Everyone has been buzzing about Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color throughout all of Cannes and even more since its win of the coveted Palme d’Or. The three hour lesbian drama, received the prize the same day that anti-gay marriage protests, which was legalized earlier in the month, were taking place. It is the first lesbian themed film to win the Palme d’Or.
It’s also the first graphic-novel adaptation to win. The film is based on Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, Blue Angel.
Reviews of the film have been overwhelmingly positive–praising the performances of Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux as Adele and Emma, two women who fall madly in love. The one controversy over the film is about the depictions of sex. Reviews have described the film’s sex scenes as graphic and one scene in particular is very long. However reactions to the sex scenes in the film have been varied.
The New York Times described the film as “feels far more about Mr. Kechiche’s desires than anything else.” On the other end of the spectrum, The Village Voice describes the sex scenes as “classical without being sterile; they’re real and immediate in a way that honors the idea of terrific sex between two people who are madly in love, instead of just trying to paste a clumsy picture of it onscreen.”
Now, Maroh has also spoken out about how she feels about the adaptation of her graphic novel. And she acknowledges what she liked about the film and that she chose not to be involved on the adaptation. But Maroh has strong feelings about the way lesbian sex is shown in the film–she felt it was like “porn.”
I consider that [director Abdellatif] Kechiche and I have contradictory aesthetic approaches, perhaps complementary. The fashion in which he chose to shoot these scenes is coherent with the rest of what he his creation. Sure, to me it seems far away from my own method of creation and representation, but it would be very silly of me to reject something on the pretext that’s it different from my own vision.
That’s me as a writer. Now, as a lesbian…
It appears to me this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.
I don’t know the sources of information for the director and the actresses (who are all straight, unless proven otherwise) and I was never consulted upstream. Maybe there was someone there to awkwardly imitate the possible positions with their hands, and/or to show them some porn of so-called “lesbians” (unfortunately it’s hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience). Because — except for a few passages — this is all that it brings to my mind: a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and me feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theater, everyone was giggling. The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing, and found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn’t hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen.
I totally get Kechiche’s will to film pleasure. The way he filmed these scenes is to me directly related to another scene, in which several characters talk about the myth of the feminine orgasm, as…mystic and far superior to the masculine one. But here we go, to sacralize once more womanhood in such ways. I find it dangerous.
As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I can not endorse the direction Kechiche took on these matters.
But I’m also looking forward to what other women will think about it. This is simply my personal stance.
Maroh’s whole statement is worth a read and can be found here. It’ll be interesting to see what the reactions will be to the film when it’s released which may be awhile. As After Ellen reports it’s not set to open in France until October.