There is perhaps no other movie that merits a Golden Globe nomination more than Blue is the Warmest Color. The French film began garnering accolades at the Cannes Film festival, where it was awarded the prestigious Palme D’or. The three-hour emotional epic directed by acclaimed French-Tunisian director, Abdellatif Kechiche, bares reality to its core, daringly delves into the most intimate human experiences and challenges societal conformities and inhibitions. It stands as perhaps the most intense love story of the year while at the same time provoking some of the most heated controversy.
The film is a sexual coming-of-age story about a high-school girl, Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), who falls for a slightly older blue-haired female artist, Emma (Lea Seydoux). The couple embarks on a passionate, steamy love affair, that eventually crumbles under the mundane pressures of life.
From the earliest screenings critics raved about the film’s honest and poignant portrayal of first love, the fearless performances of Seydoux and Exarchopoulos and their ability to capture their hunger for each other and for life. But not everyone was impressed. Julie Maroh, who wrote the graphic novel on which the movie is based, criticized the use of heterosexual, rather than gay, actresses. But speaking to the HFPA, Kechiche said that the sexual propensities of the actresses were irrelevant. He just wanted two actresses who were able to incarnate the passion of the two characters and their attraction to each other. In fact, he refrained from choreographing the sex scenes, and let the actresses be guided by their passion for each other. “The only mandate was to experience it for themselves and that the camera was there to capture what was happening but it was also there to protect their freedom to explore and just experience it,” he said.
Shot from every angle with different lenses, those scenes are in fact explicit enough to prompt comparisons to pornography. But unlike pornographic movies, Blue is the Warmest Color tells the compelling emotional journey of a young girl, who experiences the joys and pains of profound love. Sex is merely a manifestation of the depth of her passion for her lover, and it was not the only activity that deepened the bond between them. The protagonists share all aspects of their lives through the vicissitudes of their affair: the taste of food, socializing with friends, intellectual conversations and family visits.
The explicit nature of Blue has not been the only source of controversy. In September, a very public spat broke out between the director and his actresses, who claimed in a press interview that he was “horrible” and a bully, vowing never to work with him again. Seydoux broke into tears when she talked to the HFPA about the subject, reaffirming that she would never work with the director again, in spite of her admiration for his work. Kechiche’s reaction to his actresses’ grievance was utter shock, and he flatly denied the allegations. “To this day, I had only statements of love and gratitude for taking them onto this journey,” he told us at the HFPA press conference. He also accused Seydoux of poisoning the younger Exarchopoulos’ mind with her polemic. “I hired two actresses; they knew my prior work and knew the project they were getting into. The shoot was supposed to last two and a half months, but I had trouble drawing the performance from Seydoux, so it took twice as much time to shoot the film,” he said. Subsequently Exarchopoulos distanced herself from her initial comments, telling the HFPA that she would love to work with Kechiche again in spite of the hardship she had to endure during the shoot. “He is a genius and I owe him a lot,” she stressed.
In spite of the controversy, Blue is the Warmest Color has continued to gain critical praise and box-office success. It’s an indelible cinematic experience that will be remembered for a long time. It is not eligible for Academy Award consideration because it was not released before September 30th. HFPA rules, however, are broader and it was rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination.