Adapted from a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, Blue Is the Warmest Colour tells the story of a relationship, from beginning to end. Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a 17-year-old schoolgirl at the film’s start, and Emma (Léa Seydoux) is a slightly older, more confident and more sexually experienced art student.
Shot in intimate, hand-held close-up, it is a work of lovely, unhurried, unforced naturalism, but it is also full of an intoxicating youthful vigour. We get searching conversations about philosophy and the purpose of art and the girls’ plans for the future; we also see them flushed with passion on protest marches, dancing at parties, and in bed.
The sex scenes, of which there are several, have proved controversial. But although explicit, they are not exactly gratuitous. After all, its lusty intensity is a defining characteristic of Adèle and Emma’s relationship. And the film is almost wholly without manufactured melodrama. It makes its points with nuanced looks and subtle glances.
It was unprecedented but entirely right that when the film was awarded the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes festival, the prize was given to the actors as well as the director.