Exploring sexuality

Exploring sexuality
Blue is the warmest colour review
Cinema still: Blue Is The Warmest Color starring Adele Exarchopoulos (left) and Lea Seydoux

SINGAPORE - Review Drama


172 minutes/Opens tomorrow

The story: Boys are interested in Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), a pretty French junior high school student. She reciprocates and even sleeps with one of them, albeit half-heartedly. Her sexual explorations take a lesbian turn when she appears to fall in love at first sight with Emma (Lea Seydoux), a fine arts undergraduate and aspiring painter.

After Adele completes high school, she moves in with Emma, who neglects her when her art career faces problems. Eventually, they quarrel and break up bitterly after Adele has an affair with a male colleague at the preschool she works at.

Unlike Brokeback Mountain, Blue Is The Warmest Color refuses to be a sensitively wrought, forbidden love story which would be a tad too melodramatic, not to mention ho-hum, if it weren't about a homosexual relationship.

No, the French film is a visceral tale which wants to get in your face to challenge your notions of sexual identity and love. Despite Adele's copious shedding of tears when Emma dumps her, Blue has scant regard for sentiments.

Whatever prejudice there remains in liberal France against same-sex unions is summarily dealt with in two short scenes without angst: Some of Adele's friends turn on her when they suspect she is dating a woman and her parents passiveaggressively grill Emma about her "boyfriend" over dinner at their home.

Apart from that, the focus is almost entirely on Adele, whose cherubic face with baby fat still clinging onto her cheeks and a perpetual, dreamy openlipped gaze fill many close-up frames.

The camera seems to interrogate through her character the debate over whether homosexuality is learnt behaviour or immutable essence. Emma, a charismatic androgyne (shades of Kate Moss here), espouses philosopher JeanPaul Sartre's Existentialism Is Humanism theory that she chooses her actions and wants to be judged only by them, implying that sexual identity is a choice.

On the other hand, Adele's attraction to Emma is instant and enduring, even as she has no qualms about sleeping with young men.

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