece of filmmaking and a beautiful, emotionally honest, devastating love story.