La Vie d’Adèle

by Berck

or, as it’s stupidly known in the US, Blue is the Warmest Color. The original French title not only more suitable, it’s an obvious reference to La Vie de Marianne. Obvious, because Adèle is reading it in class early in the movie, and then encourages her new boyfriend to read it as well. I mention this first because I think the stupid American title negatively impacted my experience of the movie as a whole. You might argue that a title is largely irrelevant to a movie as a whole, but you’d be wrong. Especially during the first few minutes, when all you know of a movie is its title, you interpret everything you see through the lens of that title. The American title is a stupid lens, but through that lens, view it you will. [-Yoda, movie critic.]

I don’t pay much attention to movie reviews, but Jonah mentioned that I would like this movie because, “It’s basically just lesbian porn.” The reason she described it this way is that that’s how it’s been described but much of the popular American press. And I’m never one to turn down lesbian porn with a plot. But that’s not what it is.

To begin with, this is a 3 hour movie. If it were 3 hours of lesbian porn, I’d fear for (even the supposedly prosthetic) genitalia of the poor actresses. Of that 3 hours, there is, according to the internet, a 6 minute sex scene. Admittedly, 6 minutes is an awfully long sex scene. This is not a sex scene you want to watch with your parents. It’s intense, and if you ever wondered, “How do lesbians have sex?” this scene will answer it for you.

But it’s not porn, and the fact that the characters are both women is almost completely irrelevant to what the move is. Fundamentally, it’s an exploration of the agony of love. More subtly, it’s a surprisingly beautiful expose of Adèle Exarchopoulos’s face, especially her lips. Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker, gets it exactly right, “So much of this film is absorbed in closeups that, in regard to Adèle, it all but lays down a law: watch her lips.”

It’s easily the best cinematography I’ve ever seen. I’m perhaps a bit biased, because the film looks like I would have liked to have shot it were I capable of a such a thing (I’m not), but the closeups are amazing, and it’s all closeups.

Most strikingly, to me, is that it’s Monday evening. We watched this film Saturday evening and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s as literary as any film I’ve seen since American Beauty, and I’ll probably watch it again, even though it’s in French, which means excruciating subtitles. I speak almost no French, but the translations were terrible. I can only imagine how amazing this film must be to native speakers.

It’s not an especially happy movie. I can think of no movie with so many tears, and certainly no movie with so much snot. It was clearly a difficult movie to make. 750 hours of footage were hacked down to 3, and that must have been extraordinarily difficult, but nothing compared to the difficulty of acting for 750 hours.

In short, an excellent movie with the right amount of attention for all the wrong reasons. Recommended to those of you not afraid of well-earned NC-17 rating (must be because of all the cigarette smoking?). A.

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