This controversy-magnet of a movie became briefly as famous for the post-Palme d’Or rows between actress Léa Seydoux and director Abdellatif Kechiche as for its explicit lesbian love scenes. Perfectionist Kechiche shot 800 hours of footage (one love scene alone took 10 days to film) to create this stunningly intense, intimate and engrossing drama.
As much a coming-of-age tale as a love story, it’s propelled by an extraordinary performance from Adèle Exarchopoulos as provincial teen Adèle, sideswiped by an unexpected passion for bohemian artist Emma (Seydoux). Sticking to Adèle like white on rice, the close-up camerawork lovingly captures her every raw emotion, whether flushing with anger at school-gate bullying, breathless with desire or snot-laden with heartbreak.
Yes, the sex scenes are prolonged and uninhibited but it’s a richly detailed, utterly unhurried (and very French) film, in which every experience – from eating oysters to discussing Sartre – is lingered over and savoured. There’s also a steady pulse of class conflict emanating from Emma’s pretentious, philosophising art posse that puts a useful bit of grit into all that heady, sweaty romance.
Encouraged to improvise around the script, Seydoux and Exarchopoulos give the film a spontaneous, naturalistic feel with their no-holds-barred exchanges, emphasised by fluid, hand-held HD camerawork and an absence of incidental music.
The glossy disc transfer makes the artful blue detailing in every scene pop but the extras (unavailable for review) sound undoubtedly on the slender side. Rumours are swirling about future plans for a heftier, lengthier, luggage-laden director’s cut, however...
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