Blue Is the Warmest Color — the French art-house import — is swathed in controversy and criticism: the director, Abedellatif Kechiche, is publicly feuding with his two leading ladies, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos; the film’s NC-17 rating is a veritable box office death sentence; and the 7-12-minute graphic lesbian sex scene is simultaneously explicit and unrealistic, depending on whom you ask.
But for all the provocative press the film garnered preceding its US release, its artistry and narrative achievement are far more buzzworthy.
The film follows teen protagonist, Adèle — altered from the graphic novel’s Clementine, likely to reflect the actress’ wondrously full embodiment of the role — during her sexual awakening, from amorously timid to ravenous.
After a disingenuous high school relationship falters, she is catapulted into identity by Seydoux’s magnetically exotic, blue-haired art student, Emma. Despite Emma’s freer experiences in life and love, Adèle is the aggressor, the glutton — for love, lust, punishment and spaghetti.
Her coming of age is raw and honest, in her insatiable appetite for life — it’s powerfully transformative. And transitive. While Adèle spends much of the film in voracious consumption, it was around the point in the film when Adele’s circle of “friends” ambushes her with accusations of her lesbianism that my stomach knotted, too enraptured to continue eating my popcorn.
Though, as Adèle walked towards the end credits, I became suddenly affected by her hunger — my own resurfacing, with a vengeance. From the IFC Center, I beelined to Mighty Quinn’s where I inhaled the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever pulled or porked. What followed was a vicarious postcoital cigarette, largely influenced by the frequent onscreen smoking. The French really do make it look cool — and necessary. After a relatively food-free bus ride home, I settled into what should have been an absolutely food-free Sunday night of television. Blue left me so emotionally unbalanced, I sought out a makeshift SSRI — in my kitchen. I ate three-quarters of a chocolate pudding pie that was three-quarters whipped cream. I cleansed my palette with an entire pint of Talenti peppermint bark gelato. As a courtesy to my insulin levels, I turned to salt to complement the sweet — a metaphor for love and life floundering somewhere in there — so I finished the nearly-full bag of popcorn that accompanied me home from the theater.
My binge could’ve been avoided had I just heeded David Edelstein’s review: “People who’ve been through a terrible recent breakup—or can conjure up the sense memory of one — should approach Blue Is the Warmest Color with care. It might not just open old wounds. It might show you wounds you didn’t know you had.” Like the gaping one in your face that just wants to be fed.
It’s been almost a month since I’ve seen Blue (and its staying power) is remarkably weighty — heavy on both your heart and waistline. Before I suffer through the heartbreak of a repeat-viewing, I’ll need to elasticize my pants. And queue up my Groupon for Smashburger, with a side of Xanax.