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MOVIE REVIEW
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

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Wild Bunch

This year’s Palme d’or laureate, “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” and its reception exemplify how people — especially so-called allies — can be completely misguided about the LGBT community and remain blissfully clueless. The first thing any card-carrying LGBT member will point out about the film is the fact that its protagonist, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) — eponymous of the French title, “La Vie d’Adèle — Chapitres 1 & 2” — is in fact bisexual, effectively rendering anyone characterizing her as a lesbian to be uninformed and his or her opinion on the film irrelevant. It’s all the more embarrassing when someone does it blindly based on prerelease buzz or groupthink mentality.

The film is a coming-of-age story that follows Adèle’s sexual awakening in high school all through the painful breakup with her first love, Emma (Léa Seydoux). To be fair, the screenplay by Ghalia Lacroix and director Abdellatif Kechiche got a few things right, but it missed much of the point of Julie Maroh’s graphic novel that serves as the basis of the movie. Curiously, what they managed to get right has little to do with Ms. Maroh’s work.

Homosexuality notwithstanding, the adaptation follows the fairly conventional trajectory of a relationship that is lust at first sight and then gradually settles into domestic ennui. Mr. Kechiche and Ms. Lacroix instill a pronounced class divide in the couple that credibly dictates the dynamics of their interaction. Supposing jealousy and infidelity to be de rigueur in the LGBT lifestyle, the filmmakers are still oblivious to the fact that these are merely symptoms of a broader low-self-esteem epidemic. Mr. Kechiche glaringly omitted Adèle’s heterosexual liaisons when they are in fact integral to the plot, rendering the already sensationalistic lesbian sex scenes even more gratuitous.

Mr. Kechiche and Ms. Lacroix’s gravest missteps here are their depictions of homophobia and the LGBT community itself. In Ms. Maroh’s graphic novel, Adèle’s parents disowning her is the catalyst for her moving in with Emma. In the film, you see the precipitating sex scene in the home of Adèle’s parents, but not them catching Adèle in the act and kicking her out as a result. LGBT society is a lot more complicated than shown here. While the purported “community” might not always be inclusive or tight-knit, the filmmakers opted to focus solely on the self-interest and alienation within. The protagonist’s gay confidant, Valentin (Sandor Funtek), turns out to be her saving grace in the graphic novel, while she has no such support system in the film. But although the mythical LGBT community isn’t always friendly, you can at least always expect someone paying kindness forward.      

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Opens on Oct. 25 in New York and Los Angeles and on Nov. 22 in Britain.

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche; written by Mr. Kechiche and Ghalya Lacroix, adapted from “Le Bleu Est une Couleur Chaude” by Julie Maroh; director of photography, Sofian El Fani; edited by Albertine Lastera, Camille Toubkis, Jean-Marie Lengellé and Ms. Lacroix; produced by Alcatraz Films, Olivier Thery Lapiney and Laurence Clerc; released by Sundance Selects (United States) and Artificial Eye (Britain). In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 59 minutes. This film is rated NC-17 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Léa Seydoux (Emma), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Salim Kechiouche (Samir), Mona Walravens (Lise), Jérémie Laheurte (Thomas) and Alma Jodorowsky (Béatrice).

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