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‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ garners praise amidst scandal

  • (Sundance Selects.)

Say this for “Blue is the Warmest Color,” the Cannes award winner that is as famous for its long, explicit sex scenes as it is for its honors and actresses: It earns the NC-17 rating the MPAA imposed on it.

This overlong, somewhat sad-faced account of a lesbian romance, from its beginnings to its end, features what has already become the most notorious lesbian sex scene in screen history: 10 minutes of grappling, groping and bare-skin slapping that flirts with pornography.

The movie surrounding that epic moment of titillation? A bit slack, repetitious and sometimes frustrating. “Blue,” titled “La Vie Adele” in France, is a 100-minute movie straining to break out of a 3-hour-long argument for tighter editing.

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We meet Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) as a 17-year-old high school junior with a lot of girlfriends given to frank talk about boys and sex. In a long first act, we see the bookish Adele, all mussed hair and lips that default to a sort of depressed pout, deal with the confusion she feels amid the peer pressure to hook up.

Thomas (Jérémie Laheurte) is interested. But he doesn’t do it for her. Adele’s erotic dreams are about the girl with the short, blue hair she glimpsed in a crowd. And when she finally meets Emma (Léa Seydoux of “Farewell, My Queen” and “Midnight in Paris"), Adele learns what chemistry is all about.

Emma is a college fine arts major who wonders if Adele is “a straight girl who’s a little curious.” But she likes her “type” — young, inexperienced.

Adele lures Emma out of her long-term affair and Emma teaches Adele all about being gay in France — pride parades, introduction to the “art” crowd, the works. And she instructs the younger woman about sex.

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