Another kind of blue

A ‘tender and frank’ approach to young love in French coming-of-age story

Complimentary hues.

Complimentary hues.

Blue Is the Warmest Color
Ends tonight, Dec. 12. Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Pageant Theatre. Rated NC-17.
Rated 4.0

There is a lot of blue in Blue Is the Warmest Color, and parts of it—the lengthy nude sex scenes—may look a little like what was once known as a “blue movie.” The new film from Abdellatif Kechiche (The Secret of the Grain) does indeed earn its NC-17 rating, but there’s nothing cheap or prurient about it, and the radiant sexual idylls that take up much of the middle portion of this three-hour coming-of-age drama are crucial to both the highs and the lows that play out over the full course of the story.

The “coming-of-age” billing for this French-language production is true enough, but there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about its approach to young love and the passage into adulthood. The young love in this case is a matter of same-sex passions, and the overall picture of young lives is tender and frank and not much given to the usual sentiments.

Léa Seydoux is the one star in the cast, but the film’s central character is a teenager named Adèle, and she’s played by a young woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos) making her feature-film debut. The film’s title in French translates as “The Life of Adèle,” and that title is a little better attuned to a story whose main overall focus is on the passage from feisty teenager to tough-minded young adult. Still, the central event in that passage is Adèle’s brief, passionately intense romance with a quirky, rebellious art student played by Seydoux.

Exarchopoulos and Seydoux are especially good in their shared scenes, and both exude kinds of beauty that have very little to do with conventional notions of what’s pretty. Kechiche presents much of the action in calm, flowing fragments; the gentle sensuality and unhurried alertness seem inseparable, ultimately, from this film’s patient realism and honesty.