La Vie d’Adele as a Study of Contrasts

A coming-of-age dramedy by Abdelatif Kechiche, the film examines the events in the life of a wistful teenager. The film is a loose adaptation of a manga Blue is the Warmest Color, from which the American title derives. We are focusing on the yin and yang moments within the film, in lieu of contrasting the book from the onscreen adaptation.

Slobs vs. Snobs: Adele’s and Emma’s close-knit circles, respectively.

First Love: Adele’s first sexual experience with Thomas– her first, overall– leaves her  utterly nonplussed. The first time making love with Emma leaves the girl weeping silent tears of joy.

Carnal Choreography: At Emma’s place, the women make love with wild abandon, complete with intricate poses and unfiltered climaxes. At Adele’s, the act involves gentler kissing and more playful touching; the climaxes are decidedly modest.

Family Values: Emma’s blended family (a mom and a stepdad) openly support Emma’s sexuality and aspirations for an artistic career. Adele’s conservative nuclear family favors practical pursuits (their daughter’s aim to work in academia) and are unaware of Emma’s lifestyle, nor of her and Adele’s relationship.

Picky Eaters: Adele has a voracious appetite for everything except oysters. Emma adores oysters and rather condescendingly eats spaghetti Bolognaise, both at Adele’s parents’ home and during the soiree Adele throws in Emma’s honor.

Intimate Portraits: Emma smiles, while painting a shy Adele’s portrait during their second meeting. Years later, Adele lies open yet vulnerable, while Emma sees her as a mere art project.

Pillow Talk: The honeymoon stage of their relationship has the women joking about philosophy, all the while caressing each other. The aftermath of the art party has Emma perfunctorily stroking Adele’s hair, avoiding her gaze, and criticizing what she perceives are weak ambitions. While they could not get enough of each other during courtship, cohabitation left Emma bored and full of excuses (tired, an early cycle, etc.).

The House Party: Adele’s eighteenth birthday celebration consists of Tropicana, cheap(er) sparkling wine, and wistful dancing with thoughts of Emma. The art soiree consists of exquisite red wine and champagne; Adele feigns a smile, while dancing with a friend and watching Emma flirt with Lise across the room.

Night Moves: At the bar, the blue-haired Emma is suave and confident in flirting with Adele. (Even her then-girlfriend Sabine isn’t buying the “talking-to-my-cousin” bit). At the cafe, three years after dumping Adele, the blond-haired Emma is pensive and soft-spoken during their heartbreaking reunion.

Roving Eyes and Fickle Hearts: Lise is not at all attempting to hide her attraction to Emma during the art soiree. The two women flirt, however innocently, right before Adele’s eyes. Adele’s feelings of neglect by Emma help elicit a subtle attraction to her male co-worker. She does not act on it until after some passionate salsa dancing and a drunken kiss.

Good Adultery/Bad Adultery: Following the classy art bash at her house, Emma is spending more and more time with Lise, all the while expecting Adele to be cool with it. On one hand, they are working on the art project; on the other hand, painting Lise in the nude could very well exacerbate the potential lust within her and Emma. Adele’s drunken kiss with a male co-worker leads to them sleeping together. Any guesses how Emma reacts?