La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2 (2013)

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One of the most talked about film of 2013 is Abdellatif Kechiche‘s La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2 (The Life of Adele: Chapter 1 & 2) or internationally known as Blue is The Warmest Colour. Not only the film was awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival this year, the two actress’ performance was highly acknowledged and was honored with the same award. Popping out in various critics’ list for best film of 2013, i am so glad i manage to watch the film before the year ended. (Fair warning: may contain spoilers!)

Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a regular high school girl, she loves her literature, her family, she dates cute boy, and sometimes become a victim of peer pressure courtesy of her friends. Her life changes when she encounters a Fine Art student with a striking blue hair, Emma (Léa Seydoux). They fall in love, and as Adèle matured, a different chapter in her life is about to begin.
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Loosely adapted from a 2010 french graphic novel Le Bleu Est Une Couleur Chaude or simply known as Blue Angel, by Julie Maroh. What came as a surprise for me is how first and foremost the film is part coming-of-age, part sexual awakening, that made up a personal journey of Adèle as she discovers and lost herself in her romantic entanglement with Emma. Adèle is a regular girl who dream to become a teacher, her life is simple, her family is simple like the favorite Bolognese they had for dinner. Emma in the other hand aspired to be an artist, surrounded herself with influential people, her family drink white wine and oysters. The two of them are so different, while Emma is seemed very secure and sure of herself, Adèle constantly in doubt and always seemed to be very vulnerable. In a lot of way, Adèle define herself the way her relationship with Emma transforms. When the two initially started out, Adèle define herself through Emma, and when they grew apart,  Adèle lost herself as well (can i insert lesbian death bed joke here?).

The film itself is made up out of parallels. The french title itself (La Vie d’Adèle) is a parallel to the literary assignments Adèle’s class is reading at the beginning of the film, La Vie de Marianne, an 18th century novel by Pierre de Marivaux. In one of my favorite part of the film is Adèle throwing a party for Emma, cooking her signature bolognese for Emma’s creative friends, we saw the first glimpse of doubt and insecurity of the relationship, as well as the turning point of the chapters of her life. Another parallel here, Adèle emotion and situation almost directly reflected by the scene of the movie playing on screen. And just like La Vie de Marianne, which remains uncompleted, Adèle’s own journey did not end as the credits roll.
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Although a lot of critics and review categorizes this particular film into the niche of lesbian relationship, i’d like to think of it as a mere sexual exploration sans the unnecessary label. Adèle seemed to fall right in the middle of Kinsey scale, thus making her having equal homo- and heterosexual tendency, but i digress. I could not help but to think of 1995 High Art, which similarly explore the theme of sexual awakening between a girl that would later become a muse and lover to an artist. Another recent film that came to mind was Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, which showcases a personal journey as well as a tumultuous relationship. Kechiche captures small details to enrich the nuance of each scene, which lend and air of poignancy to what would be an entirely naturalism approach. The romance between the two women developed organically through their gazes, coy flirtations, and conversational banters about all and nothing at all.

Like everyone else i’m joining the Adèle Exarchopoulos’ fan bandwagon. The relatively newcomer give a very honest and vulnerable portrayal of Adèle, as the immature and curious young girl with her naivete before she developed into an insecure woman with thirst for affections and acknowledgment. The part where Adèle was pained with jealousy was heart-wrenching, even more so when she admits to her affairs de cœur. But i have to say, Seydoux is impressive as Emma. Her physicality and gesture was different and powerful, i enjoyed every bit of emotion she put on display, showing her intelligence, strength, sensuality, and passion.
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I love watching Adèle journey and the tenderness of her love and the fiery passion for Emma. I even love the ending and the sense of ‘complete yet incomplete’ it evokes. Eventhough the narrative is simple, yet the performance of the actresses and Kechiche realism approach give the film wonderful textures. Gorgeous.

Blue is The Warmest Colour will be released as a part of Criterion Collection, in DVD and Blu-Ray format with spine #695 in February 2014. A full special edition treatment of this title will be release at a later date. I’d be looking out for that one.

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GENRE Drama, LGBT, Romance, Coming-of-Age
DIRECTOR Abdellatif Kechiche | PRODUCER Abdellatif Kechiche, Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval | WRITER Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix | CINEMATOGRAPHER Sofian El Fani | EDITOR Albertine Lastera, Camille Toubkis | DISTRIBUTOR Wild Bunch, Sundance Selects | BUDGET €4 million | COUNTRY French, Belgium, Spain | RUNNING TIME 179 minutes | RELEASE May 23, 2013 (Cannes)
STARRING Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux

IMDb | Trailer | Read Julie Maroh’s opinion

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DID YOU KNOW? Kechiche took over 750 hours of footage during the course of the 5 month shoot, a lot of them consists of Exarchopoulos candid recording during breaks or before scenes, that later integrated into the film. This extraordinary approach elevate the realism of the film, and because during these ‘unofficial’ takes people refer to Exarchopoulos as Adèle, the name of the main character is renamed to ‘Adèle’. The actual name of the main character in Maroh’s graphic novel is Clementine.

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The release of Blue is The Warmest Colour not only acknowledged for its tender love story. It also ignites controversies as well as debate about the nature and value of explicit sex scenes in cinema, refering to the film own 7-minute sex scene between the two lovers. Maroh accused Kechiche of turning an intimate encounter between lovers into porn, Seydoux also expressed her ‘humiliation’ when doing the scene. (read one of the interesting opinions here). Gay films (under directors such as Andrew Haigh, Ira Sachs, and Travis Mathews) have revolutionize the Queer cinema eroticism by  of explicit sex scenes (some are more graphic than others). But they were done based on their context and most importantly done by a person from homosexual p.o.i. I personally still think the sex scene was overdone, most particularly in its duration, and the sex that is displayed  does not represent an actual lesbian sex, but merely a male pov of what it should be. Autostraddle seemed to think so, and this  video done from Posture collecting responses about the film particular sex scene (which reminds me of this one). So maybe a point of view from a woman perspective (lesbian, preferably) would be worthy to consider.

Oh well, lemme just obsessed over this song instead…

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2 thoughts on “La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2 (2013)

  1. Great review! I had no problem with the sex scene but I guess the many cuts and….changes in positions made it pretty far from reality. I loved Adele performance and the natural, voyeuristic vibe of the film.

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