Blue Is the Warmest Color is a film that has captured both critical and queer attention this year. Adèle Exarchopoulos, who plays the film’s protagonist offered such inspired performances during rehearsals that the film’s production team decided to rename the character—named Clementine in Julie Maroh’s graphic novel—after her, Adèle. Wise beyond her years, she, along with her co-star Léa Seydoux, received the impressive, and unheard of, honor of being named winners of the Palme d’Or alongside the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche.
In mid-October I sat down with Adèle at the Paramount Hotel in New York City to discuss the film, in particular, to discuss with her how she understands her character, in addition to getting her take on the meaning of the film.
AfterEllen.com: What attracted you to this film? Did you read Julie Maroh’s graphic novel Le bleu est une couleur chaude?
Adèle: At the beginning, when we were cast, we read the graphic novel. First of all, it was the director who gave me the desire to work with him, because he is one of the best director’s in France. And I love the trance state that emanates in this movie, and the common story of woman, of the place of woman, in this movie. As an actress, the passion story between these two girls is human also; it was a challenge to show this passion throughout a [ten year story].
AE: This film is only “chapters 1 and 2” of Adèle’s life; would you participate in future installments?
Adèle: I don’t know, but I think it’s…hard to let it go. For me, I love the fact that the character of Adèle lives in spirit for the audience, and that they can [imagine] the future themselves.
AE: I viewed the film as a bildungsroman, a coming of age story—how do you think her relationship with Emma factors into her maturation?
Adèle: I think it’s like a first experience, and at the beginning you are kind of pure, and you don’t know the world, like how to protect yourself or how to [take care] of yourself, so you just give—give, receive and share—everything you have. You have no control. I think an experience like that can [make] you and can destroy you too—but you don’t know because you are in the experience, and you feel alive.
Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos
AE: The camera focuses intensely on Adèle’s face throughout the film, as if to try to get to the heart of her emotions, or to read her mind. To me, Adèle seems discontent, not quite fully present, always searching—how would you describe her this framing, as well as her demeanor?
Adèle: She’s searching for them. It is the trouble of life, you are always searching yourself, always asking what you want to be. But, I think she is kind of free, [too,] because she feeds off Emma. They are organic…. I love the fact that [the camera] was always close up, because the film is about the skin, the body, the flesh.
AE: How well do you think the film represents how French youth grapple with their sexuality?
Adèle: I think it’s really personal the way you discover your sexuality, and how you accept and assume it. But, it’s true, that there is a beautiful [coincidence], because it came out at the same time during the debate about gay marriage in France. During the making of the movie we never talked about homosexuality; it was always just a love story. But it is true that in France, [during the making of the movie,] there…was much violence…and debating against gay marriage. Feelings are natural, so this [opposition to gay marriage] was disturbing.
AE: The media-induced controversy surrounding the film demands clarity. Do you actually feel “embarrassed” about your lesbian sex scenes?
Adèle: For me I was aware; for me it was a part of the game, so I accepted it. [They were] not the worst things to shoot. and at the beginning we were taking pleasure to do this scene because it’s a game. We let ourselves go, and I really trust Léa. .. For me to shoot these scenes was not the most difficult; sometimes you are bored to be naked on the set.
AE: I would be terrified to be naked all the time on the set.
Adèle: At the beginning, yes, but, after so many takes, at the end we were so naturally naked. As for the reaction of the sex scene, people will take it as they want. I think people are not used to seeing this; they are used to seeing three minutes of a sex scene with the good music and the good lighting, and sexy positions. They are not used to this introspection. For us it was really important to treat this scene like every other scene.
Adèle: That’s weird because I was there for all the interview and I don’t think she used those words.
AE: How do you think this film will be remembered?
Adèle: I think if people are touched and can identify themselves they will remember…. The impression [the film has made] is the coolest thing.
AE: After the grueling process of putting yourself in this life for five months. Would you make this film again?
Adèle: I have no regret making this film. [But,] no, it is not necessary to make it again. We made this once; it is a once in a lifetime experience, it brought me so [many] positive things and opportunities.
AE: The English title of the film is Blue Is the Warmest Color—what does this mean to you?
Adèle: The English title is the title of the comic. So for me, it’s really close to the base of the story. Blue is what obsessed Adèle from the beginning. Blue is Emma. It is the sensuality. It is comfort. It is home.
Blue Is the Warmest Color opens today in select theatres. Read our review here.