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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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Blue is the Warmest Color Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Criterion
Feb 26 2014 06:37 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Criterion
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/MPEG-2
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Audio: French 5.1 DTS
- Subtitles: English
- Rating: NC-17
- Run Time: 2 Hr. 59 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: Clear Criterion case
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 02/25/2014
- MSRP: $24.95
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
“I miss you. I miss not touching each other. Not seeing each other, not breathing in each other. I want you. All the time. No one else.”
Adèle wanders through her school days as any other child her age, with a mix of boredom, laughter and curiosity. Her school friends discuss boys and the favor of their attention, and her time in class seems to be a mix of daydreaming and interest. She is in her final year. One sunny day, a walk through the high street offers a chance passing encounter. An older girl with striking blue hair catches her glance. Adèle is surprised by the feelings this encounter stirs. As her friends continue to gossip about boys, Adèle accepts the attention of a handsome a little older than her. They enjoy each other’s company, but a sexual encounter between them leaves her confused and empty.
During a night out with a friend, a young gay man, she is taken to a gay bar. Later, making her way to a lesbian bar, chance again brings the blue-haired girl into her world. They strike up a conversation and immediately hit it off. Her name is Emma.
Adèle and Emma develop a friendship. Adèle’s friends, feeling shunned by Adèle’s divided attention, and by her apparent fascination with a girl, taunt Adèle, insinuating through insult that she is a lesbian. Adèle lashes out. But the comfort and confidence she feels spending time with Emma – a girl with whom the rest of the world seems to disappear when they are together – eases her and she soon accepts her desire for her.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche constructs a mesmerizing experience with Blue. Assembling a film from endless hours of footage, a good deal captured during the actresses downtime, as they slept or paused between scenes. The effect serves to create a magnificent sense of timelessness, organic storytelling and artful realism. Even scenes concerned with rote, mundane things – eating a family meal, a discussion of art – becomes something of beauty as presented here.
Winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or, there is exquisiteness in every inch of Blue is the Warmest Color (also known as La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1&2). A remarkable performance by Adèle Exarchopoulos (as Adèle) – truly one of the most laid bare, honest, and fully committed performances I’ve been privileged to witness – sets a good film into the realm of greatness. Her journey through the tumult of sexual discovery is deeply engrossing, capturing us from the first moment we walk into her life.
The explorations of sexual awakening isn’t new in film, but the intimacy and unfettered look at the sexual emergence of a young girl becoming aware of her feelings towards girls – told with great tenderness and explicit abandon from time to time – most certainly is. While there have been other films that have explored same-sex relationships (though not nearly enough), such as Beautiful Thing (1996), Desert Hearts (1985) and Maurice (1987), Blue is the Warmest Color seems the most intimate and unflinching. The entire film is grounded and powered by the extraordinary performance of Adèle Exarchopoulos who stuns with one of the single greatest performances I can recall, and is aided by uniformly terrific supporting players, most notably her love interest, Emma (Léa Seydoux).
The controversy surrounding Blue is the Warmest Color triggered shortly after the film’s triumph at the Cannes film festival. The graphic nature of the love scenes were lambasted by some, charges that the film included nothing more than unrealistic, male heterosexually charged fantasies of lesbian sex, and accusations of the director displaying an unhealthy voyeuristic proclivities were all fodder for discussion. Even the actresses that form the very heart and soul of the film, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, became part of that post-success story with less than flattering comments about the director. That, along with the author of the graphic novel upon which this film’s story is based, offering pretty harsh criticism – particularly of the nature and graphic intensity of the sex displayed onscreen (by two actresses, neither of which were lesbians themselves), appeared close to sullying the success of the film and defining what Blue would become in the eyes of the broader film audience.
Fortunately that did not happen. Not because some of the complaints and questions raised aren’t valid in their own way, but because complaints and controversy aside, all that we can judge is what we see on the screen. And in that regard, Blue is the Warmest Color is an extraordinary experience. Vivid, lush, natural, intimate, earnest, raw, and impossibly fascinating.
It’s hard to judge if the lesbian sex is accurate for two critically important reasons. The first, perhaps most obvious, is that I am not a lesbian and thus have no first-hand experience. The second is that the sex we see depicted onscreen isn’t offered as representative of all lesbian love-making. Quite the contrary. In a powerful scene late in the film, as Adèle and Emma talk with great pain and fragility about their relationship, they admit to each other that the lovemaking between them was unique in their experiences with other lovers. In other words, their sexual connection was unlike anything they’d experienced with anyone else.
As a three-hour experience, little is really known of Adèle or Emma’s family besides a few brief scenes, mainly at the dinner table (Emma’s parents are supportive, Adèle’s are oblivious). As young as Adèle is when her sexual revelations begin to make themselves apparent, her interactions with her parents would have made for some terrific drama and exploration. But precious little time is spent on that concern – by design it appears, but it does relinquish an important part of Adèle’s journey and the opportunity for us to better understand how this kind of sexual discovery can play out with family members.
Still, despite its relatively minor flaws, Blue is the Warmest Color, is a stunning and beautiful film. Rich with brilliant performances, replete with natural intimacy and raw emotional power, and a brilliantly unforgettable journey.
Video Rating: 5/5 / 3D Rating: NA
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Blue is the Warmest Color exhibits a flawlessness. Shot with a Canon C300 digital camera (with the production completed in a fully digital workflow), the presentation is pristine, delighting with excellent color balance, wonderfully natural skin tones and sharp contrast. A beautiful presentation without issues.
The master was approved by the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5Using the original digital audio master files, mastered at 24-bit, the 5.1 audio is filled with passages of ambient sounds. Dialogue presents itself primarily in the center channel allowing the light soundscape to exist naturally. Bursts of sound adjoin certain scenes, most notably the street march scenes with boisterous crowds and loud, joyful, danceable music pronounced.
The French 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio is accompanied by English subtitles.
Special Features: 1.5/5A second, reportedly feature-laden release is expected from Criterion at some point in the future.
Trailer and TV Spot
Booklet containing an essay by critic B. Ruby Rich