Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adele - Chapitres 1 & 2) (2013)
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix (from Julie Maroh graphic novel)
Notable Actors: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos
Where does one start with this film? How do you reconcile all behind-the-scenes stories of an allegedly demanding director with the intense and beautifully crafted story we see onscreen? Or the questions about male gaze that the explicit sex scenes raise? Frankly, these things are distractions from what is one exceptional film. The acting from the two leads is wonderful: Seydoux is great, acting the older, more experienced woman in this dynamic (a dynamic reflected in 'real' life as well). However, Adele Exarchopoulos is the stand out: she is in every scene and basically every shot; she has to reveal all the confusion, pain, passion and grief to the audience and mature several years before our eyes. She does all this seemingly without effort. Definitely an actor to watch.
One could not review this without mentioning the infamous, explicit sex scenes. Ultimately, the question with all these things (really the question with every scene in every film) is 'Does it need to be here? What would be lost if it was not shown?' The answer is quite a lot. The scenes are instense and passionate, very different from the first heterosexual scene. Without them we would not understand what it is Adele has lost with Emma. You have to forgot all the things you've read about how they actually filmed it, and just absorb it. I could get riled up about whether it is made with men or women in mind, but really almost all sex scenes are filtered through the male gaze, so I chose not to go down that path.
This is a three hour film that avoided being cumbersome: it looked beautiful and presented a story that explored a complex relationship between two people, not just two women.