When Steven Spielberg was announced as the head of the Palme d’Or jury at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, some wondered whether the revered director of mainstream blockbusters and dramas like E.T. and Schindler’s List would clash with the more art-house sensibilities of the annual competition. Citing the “cooler, less accessible” nature of the usual Cannes selections, Jon Frosch at The Atlantic suggested that put together, Spielberg and the festival would be “a fascinating confrontation of cinematic and cinephilic tastes and tendencies.”
But this weekend, Spielberg defied such notions by leading the jury that chose as its winner Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color, a contemplative French drama about a teenage girl’s first love. The film, which has received rave reviews, marks the first lesbian-themed film (and first film based on a graphic novel) to win the festival’s highest honor. This can be seen as a controversial choice. Not only does this honor come on the heels of France’s legalization of gay marriage earlier this month (with protests now in full swing), but it also features long, explicit sex scenes, which apparently take up about 10 minutes of the nearly three-hour running time.
And in an unexpected twist, director Kechiche shared the award with stars Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux, a way of formally acknowledging their performances in a competition that does not allow any one film to win more than one award. Commenting on the jury’s choice, Spielberg stated, “For me, the film is a great love story and the fact that it’s a great love story made all of us feel like we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall.”
A theatrical release date for Blue is the Warmest Color is yet to be announced, though there are a couple of clips that give us a glimpse of what awaits in the film. From the looks of the performances—and the positive reactions they’ve received—this seems like a film that should not be missed.