"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color

Or, The Life of Adele, Chapters 1 and 2 - the French title, which far better captures the film.

Lots of details about the plot below, but they're not really spoilers in that the knowledge of them won't affect the film.  Nothing you couldn't see coming.

This is a film that I'd like to edit down myself to a more manageable two hours.  It's unnecessarily three hours long, and I know just the scenes I'd shorten.

The movie takes place over about ten years or so; it's left unclear.  Adele at 15 falls for a boy, but has eyes for a girl, Emma.  Then she and Emma finally connect, develop a relationship, move in together, grow complacent, split up, and Adele tries to cope with the loss.

I found the shifting in time jarring, but other reviewers loved it.  I kept feeling like I was missing something - like I must have drifted off.  One minute she's in high-school living with her parents, and the next, with the same hair-do that she can't leave alone, she's a teacher living with Emma in a very cool apartment that looks way too expensive for a new teacher and an artist to afford.  And the next minute, Emma has a 3-year-old with another woman.  Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I would have liked the occasional helpful heading, like, Four years later....

Adele never seems to develop a self.  She needs another person to stave off loneliness to the point that, when Emma gets busy with her art, Adele has an affair.  She's defined by her relationship and is lost without a connection.  There's one scene in which Emma encourages Adele to develop her writing in order to be happy, but Adele's happy just being with Emma.  That kind of thing.  And there are many scenes when Adele is alone, and she just stares out the window smoking.  And crying.  She likes her job, but, without Emma, she comes home to an abyss.

And I didn't care.  She isn't enough of a character on her own for me to care about her loss.  She's singularly focused on one person to the exclusion of the rest of the world.  It's a very sad film, but I didn't shed a tear.  But I also wonder if it's because of the music.  I hated the film Lost in Translation, mainly because I think Scarlett Johansson is a horrible actress - her lines are consistently flat.  But I cried at the end when a swell of music cued me.  But this film ends with Adele walking alone as an upbeat latin song brings us to the credits.  Maybe I misinterpreted the end entirely, but she looked distraught to me - still unable to get over Emma.  A guy she obviously isn't interested in goes after her, but in the wrong direction.  Another reviewer suggests it ends with the possibility of new love, but I think it ends with her unable to love someone else.  Not yet.

When Emma wants Adele to write, it's also telling in that she doesn't really acknowledge what Adele does do.  Her teaching and cooking don't seem to count in the same way.  They don't endure like art or writing might.  There's a pretension to Emma that distances her.  Her friends also go there arguing about Klimt the way art students are trained to do - at once intellectual yet vacuous.  Adele struggles with this in reverse at the beginning - wanting to discuss novels with a musical boyfriend who doesn't like books with long sentences. Adele is more authentic in her longing to talk about it all.  She has a pure desire about her books without any need to impress others. This mis-connection of passions again presents a barrier when she can't join in on the art discussions with Emma.   And Adele's love of reading seems to be forgotten in the second half.  Why didn't she pick up a book instead of staring out the window for days and years?

And some scenes go on forever!  There's Adele reading almost an entire story to her students.  The whole thing!  And there's Adele dancing while she watches Emma talk to her old girlfriend, dance, look over, dance, look over....  Scenes like this could have given the same sense of plot or character in a fraction of the time.  There are some scenes worthy of the length - dancing outside with the children, or floating in the water at the beach - scenes that quietly embody her internal turmoil.  But most needed a ruthless editing.

And then there are the sex scenes.  Uncomfortably long and pornified, they tell us little about the characters or their relationship.  There's an awful lot of bouncing and groaning, but scant gestural communication or connection between the lovers.  We don't get to see the build-up, the seduction, only a variety of positions that allow for adequate friction.  That was a shame.

But the film is captivating because of Adele's face.  She says so much with the slightest change of expression.  I was able to keep watching the entire three hours because she's a delight to watch.

For that, I'll give it a B.  

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