Quintessentially this weeks Film Club screening at the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre was a meaningful love story between two people who find one another and fall in and out of love, sounds pretty normal so why has this French film coursed so much controversy? Perhaps it’s the fact that the story involves two young women falling in love and not the so-called acceptable norm of male and female? Well thankfully we are beginning to live in a more enlightened society and even here in Scotland legislation was passed in February 2014 allowing same sex marriage, which at present only awaits Royal Assent. The first same sex marriages are expected in the autumn.
The host for Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) was Alec Barclay who gave a short introduction explaining that as the film was a little over three hours long the discussion that normal follows the Monday night screenings would take place after next weeks film, something I’m sure we are all looking forward too. Alex explained that this intimate story was based on a French graphic novel written by Julie Maroh and originally called Blue Angel set at the end of the 1990’s. An English language edition was published last year. Directed and co-written by Abdellatif Kechiche, whose previous film Couscous (2007) was shown at the RBCTF in 2008. As I remember it was a rather slow paced movie but one with a fine cast and a story that involved a 61 year old disillusioned ship worker whose family rallies round to help him realise his dream of setting up a floating Couscous restaurant. Tonight’s film stars newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos as Adele and Léa Seydoux, an experienced young actress you may has seen in films as varied as Inglourious Basterds (2009) and the period drama Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) as Emma.
Our host went on to inform us that tonight’s film had so far won 43 awards and had been nominated for a further 29. These included the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. In an unorthodox move it is the first film to have it awarded to both the director and the two lead actresses who shared the award for Best Film becoming the only women apart from Jane Campion (The Piano 1993) to have ever won the prize. On being asked how the decision had come about to include the two leading ladies, along with the director, for the Palme d’Or, Steven Spielberg explained as follows: It was such an obvious important inclusion, because of the synergy created by the maître en scène and the characters of Adèle and Emma. Had the casting been 3% wrong it would not have worked like it did for us. Had anything been a little left of centre it would not have had such a positive resolution. It was the perfect choice between these two actresses and this incredible, very sensitive and observant filmmaker. So we really felt, all of us felt that we needed to invite all three artists up on stage at the same time .
This coming of age drama ranks as Peter Bradshaw’s best film of 2013 although it has coursed an awful lot of controversy. As well as its subject matter that obviously coursed problems for some people, its seven-minute sex scene would have certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst more conservative filmgoers. The more serious controversy involved the crew who criticised the working conditions citing the ‘heavy’ atmosphere in production, with behaviour close to moral harassment that lead to some members of the crew to quit. Also the two lead actresses complained about the director’s behaviour during the shooting and have made it clear they will not work with him again.
But putting all this to one side we have been privileged with a truly exquisite piece of filmmaking. Beautifully photographed with some superb up close and personnel camerawork and a great soundtrack. But sitting on a pinnacle above all this are two really outstanding performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and the blue haired Léa Seydoux. Both make their love affair seem so realistic portraying what it must be like to discover that you are in love with someone of the same sex and not really sure of your sexual orientation and what the pressures must be like to enable you to ‘come out’. The movie is at times emotionally draining and the ending is so ambiguous it almost brings you to tears. Give yourself a cinematic treat and see this marvellous film, see it on a double bill with The Great Beauty (2013), you won’t regret it.