Monday, November 11, 2013

Ambition makes you look ugly - A film review for Blue is the Warmest Color

The film starts and ends with a shot of her ass. We also see a lot of her face; almost every scene and often in claustrophobic close-ups. There is no soundtrack though there is music that occasionally comes through the surroundings; in clubs, parties and bars, at just the right times. Often while dancing. The much talked about sex scenes are not exalting; they're awkward. Yet they have a beauty not tainted by melodrama or self-awareness. The whole film is very matter of fact this way. Tries to tell more by showing.

The film's gaze is forever set on Adele and her subjectivity. It is about her and her confounding insecurity, even if she is a star. The most beautiful people are often unaware of their own beauty, and the power that comes with it. The absence of vanity and calculation makes them more beautiful. This poignant insight makes the film worth watching. Though there is more, much more. 

Blue is also about the primacy of nature; the innocence and instinct we lose as we fall in love for the first time. That love is often coupled with disequilibrium. We lose balance because the other has something we don't; shows us a world we always wanted to inhabit though never knew existed; awakening a subconscious yearning to love through discovery.

Adele's first love Emma is just this: a teacher in the Ancient Greek sense. She literally becomes Adele's philosophy tutor. She shows her the ropes. She knows more and this turns Adele on. It is the real engine of desire in her otherwise mediocre environment; in a grey industrial northern French town as part of a lower middle class family. Their first intimate encounter is bathed in sunlight. Emma is just the light Adele needs to guide and save her. 

Plato wrote extensively on how wisdom is best pursued through love - specifically man on man love; with sex being an essential part of this. Our modern era tries to distance sex and love and wisdom. We have made them inhabit their own sphere, when ideally, holistically, they work together in synergy. The homosexual relationship was particularly important to this enlightenment. Especially between student and teacher. With Blue, this myth is modernized to include women, for women have never been more like men; having now the same access and anguish to self-actualization. 

But something breaks down. Adele refuses to self-actualize and become her own person. She inhabits still the primal aspects of existence. Food. Sex. Dancing. Pleasure. You feel her come most alive through sensuality. Emma indulges this, and often revels in it, though grows out of it and has her sights set on more, as a painter of renown. Adele keeps cooking. Doing the dishes. Keeps caring about Emma while Emma keeps goading Adele to think of herself. To write stories perhaps. To transcend her simplicity. It's not happening and a rift grows between them. They come from opposite ends of the social spectrum and it shows, painfully. 

We see it coming. It's cruel. Love was not enough. After the passion comes the everyday humdrum and difficulties of dealing with the hard truths of life; that we grow old and die. That the meaning of existence is questionable. We all deal with this differently. For many, the so-called masses, it is acceptance. For the supposed great, there is always a need for more; a restless desire for desire itself. 

There are many layers and themes to this film. It touches on many aspects of life - lust, sexuality, class - but ambition, and its role in relationships, in love, in finding some meaning in life, affected me deeply and made me think about why I gun for greatness. 

Ambition is not for the contented. It is often a cover for those unable to love; or accept love. Or perhaps a fear that if we truly loved and were fulfilled, there would be no creative conflict; no films like Blue, to hurt and teach us so much.       

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