It was announced at the 66th Cannes Film Festival today that the lesbian love film, Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele” won the prestigious Palme d’Or Award. The film is a “coming of age” film that shows a tender and sensuous side of the film’s two protagonists.
Stephen Spielberg and his jury awarded the award not to just the film’s director, but to the two stars of the film, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. The Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche and his two stars hugged and held each other as they accepted the award.
About the film, Kechiche told the audience at the festivals closing ceremony that, “The film had a beautiful French youth that I discovered during the long time filming the movie. It taught me a lot about the spirit of freedom.”
Adele Exarchopoulos stars in the French film as a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Seydoux. The film had a running time of three hours and a lot of publicity was generated by its lengthy and graphic sex scenes.
Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele had its premiere at Cannes just days after the French government legalized gay marriage. The film has been praised for its sensitive and intimate portrait of a same-sex relationship.
The head of the Cannes jury, Steven Spielberg said, “The film is a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning. The director didn’t put any constraints on the narrative, on the storytelling. He let the scenes play as long as scenes play in real life.”
Spielberg went on to say that Kechiche was a “sensitive, observant filmmaker.”
The awarding of the Palm d’Or on the same day that thousands of protestors marched against the new law seems almost ironic. The two stars of the film felt that it was relevant to the times we live in, with Seydous describing the film as a “witness to our time.” Her co-star, Exarchopoulos stated that, “If it can show everyone tolerance, then it’s gratifying.”
Steven Spielberg said, “Gay marriage is something that many brave states in America are resolving. This film actually carries a wry, strong message, a very positive message.”
But jury member Romanian director Cristian Mungiu was quick to point out that the current events in France had no effect on their decision to award the Palme d’Or to the film. He said, “We were giving awards to cinema. Not for political statements.”
The fact that the Cannes Film Festival chose this lesbian love film to win the Prestigious Palme d’Or will raise a few eyebrows even after the jury were quick to point out why they had voted for the film.
But this decision was a popular one unlike some award choices in the past at this world famous festival, the audience agreed with the jury’s choice and to prove it, Kechiche and his two stars received a standing ovation. Blue is the Warmest Colour: The Life of Adele had ranked highest in critic’s polls at the French Riviera festival.
Other winners of the festival included the Coen brothers who won the Grand Prix, the second most prestigious award of the festival for their entry, Inside Llewyn Davis. This is the second time that the Coen’s have walked away with an award from the event. They won the Palme d’Or in 1991 for their film, Barton Fink.
The Best Actor award went to the legendary actor Bruce Dern. The 76 year-old actor won for his performance in Alexander Payne’s film Nebraska.
Berenice Bejo won Best Actress for her performance as a single mother balancing a visiting ex-husband and a new fiancé in Asghar Farhadi’s film The Past.
Cannes’ third top award, went to Kore-eda Hirokazu’s gentle switched-at-birth film Like Father, Like Son. Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante took the best director award for his violent drug war drama Heli.
Best screenplay went to Zhangke Jia’s A Touch Of Sin, which is a four-part depiction of the violent unrest brought about by China’s economic boom. Singapore director Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or, the award for best first feature for his film Ilo Ilo. The film is set during the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
This years jury got on very well, unlike other juries in the past. Steven Spielberg, whose jury included Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, said the they all bonded immediately. He jokingly said, “I wanted to take them all home with me.”
Sunday’s awards comprised films from the United States, France, Japan, China and Singapore. Steven Spielberg said, “We crossed the world through these films.”
In a week full of turmoil for the French government after their legalisation of gay marriage, it seems the serendipitously the Cannes Film Festival sent a message to the world by choosing a lesbian love film as the winner of this year Palme d’Or. Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, hopefully the French public and the world will take notice.
By Michael Smith