The original French title of the movie Blue is the Warmest Color is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2. “The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2.”
The working English title isn’t a direct translation; it’s the flashier, visually stirring edition to go along with the beautifully wrought poster and trailers featuring a woman with a short, aqua-hued coiff - and that’s fine. Given that this film is about the French title character Adèle’s sexual awakening, which centers around the woman bearing those symbolically-colored locks, it’s a fitting, and true, choice.
But what the original title denotes in referring to life in chapters bears greater witness to the heart of this story: the passage of our time on Earth as marked by love. For Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), falling in love with a woman named Emma marks a crucial passage in her story as a person, and it’s this passage that drives the soul of this film.
Just as Adèle, an impulsive and literate teenager, uncovers her homosexuality, she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), an older, talented and fiercely independent artist on the rise. The two fall completely in love in an intensely-captured period of time, and Adèle plays a centric role in furthering Emma’s career when she becomes her muse. Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, who shared the coveted Palme d’Or prize with Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche at this year’s Cannes festival - the first phenomena of its occurrence - are utterly stunning in their portrayals. Their complete immersion in their roles is exceptional in bringing life and believability to the radiant romance that we see form on screen.
Blue Is The Warmest Color is a film about how we are altered by love and document its effect in our memory. It is a beautiful, captivating and painful story that captures both the blissful and stark realities of relationships and the choices we make for ourselves - both in and against our hearts’ truest impulses. But instead of being received and praised for these reasons, the film has become mired in a disturbing gulf of controversy, starting even before the day it premiered. Since it stole the show at its Cannes premiere in May, this movie has flown straight into a hurricane of critique and counter-critiques, which you can read about in detail here. The biggest takeaway is what some critics have dismissed as an incorrect portrayal of lesbians, specifically, lesbian sex, while others have attacked Kechiche’s methods as typical of the derogatory masculine gaze, inherently degrading in its depiction of women (specifically, the hungry, “flesh-obsessed” close-ups of Exarchopoulos). Yes, both of the film’s stars have called Kechiche a troubled, obsessive director and the scenes torturous to film, but they have also praised Kechiche’s madman methods and the love story it ultimately produced. The fact that one gay critic, Ashton Cooper of Jezebel, spoke up this week and said she believes the movie is a realistic and touching representation of a lesbian love story goes to show that all the criticism is naught for heeding. If you see this movie for anything, don’t do it for the controversy, or the sex scenes that have the world talking - go see it for the love story.