I don’t think any film has ever made me feel so bored for such an extended period of time – watching this feels like an experience I’ve survived rather than one I’ve gained any pleasure or cause for reflection from. It’s the French language Palme d’Or winner from this year’s Cannes film festival, which in many ways has pretension written all over it – even the choice of English language title (although it is taken from the comic) typifies so much of modern French cinema, moody art house fare where, by necessity, everyone smokes, stares into space for ages, and is inherently miserable, or ‘blue’ – the French title is actually a much better one.
Here, the story follows both the sapphic and straight erotic adventures of Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) as she discovers a taste for carpet munching – largely through studying French philosophy in class. Probably not the intended outcome of the curriculum, but certainly visually entertaining – though this film is so long I found myself salivating more over the scenes where everyone was eating pasta rather than the explicit images of young nubile girls grinding away at each other. Indeed, the sex scenes will shock some (although I don’t know who really, Daily Mail readers who aren’t aware of the concept of sex for fun perhaps) but I wouldn’t say they were out of place with the narrative and style (the majority of the camera work is used to show off the eroticism of the leads, such as a close up of Adèle’s mouth as she’s sleeping for example, though reports that many of the cast and crew refuse to work with the director again after what they termed an abusive shoot, does throw a somewhat darker shadow over things) – they do however exhibit a peculiar trait in that they are at once very immersive, we see faces coming up from a spot of muff diving covered with juice for example, and yet the actresses have very obviously been told to keep their butt cheeks firmly clenched, as if the sight of a sphincter will someone blow people’s minds. So the scenes are at once honest, and dishonest (rumour is fake genital shots were also used).
This reminds me of John Ruskin, the famous 19th century writer and artist who of course married his wife Effie Gray (who was due to be played by the hypnotic Keira Knightley in a big-screen adaptation of the story slated for release next year, but Dakota Fanning appears to have taken over the role for one reason or another) and, so the story goes, having only seen the nude female form through works of art, was so horrified at the discovery the apple of his eye had pubic hair that he was unable to ever have sexual intercourse with her, and the marriage was later annulled unconsummated. Thankfully, modern, young, arduous males and females alike need not suffer the same pitfall of sexual ignorance thanks to the internet, and perhaps films like this …
In any case, nothing of note really happens during the course of the film other than very standard coming of age and relationship issues that will be familiar to everyone, and some moments are unintentionally laughable. Directed by Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche and adapted from the French graphic novel by Julie Maroh – with even Maroh distancing herself from the final product, it at times does feel like we’re being allowed to get closer to the central characters and empathise with them, but this feeling never lasts very long. The performances are brazen and very good (the main love interest is Emma – the girl with blue hair played by Léa Seydoux), and perhaps if an hour and a half had been axed then it would have worked, as it is, it’s simply a self indulgent meandering waste of time. Expect lots of girl on girl action, extensive pasta eating scenes shot in a slightly dizzying manner, and ‘arty’ shots of people kissing with the sun shining between their mouths.