It’s something of a shame that Palme d’Or-winning drama Blue Is The Warmest Colour has been overshadowed by controversy. Following an acclaimed Cannes premiere, the two female leads had a very public falling out with director Abdellatif Kechiche, claiming they were poorly treated on set.
The actors have since partially recanted their statements, but all focus is now on the much-hyped lesbian sex scenes, and whether they amount to exploitation.
Pity, because it’s actually a beautifully crafted romantic drama, and greater than the sum of its parts.
The scenes in question are indeed about as explicit as mainstream cinema is likely to get (aided in no small part by prosthetic genitalia). But they actually take up a small fraction of the three-hour runtime.
The story told roughly spans a decade – from early schoolgirl crushes, to a settled adult life of housewife-esque domesticity.
When we first meet Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), she is naive and shy, racked with confusion. It takes artist Emma (Léa Seydoux), with her shock of blue hair and worldly nature, to help the teenager grapple with her burgeoning sexuality.
Like 2011’s Weekend, this a gay love story which generally shirks the ‘issues’ that similar films might previously have felt obliged to consider.
Adèle inevitably experiences some homophobia from her classmates at school, but the age-old battle to be accepted by society is infrequently touched upon.
In fact, it’s a fairly conventional love story, with familiar relationship rigmarole every couple can recognise: meeting the parents; a messy split; an awkward post-break-up coffee.
The debate will rage as to whether those now-infamous love scenes are exploitative, or even pornographic. But in such an intense portrait of love, they’re arguably key to the broader narrative.
This is a love story told in intimate tones. Kechiche’s camera hugs Adèle throughout, the frame perpetually filled by her puppyish face. By the time the heartbreaking finale rolls around, we feel irrevocably intertwined with her story, and share in her grief.
These universal themes of love – the joys, the tragedies, the “infinite tenderness” as Emma puts it – will, with luck, resonate far beyond any media-generated controversies.