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Adele's (Adèle Exarchopoulos) life is changed when she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a young woman with blue hair, who leads her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.

Review by Louise Keller:
It may be overshadowed by its controversial and graphic sex scenes, but the passion runs far beyond the sheets in this explosive and revelation-filled coming of age story that explores sexuality, desire, love and commitment. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2013 and dozens of other prestigious awards, Black Venus director Abdellatif Kechiche's adaptation of acclaimed graphic novel by Julie Maroh engulfs us in the moment by moment reality of a young girl, whose discovery of lesbian intimacy awakens unimaginable desires as she treads the precarious path into adulthood. Strangely enough, the 179 minute running time never feels excessive, so engrossed are we in the tumultuous emotional journey taken, while Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos are mesmerising in the two central roles.

Split into two sections, the first of the film's two chapters unfolds while Adèle (Exarchopoulos) is at high school, where the philosophies and complexities of literature are opening her eyes. There are class discussions about what is missing from the heart love at first sight and predestined meetings before Adèle first spies blue-haired fine arts student Emma (Seydoux) in the street. The sexual fantasy Adèle has after their meeting leaves us with no doubt as to the physical nature of the attraction. We feel the connection as their eyes lock, so it is no surprise when they get together after meeting again in a gay wine bar. But first, Kechiche fleshes out the scene and gives us an insight into Adèle. While she reassures her boyfriend Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte) that the sex between them is wonderful, it is only to a gay male friend that she confides something is missing and that she feels she is faking.

Once it begins, the relationship between Adèle and Emma simply explodes. The intimacy and tenderness of the sex scenes is overwhelming, when hands, mouths, tongues and bodies intertwine with flesh upon flesh. These extended scenes are explicit and we can feel the urgency, passion and heat, all the while sensing that something powerful and beautiful is happening between two people. Kechiche presents it as erotic art, not pornography, although some audiences may struggle with their own discomfort when nothing left to the imagination. Adèle and Emma simply cannot get enough of each other - their love is like a potent drug.

There is a sharp contrast between the two girls' families and attitudes with Adèle's family conservative and narrow, while Emma's are more open and worldly. In the film's second chapter, when Adèle moves in with Emma and is working as a kindergarten teacher, while Emma's artistic aspirations blossom, the differences between them become more apparent as their relationship goes through highs and lows. The scenes when the girls are entertaining friends, when the dialogue and communications are vibrant are some of the film's best. The power of the scene when the relationship goes through a crisis is palpable.

Seydoux has never been so good while 19 year old Exarchopoulos is astonishing. Her emotions are on display from the outside in. Tears, runny nose are the precursor for internal emotional angst. The performances are both raw; there is no safety net to the vulnerabilities exposed. Sex is the all-important bond, but is it enough?

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(Fr/Belg/Sp, 2013)

La vie d'Adele

CAST: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée, Benjamin Siksou, Mona Walravens, Alma Jodorowsky, Anne Loiret, Benoit Pilot

PRODUCER: Abdellatif Kechiche, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua

DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche

SCRIPT: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix, Julie Maroh


EDITOR: Sophie Brunet, Ghalia Lacroix, Albertine Lastera, Jean-Marie Lengelle, Camille Toubkis



RUNNING TIME: 179 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 27, 2014

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