|Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, as Adele and Emma|
I was mesmerised by the bold honesty in this critically acclaimed film. Since its début at Cannes last year, Blue is the Warmest Colour has collected controversy over the working conditions on set, and as many negative reviews as positive ones.
Aliza Polkes, who tore at Blue in her review on the Huffington Post website said:
“When I first started hearing Blue buzz I was wildly excited. I couldn’t wait to experience another movie which presented me with complicated sexual realities that are always overlooked or censored in American cinema.”
She goes on to say that she was disappointed, and the film instead was – “clumsy, horribly edited, directorially [sic] indulgent, cheaply pornographic, and, above all, a straight man’s lesbian fever dream.”
I believe Polkes missed the point. She also reaffirms the American terror of the uncensored sexual act. If there is no music, the scene lasts more than a few minutes, and position after position is shown – ragged breathing and peals of pleasure cutting through it all – it must be pornography. And therefore it must be denied. As if there can be no other function but audience gratification in sex scenes on screen. To be so wafer thin in ones perception is regrettable.
I must take issue with the characterisation that Blue is some kind of male fantasy of lesbian passion. As Kate Roger argued in her terse 3news review, the sexual orientation of the characters is almost irrelevant. It is not a film about lesbian love, but human love. And although the graphic content and three hour duration will clearly be unsuitable for some people, the love story is “universally real.”
This is not to say that gender is unimportant, quite the opposite. Womanhood is the overarching theme. Women defined by what they are themselves, not by how they are different from men. Allow me to explain. Male characters are given some attention, but they are mostly left in the background, and do not progress the narrative. Adele’s father appears in a few scenes; giving the paternalist orthodoxy its voice when he questions Emma on her boyfriend (who does not exist). A kind of lip-service is thus paid to the old world of proscribed gender roles, but since the father makes no further impact on the story the judgement is clear.
I like films that make me uncomfortable. Films that challenge and provokes me to consider thoughts and ideas which are alien, or, much too close to be seen on their own. After the tedious justification that film is first and foremost to be entertaining; giving a couple of hours reprieve from the ordinary, the function of cinema is to cloak and package a collection of ideas and themes in a stimulating form. That is certainly an influence of the French New Wave, of which Blue is the Warmest Colour is the latest in a generous oeuvre.
I shall postpone a full critique until seeing the film a second time. If you are considering going, consider the points I raise – and go!