Lorrie Moore for the New York Review of Books:
1970s film theory (Laura Mulvey, John Berger, and others) sometimes had it that the male gaze is directed at a woman, and the female gaze is directed at the male gazing at the woman (Hitchcock’s Vertigo builds its entire plot on this dialectic between viewer and viewed). Yet from the current vantage point, in this somewhat antique model, the female gaze may consist of a composite vision and be the more complex and authoritative, by virtue of containing additional information. Then again, of course, the male gaze may be watching the female gaze as well, which adds an additional layer of power and perception, becoming a tertiary gaze, and then the female may gaze back, ad nauseam, in the nature of a hand-slapping game or the infinite regression of a Quaker Oats box or the badinage of Abbott and Costello.
Such theory, often written in a prose with the forensic caress of an appliance warranty, may not be a useful way to look at films, especially when one is dealing with the high caliber of acting—visceral, rangy, possessed—that is on display in Kechiche’s film. The sex scenes notwithstanding, almost every moment contains a dramatic presence where interiority is brought forth via concentration, utterance, silences. This deserves a separate sort of notice. The close-ups of the young, still-forming face of Exarchopoulos show that the director knew precisely what he had when he cast her. The camera work also shows Exarchopoulos knowing what she’s doing as well. Et cetera. Ad infinitum.