After minions of movie devotees told me I had to see Blue is the Warmest Color (aka La vie d'Adèle), I went. After all could all those minions be wrong? Approximately three hours later I couldn't wait to grab some fresh air. Why I didn't leave sooner is a matter of personal pride in that I don't abandon films before they're finished, but my reasons for leaving earlier were manifold. Besides the fact that one gets tired of seeing redundant scenes, myriad close-ups (especially of people sucking spaghetti, gnawing on gyros or slurping oysters), sex scenes that were not only gratuitous, but too long (at least 16 percent of the film had to have been taken up with cunnilingual/anal/vaginal sex), the characters themselves were often flawed.
Though Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) was, for the most part, exceptional (except for the fact that she could weep at the drop of pubic hair), I found Emma's (Léa Seydoux) character (except for her outrage scene with Adèle) somewhat bland and very hypocritical. That, of course, isn't Seydoux's fault, but Abdellatif Kechiche's and/or Ghalia Lacroix's problem with the dialogue which was often superseded by rather the use of somewhat extraneous scenes. My biggest problem with Emma was when she waxed philosophical about Sartre and the whole vintage existential angst of the 60s "existence precedes essence" shtick and then went on to say how reading Sartre allowed her to create her own values and determine a meaning for her life; one can see where she's coming from and empathize with that however, flash forward an indeterminable amount of time (in which the warm blue hair has become a chilly natural brown) to the scene where Adèle admits to having sex with a male colleague a few times causing existential Emma to go ballistic and threw Adèle out of the house with her baggage.
Not only that, she apparently had been spying on Adèle since she knew that Adèle had a fake address for her "lovers" to drop her off and she also knew that it was a male colleague who dropped her off. Not sure how she could have known that detail, but let's pretend that, perhaps, someone sent her an email or it was a missing chapter of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Of course, when Emma screams, shouts and knocks Adèle about before shoving her into the chill of a Lille night, she had obviously forgotten the simple fact that good old Sartre had an open marriage with De Beauvoir. So much for "existence preceding essence" or with dialogue in keeping with character.
It's suggested that Kechiche was greatly influenced by the Japanese director, Yasujirô Ozu, but it was a stretch for me to see where that influence was. Certainly not in the myriad number of filler scenes; that is, the dancing scenes, the bar scenes, the classroom scenes, the gay pride scenes, the protest scenes all of which could have been truncated in favor of the relationship. From my perspective, none of those scenes really contributed to the overall storyline of the piece which, in and of itself, could have been much more engaging. Less filler, more conflict. A film like Ozu's, Tokyo Story, is brilliant because of its understated conflict and that each character in the film is true to his/her character from the beginning to the end.
Not only that, but as I mentioned, so many of the scenes seemed redundant and too long. Does one really need to be told and told again that Adèle is an elementary school teacher? Wouldn't one time be enough? Is teaching children how to spell 'onion' in French really a necessary scene? Does it clarify the inner conflict she seemingly has about being a mother herself? Wouldn't one good scene do the same thing? Are the scenes that seem to go on forever supposed to make me forget Eric Rohmer whose dialogue was anything but gratuitous? And were all the "eating" scenes meant to be "erotic" or just merely establish the fact that most of the characters had bad table manners? Certainly, they wouldn't make me forget scenes from Tom Jones or La Grand Bouffe or even The Cook, the Thief, her Wife and her Lover.
Lastly, there was the café scene in which Emma and Adèle meet after an indeterminable separation for reconciliation if not rapprochement. They initially speak in platitudes before their mutual desires can't be caged any longer and they lust for each other kissing passionately across the table before Emma's hand reaches beneath the booth and darts straight for Adèle's vagina. After this brief tête-à-tête or, in this case, hand to vagina, Emma screams "Stop!" and the potential sex on the table top, with accompanying frottage, is interrupted. Now one has to remember that the café isn't empty. There are customers who, apparently, could care less about the apparent sexual fro-licking in the next booth and continue eating and drinking as if it were a common occurrence in Lille. Though I've been to France numerous times, unfortunately I never came upon a café like that. Then again, I've never been to Lille. Quel dommage.
Maybe I'm in the minority here. After all, IMDb gave Blue is the Warmest Color a rating of eight only 0.2 points fewer than Gone With the Wind and a mere 0.5 points fewer than "North by Northwest." So much for ratings. Maybe Kechiche tried to do too much. After all, three hours is a lot of time to fill and writing and directing aren't for everyone. For every Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman who achieved that "daily double" there are hundreds, if not thousands, who have failed at it.
After all, without Mankiewicz, Citizen Kane would probably not have been Citizen Kane. Once upon a time, I recall hearing the late novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer speak at a synagogue in Minneapolis. At Q&A one member of the audience asked him: "What do you think of the adaptation of "Yentl?" Singer, in his 80s at the time and, as usual, nattily attired, paused to consider the question and then answered in the most diplomatic of ways, "Sometimes I think one person shouldn't try to do everything" which alluded to the fact that Barbra Streisand did just about everything in that film, but act as the grip. I think that if Kechiche had actually tried to make a film that truly emulated something that Ozu had done, it could have been a masterpiece. At this point, I just think it's a piece of a different sort. Finally, I seem to recall, albeit vaguely, that, at the end of the film, I saw something on the screen that read Chapter one and Chapter two which, unless I'm mistaken, may anticipate a Chapter three and Chapter four at which point, perhaps, you will see a bit more about the life of Adèle if not her body. As for me, two chapters are plenty.