Abdellatif Kechiche’s Cannes-prized three-hour feature has tender supporters and bitter detractors (including Julie Maroh, the young author of the graphic novel the film is based upon), but the fantastic sweet fury of the central teen character, Adèle, finding fierce first love with a confident, blue-haired older girl (Léa Seydoux), encompasses kiss and bite and fuck and any and all manner of oral gratification with headlong wildness. Kechiche likes to watch. A trait notable in his earlier “The Secret of the Grain,” comes to full blush in “Blue Is The Warmest Color” (La Vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 & 2). Kechiche’s camera fixates on Exarchopoulos, and she’s a stand-in, not only for a lesbian character but also for anyone, any youthful first immersion into the physical world of another person. Kechiche captures a staggeringly intense amount of orality: kissing, smoking, talking, spitting, fucking and eating, oh, such eating. As his game gamine, Adèle Exarchopoulos is sexual, and sexualized, but her embodiment of oral desire is ravishing. (She reminds me of a good friend whose efficiency, dispatch and grace at table both amazes and wounds in the same lovely instant.) The working-class Adèle is young and new to life and only discovering the capacity of her appetite. Literal, sure, but oh-so-human. Exarchopoulos has a scene of eating spaghetti that floors me. (She’s both Lady and the Tramp and not very Disney at all.) The passage is only a few seconds: Adèle smacks her lips—“It’s so good”—and shoulders off her jacket. She’s served a mass of linguine and red sauce, and she shovels a bite into her open mouth—pillowy lips, big white teeth—wipes her lips with the back of her hand—chews, chews with lips apart. Chews. Licks her lips. Chews. Swallows. All with commonplace relish. There is a very, very long lovemaking scene in “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” but this is the fucking scene. Adèle may have her passions sundered and she could find heartbreak, but she will find herself. Just attend to that hunger. 179m. (Ray Pride)
A return engagement of “Blue is the Warmest Color” opens Friday, January 10 at Siskel. The NC-17 trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.