La Vie d'Adèle − Chapitres 1 & 2 (2013)
Abdellatif Kechiche's ambitious, daunting drama about young lesbian love and the coming-out process may or may not be authentic from young female homosexuals' point of view, but at any rate it is a probing, intimate and arguably important account with massive performances by the two leads, Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux. Kechiche's direction is quite obviously inspired by Francois Truffaut; Exarchopolous is Kechiche's Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Kechiche follows his protagonist around just as diligently and faithfully (but arguably not with the same personal motivation) as Truffaut did with Léaud. This makes La vie d'Adèle an unordinary intimate character study, one in which the strength of the main character is largely make or break for the effect of the movie.
The reason it works so well here, however, is more Exarchopolous' performance than anything else. Her work is so self-sacrificing that it almost borders on self-destructive. She carries the film naked (literally and metaphorically) and with her soul inside out for three hours, and she comes out strong and full of integrity on the other side of it, despite a number of incredibly personal and challenging scenes. Among those are of course the explicit sex scenes, for which the film has garnered most of its publicity. And although I'm not going to qualitatively assess them as such, what can be said with certainty is that they set the tone and make the portrait of Adèle quite persuasive, even if Julie Maroh, the writer of the graphic novel upon which the film is based reportedly wasn't entirely happy with them.
In any groundbreaking work of art, the question will always remain whether or not the methods and ultimately the result is pure or exploitive. Often the answer is probably somewhere in between, but I'm willing to give Kechiche the benefit of the doubt, which I would for anyone who's willing and able to explore the human drama behind to such lengths as he does here. I have often criticised films for lacking ambition; that is definitely not the case with La vie d'Adèle.