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October 25, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Yes, this is the French One With All the Lesbian Sex Scenes. And oui, they are as graphic as you’ve heard. (Though not as long. Reports from Cannes, where the film won the Palme d’Or, said that the central one goes on for 20 minutes; it’s really about seven.)

It’s impossible not to talk about those bits, or debate the intentions of its male director — but the most explicit organ in Blue Is the Warmest Color, believe it or not, is the heart. Newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos stars as Adèle, a pouty high schooler whose fumblings with a handsome classmate leave her listless. It’s not until she locks eyes with azure-haired art student Emma (Léa Seydoux, spectacular) at a crosswalk that the proverbial thunderclap strikes. Their love affair blossoms and burns over the next three hours, interspersed with vérité scenes of everyday life in the classrooms, bars, and galleries of the women’s intertwined lives. The camera work is so close it feels almost subdermal, and Adèle sometimes falls into an especially French kind of erotic cliché: the feral woman-child who is all id, appetites, and Gauloises smoke. But Blue’s raw portrayal of infatuation and heartbreak is both devastating and sublime. It’s unforgettable. A-

type
Movie
Genre
mpaa
NC-17
runtime
179 minutes
director
Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast
Aurelien Recoing,
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