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Tender, beautiful & true
on 9 January 2014
I honestly don`t know where to begin in praising this all but flawless French film.
Occasionally - though not often enough - a film comes along which leaves one open-mouthed in wonder and gratitude, that one this exceptional and this intelligent is still capable of being being made, and that it is receiving the generally rave reviews it so plainly deserves.
Much has been made of the lengthy naked sexual scenes, as well as the two leading actresses` complaints about the director`s methods - which they have since modifed, I`m glad to say, being rightly proud of their performances in this beautiful and honest work of art. Thankfully, as much has been made of the unique nature of this masterpiece, as I believe it to be.
Adele Exarchopoulos plays Adele, a sexually confused but personable, intelligent teenager on the verge of womanhood. To state so much so baldly is to come nowhere near to describing the astonishing brilliance of this actress`s portrayal, with not a single moment where she looks as if she`s `acting`, such is her naturalness, which never becomes tiresome or repetitive (even as her character`s does at times - work that one out!). This must in lage part be down to the relentlessness and sensitivity of director Abdellatif Kechiche, who doesn`t put a foot wrong during the three hours over which this deceptively simple tale unfolds.
The slightly older young woman Adele falls for, and who falls for her too, is played with restained, pitch-perfect warmth and likeability by the experienced Lea Seydoux, whose eyes are as expressive as anything I`ve seen for a long time, and who possesses an almost languidly hypnotic way of showing her character`s various traits and foibles.
Both women offer incredible performances in an adult and truthful, yet totally unsensationalist, film about love. It`s about other things too - betrayal, trust, prejudice, bullying, work, grief, and the pain of a love lost.
The sexual passages are, to me, both erotic (those who deny this are surely simply unwilling to admit as much: "Of course, I didn`t find it at all titillating or arousing" tends to be the sniffy cry of such people) and - the more one watches, entranced - nothing less than beautiful. I have seldom - if ever - seen a feature film which is so unapologetically honest about human sexuality. There is no attempt to conceal anything, no coyness, yet neither does Kechiche descend into mere prurience (which I am aware will be a matter of opinion and much contention).
The other roles are perfectly cast, in particular the two sets of parents, at whose dinner tables we witness two scenes both humorous and, in one case, subtly infused with barely-concealed tension.
Adele`s progress from fairly gauche teenager to a woman a little more at ease in her own body is extremely touching, the final held shot of the film open-ended, and another echo of the film`s enigmatic title.
As you can tell, I adored this wonderful film, and am grateful that there are still artists around willing to make films for thinking adults who desire something which resonates long after leaving the cinema.
If this doesn`t end up as my film of the year, then I can`t wait to see the one that betters it.