We caught up with the cast and crew of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR…
When it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Abdellatif Kechiche’s latest film, Blue is the Warmest Colour, won rapturous reviews, before going on to win the coved Palme D’Or. Based on the French graphic novel, Blue Angel, the film follows a love affair between two young women. Movies Plus caught up with director Abdellatif Kechiche and stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux at the Cannes press conference, to find out more about this intriguing and sometimes controversial film.
Blue is the Warmest Colour starts with lines from Pierre de Marivaux’s work. Was this ‘squaring the circle’?
Abdellatif Kechiche: it’s just a pathway that continues. It’s Marivaux, his work, it’s one of the books I have read ever since I was a child; it was at my bedside every evening. I love the way he writes. I enjoy re-reading his books all the time. He is an author who always explores human psychology, feelings. In fact, I wanted to mention him in my film, to continue talking about this work La Vie de Marianne. There are references to a novel, a character… It’s a fabulous piece of writing, it’s a masterpiece, and for a long time I had wanted to begin working on a film which would wonder about what we call falling in love; the first desire that we experience. Marivaux portrays that so beautifully, that I wanted to begin the film with that first scene.
How did you adapt the book?
AK: It’s the first time that I have adapted this kind of work. What I loved in the comic strip, in addition to the love story, was the time when these two girls meet. Adéle misses her train and she arrives late, and then her path crosses with this other woman and her life totally changes. I wondered about these totally unexpected meetings, these meeting just by chance; this meeting held out so much promise. Let’s say you cross a street and you suddenly meet someone. You don’t know whether you will ever see him or her again yet that person may totally change your life. I was deeply touched by that idea, and then the actual adaptation was done, we’re not talking about a historical film, but the tale takes place in the 90s and there again, there was a given context, there was a very militant movement at the time, which I preferred to avoid. What I wanted to do in my film was to focus more on the actual meeting, the difficulties living together, and the time when they break apart.
Apparently this is chapters 1 and 2, does that mean there is going to be a sequel?
AK: Ever since I had a rough draft, I felt that I would never be able to part with these characters; I wanted to see them again and again. I keep thinking about what they may have become, 10 years later. In Games of Love and Chance, and The Secret of the Grain, the same is true; I wondered what my characters had become, what they had done with their lives. Then, of course, there was this association with different ideas; with Marivaux, Marianne… Marivaux has said it’s unfinished work, but it continues, even to today, and I imagine that so many other things could happen in the lives of my characters; in the life of Adéle in particular. I started, indeed, to imagine all sorts of additional chapters. I don’t know whether they will really exist one day or not, but I like the idea, and I would be very excited to pursue this idea.
There are a lot of close ups and intimate moments in the film. How did you go about getting these shots? Did you shoot scenes over and over again to get what you wanted?
AK: This is not something that we really thought about or thought through. When you look at the actual frames in the film and in specific scenes, what we started to do, was to find just the right frame, the way we think things should be filmed, and then a few hours later we realised that we may not have found the right frame. It’s a bit like a photographer, who is looking for the best way to frame a given picture. That’s what we do when we are filming. These close ups, the camera is often at quite a distance. I usually work with very long lenses, so as not to upset the actors. I don’t want the camera to be too close, and these close ups capture very subtle expressions that you don’t always see in life; tiny little movements that you don’t pick up. This is something that I very much love in the cinema.
Adèle, how did you experience this method of filming?
Adèle Exarchopoulos: Well I have great trust in Abdellatif, so you actually forget the number of takes. We felt extremely free, acting in his films, you don’t even realise when there is a close up. Sometimes you don’t even realise when you are being filmed, and sometimes you’re being filmed when you don’t think you are. I think it’s a question of trust, basically. This wonderful, trusting relationship that grew up between us.
Léa Seydoux: I have a special relationship with the camera. I am very shy – I am actually blushing as we speak! I very much wanted to work with Abdellatif. I was keenly interested in doing this film; there is a wonderful truth in his films, which is very realistic. I wanted to be involved in this project; I always believed I had great difficulty acting in a natural way, but thanks to Abdellatif, I think I did succeed in forgetting there was a camera!
