Human beings are animals. We eat, we sleep, we fuck. That we try to find some meaning in it all is what makes us humans—it’s the sapiens in Homo sapiens. On that score, Blue Is the Warmest Color is interested primarily it what it means to be human, raptured by a young woman’s carnal urges and, simultaneously, by her desire to grow older, to figure out what she likes and what she doesn’t. It is intense, both physically and emotionally, in the sex scenes and in every other scene. Abdellatif Kechiche’s film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May—in an unprecedented move it was awarded not only to the director but also to his two actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The jury made a wise choice in rewarding such a passionately honest movie about youth and the elusive quest to figure out what makes you you.
You’ve heard about the sex scenes, and yes, they are rather explicit, but they are not superfluous. Quite the contrary. The film is anchored by, according to my totally non-empirical research, a nearly ten-minute scene shared by Exarchopoulos and Seydoux. This scene, which is lengthy in the moment, is the keystone of the film’s plot and also the film’s emotional center—it is when Adèle (the character and the actress share a name) and Emma (Seydoux) consummate their relationship and their sexual attraction, and critically when Adèle’s emotional desires are closest to being fulfilled. There are sex scenes on either side of this one (including one, which you might not have known, with a guy), but in my reading these arose more out of physical need or, in the scene with the guy, Adèle’s curiosity, rather than desire, if such a distinction exists. In Adèle’s first sexual foray with Emma, her curiosity and need marry with her desire, and satisfy it. For a few minutes, then, it all makes sense: The regret and longing of the protagonists from the novels in her high school lit class, and her own insecurities about her friends, her potential lovers, and her future all seem to have been about something, even if Adèle can’t put her finger (or her lips) on anything other than Emma and even if Adèle still doesn’t know what her future holds. She does know that she wants to live her life on her own terms, it’s just that she can’t explain what those terms are—Adèle is often shown at a loss for words when asked to describe how she feels, though she’s adept at making up stories about herself. In bed with Emma, though, she can communicate her messy insecurities and desperation with her body, not verbally. The sex is messy, too, but also profound and beautiful—in other words, it’s human.