BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (R18)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Reviewed by James Croot
Closer to 9 Songs than Baise Moi, this controversial, sexually charged French coming-of-age drama has two massive advantages in its favour - characters we can care about and an entertaining, even engrossing plot.
Sure it is hard to ignore the extended, vigorous (and just this side of tastefully shot) lovemaking scenes between the two female leads, but the dirty mac brigade be warned - you'll have to sit through near three-hours of subtitled French female angst as we follow the adventures of Adele (a brave and beguiling Adele Exarchopoulos) from confused teen to confident primary school teacher.
Yes, although inspired by the 2010 graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh, Blue is the Warmest Colour would actually be more accurately summed up by its French title - the Life of Adele - Chapters 1 and 2.
When we first meet our heroine, she's a high school junior trying to navigate first love, whether its via The Life of Marianne in French literature class or with the help of her group of friends who goad her into accepting the advances of a senior.
But while they hit it off, she finds their fumblings in the dark uninspiring and her fantasies instead fuelled by a blue-haired girl she's only seen in passing. Although an experimental foray with a female classmate ends badly, an increasingly smitten
Adele is determined to meet her mystery woman of desire. However, even when fine arts student Emma (a charismatic Lea Seydoux, evoking memories of Kate Winslet's Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) returns her affection, Adele discovers she might not be ready for what her friends and family have to say about her choice of partner.
Like his excellent 2007 Tunisian émigré drama The Secret of the Grain, director Abdellatif Kechice's here delivers another slow-burning tale filled with memorable moments and people having serious dialogues about life and love.
While the languid pace, fluid passing of time, on the nose metaphors about teaching and some unanswered questions will frustrate some viewers, it's balanced out by awkward conversations that feel real, emotions that are raw and drama that is compelling.
Nothing feels artificial, with the tone and look reminding one of the works of Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen, My Name is Joe), Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love or even the North American Generation X-relationship movies of the mid-90s (think Before Sunrise, Reality Bites, Love & Human Remains).
An insular and intimate epic, Blue is the second French film of the past year (after murder mystery Strangers by the Lake) to challenge cinemagoers with in-your-face depictions of homosexuality while also delivering some of the best storytelling you'll see all year.