This three-hour drama about a lesbian relationship between young student-turned-teacher Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and slightly older painter Emma (Léa Seydoux) immediately begs the question: Why three hours?
It's a question that, having seen the film, I am still asking.
Blue Is the Warmest Color is essentially a collection of lengthy slice-of-life scenes, following the shy Adèle as she first slowly comes to terms with her same-sex attraction, then embarks upon a relationship with the confident, blue-haired Emma, and then... well, let's just say some time passes and some feelings change, and leave it at that. (Not that there's much to spoil here, in this defiantly un-plotty film.)
I get what Kechiche is trying to do: by giving an epic, big-screen treatment to a rather ordinary relationship, the idea is that every couple goes through their own high drama. Meanwhile, the long scenes and heavy use of extreme closeups give us lots of chances to examine Exarchopoulos's messy hair and slack mouth, and the tears that stream down her face every ten minutes or so. Blue Is the Warmest Color is an intimate, even tactile experience. But I never became interested in the characters.
The film is already infamous for its graphic sex scenes – one of which is almost comically extended – and I suppose that will entice a certain demographic. But in the end, although the story suggests that hot sex is the only thing these two characters ever had in common, it's hard to deny the allegations that Kechiche is only here to titillate: with the perfect bodies of two attractive Frenchwomen grinding against each other, this doesn't feel like a love story; it feels like lesbian porn directed by a straight man.
I didn't hate Blue Is the Warmest Color. The presentation is admirably straightforward and the performances are convincing. But there's just not much to this film. Much of the time it's frankly dull – watch Exarchopoulos interact with her kindergarten students for 10 minutes! Kechiche could have made virtually the same movie in half the running time. Still, it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, with no less than Steven Spielberg presiding over the jury, so obviously some people are finding value in this film. I'm just not one of them.