AK: Obviously, Léa has tremendous ability in terms of portraying emotions. The more one is emotional, the more one really vibrates, the more difficult it may be to express all of this in front of a camera, but she manages it so well. She truly vibrated on the set. I think she is very much at ease in front of a camera, she knows how to make the most of a situation.
The sex scenes are unusually warm and intimate, was this planned in the script?
AK: This was something we wanted, to shoot in that way. We hope that in each scene the idea of beauty will emerge.
AE: I didn’t really expect this. I didn’t expect the scenes to be quite so surprising. A lot of things were actually proposed by the actors; the costumes… Léa said ‘how do you think the scene should finish?’ he said ‘Well, if you want the scene to finish in a different way, feel free’, so we did that. We constantly improvised and made different suggestions, so we were free. It wasn’t written down, it was most surprising, the way things turned out. It was the result of a relationship that evolved; the fact that we had been working together for many months. I think all the actors made proposals during the film.
LS: We shot these scenes for a long, long time. We had a lot of fun and laughs; sometimes we burst out laughing in fact. At the same time, it was quite a challenge to do that.
AK: I think that sensuality is more difficult to film and capture on the screen. It’s present even when they are having dinner. Of course, there are love scenes; you have the sculptural beauty of their bodies, the light, the beauty of their faces, which make our work much easier. I think we also had a great deal of fun. It was a game. It was acting. We were building up the characters; depicting the emotions of these characters. I think the actors felt they were enjoying themselves. They were portraying a part, of course. I think these scenes should be viewed as a sort of a game, in addition to the beauty of the act per se.
It was refreshing to see such openness portrayed on screen, but if you needed to make cuts for international audiences, would you be willing to do so?
AK: I consider that film is designed to express something very artistic. As a director, one hopes that each scene will be a work of art. There is of course, a financial and commercial dimension that has to be taken into account. Also, it’s a question of respecting people who have a different film tradition. In the US, granted, there is a different way of portraying love, sex or even violence, or the sense of adventure. This is something that we shall, no doubt, discuss with [Producer] Brahim Chioua. I did that in my previous film; I had been asked to cut out certain scenes that might upset people, and not meet with the approval of censorship in certain countries, so this is something that one can always discuss with the distributors. We don’t want a film not to be screened because there is just one scene that bothers people. If it is the whole film or a large portion of the film, then it’s hard to cut this out. However one can reach a compromise, with regrets.
Blue is the Warmest Colour may be seen as an interesting and political film, did you consider that?
AK: When I decided that I wanted to tell this story, the political context you are referring to didn’t exist. We didn’t make the film to comply with a given political context. I didn’t want to make a militant film that had a certain message to deliver about a specific topic, in this case, homosexuality. It can, of course, be seen from that angle, it doesn’t bother me.
There are only two scenes in the film with the girls’ parents. Did you think of including them more?
AK: Of course I did think about that at one stage, but we decided not to have the parents talking about homosexuality in the film. What I decided to show was how difficult it was for the parents, how different their attitudes were – they came from totally different social backgrounds. You have Emma’s parents, who are very open minded, much more open minded than Adéle’s parents. They are quite surprised to see who Emma is with, because she is not a girl from the same social background; she just wants to teach in nursery school. I didn’t want to depict them as so incredibly open minded. In fact, Adéle’s parents are very worried about their daughter’s future; they come from a different social background, maybe they are a bit concerned about their daughter-in-law, so to speak. I think they’re very much present because the two characters still talk about their parents, the male teacher asks questions about Adéle’s parents. Certainly the social background is very present in the film, but what you do in a film is tell a story and you can’t tell all of the details; there are some things you decide not to delve in to in greater depth. It’s true that this is something I was very interested in; hoe the parents would have experienced this, but in this day and age you see parents like Adéle’s parents, and maybe they are going to evolve and change, so I didn’t think it would be very genuine to focus on a potential rejection of the sexuality of their daughter. I didn’t really view the parents in that light. I thought about it, but I didn’t see them in that way in my film. I just wanted to have these characters in my film, but I didn’t want to develop them. I didn’t want there to be a major clash, a huge separation with the family, because I thought that wouldn’t be very genuine.
Blue is the Warmest Colour is released in Irish cinemas on November 15th
Words: Brogen Hayes