Shooting Blue is the Warmest Color was a long baptism by fire

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TORONTO—You’ve probably already heard that Blue Is the Warmest Colour contains several explicitly erotic scenes, including one between the two very appealing leads, both of whom are women in their early 20s. But that wouldn’t be the reason that this year’s Cannes jury, led by Steven Spielberg, gave it their blessing, right?

Of course not. Opening on Friday (November 8), Blue Is the Warmest Colour (more appropriately called, in French, La vie d’Adèle, chapitres 1 & 2) is a three-hour coming-of-age character study from Tunisian-French actor-director and screenwriter Abdellatif Kechiche. But when a film is consumed by its own publicity machine, a kind of fatigue can set in. Which was, presumably, the situation when actors Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) joined the Georgia Straight for an interview in a Toronto hotel room during the Toronto Film Festival.

Having just told a TIFF news conference, yet again, their story about the relentlessness of the shoot and the attendant relentlessness of their director, they clearly don’t want to revisit these topics again. Exarchopoulos, who calls herself “a novice” despite having a dozen film and TV credits before Blue, never stops texting throughout the entire interview. Seydoux, an experienced actor who is French film-industry royalty and the new face of Prada, never sits down.

Both women said they were brought back to the film—which neither had seen since May, in Cannes—by the previous night’s screening. “I try not to judge myself any longer, because the film is out there and I want to let the performances live. It’s up to people to see what they want to see,” said Exarchopoulos, speaking, like Seydoux, in French. “Sure, there were hard things during the shoot. Doing a film with Abdel is a baptism by fire.

“There were highs and lows; it was not conventional. For one thing, there was no hairstylist or makeup artist, no hierarchy, no blocking, no sets, and no schedule. And it lasted six months. We would just walk around in the street and he [Kechiche] would push me into a restaurant and say, ‘Go eat. And cry at the same time.’ To have as much freedom as that to find the character’s passions and vulnerabilities can be exhausting. But it’s a human adventure. From the beginning to end, I feel like I really captured this person’s life. And that’s an accomplishment.”

Speaking of vulnerabilities: are they really all that surprised that people are talking about the sex scenes? “It’s just that whenever we do talk about anything, people twist what we say and reduce everything we say to have some kind of shock value,” Seydoux answered. “So, really, we don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Exarchopoulos seemed willing to reconsider, however. “Look, I’m sure Abdel knew what he was doing,” she offered. “He knew people would talk. But it also fits with the style of the film. He chose to film our sex scenes the same way he filmed us eating spaghetti. Sometimes it was lame, sometimes delicious, sometimes pretty, sometimes ugly. That’s how he films things: in great detail. He was never going to do a conventional sex scene with good lighting and covers strewn about strategically.”

The thing to do, Seydoux added, is to stop talking and go watch the film. She’s right about that. 

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