Blue is the Warmest Colour – so much more than just the sex
So finally it arrived to Sweden, the talked-about-movie from Cannes: Blue is the Warmest Colour.
The question was if I was going to see it at all. I’ve written before about how much I hate long sex scenes, and this was exactly what this film was going to contain. If you’d believe how the talk about it went, it would be as good as a porn movie in the amount of sex it presented. And from the initial praise it had received, it had gone into a backlash. The actors seemed unhappy about it and there were also voices raised about the way that the lesbian sex was displayed: in a way that wasn’t realistic and through a lens coloured by a “male gaze”, if I understood the criticism correctly. Another illustration of male fantasies. Did I really need that? Besides it clocked about three hours, which seemed a lot. But after some inner debate I gave in and decided to give it a chance. After all: I wanted to check out what the buzz was about. Keep up with the debate, see what the celebrities in Cannes saw, even though I admittedly was very late to the show.
And I didn’t regret my decision a bit. No, I haven’t changed my mind about sex scenes in movies at all. I can see why there needs to be sex scenes in this film, since the physical attraction between the two women is what keeps them together for several years, despite the difficulties they have because of their different social backgrounds. Even after they’ve separated, the attraction is still there. It’s reasonable that we see a bit of that, but if you ask me, the scenes are overly long. The movie wouldn’t lose anything if you made them shorter. But I suppose they’re good for the ticket sales. It would have been a lot harder to sell a three hour long foreign movie with subtitles about the ups and downs in the life of a lesbian couple if there was no sex in it.
I tell you, this film is so much more than just the sex. It contains two of the best acting performances I’ve seen this year and I wouldn’t hold one over the other. They both have that kind of performance that doesn’t feel like a performance at all, but as if they’re playing themselves. It’s as if you’re watching a documentary and it’s hard to imagine that there exists such a thing as a written script with a dialogue that has been set on beforehand. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was improvised – and in such a good way!
What I also loved about the movie is that while it is a film about the love relationship between two women, it’s not primarily a movie about lesbian love, but rather a movie about two people in love, who happen to have the same sex, which makes the film much more universal than it otherwise would have been. Naturally there are a few issues that are special for a same-sex couple that comes up, like the harassment that the younger woman Adèle is exposed to at school and how difficult it is for her to come out to her parents. But those are minor side stories compared to the major conflict in the film, which is about class, heritage, what you get from your parents and how you gravitate towards people who are like you and are alienated by “the others”.
The three hours passed ever so quickly – well apart from the sex scenes then, which I just waited out – and when the movie ended, I was reluctant to part from Emma and Adèle. I wanted to know how life would turn out to them in the years to come. It’s unlikely that it will ever happen, considering what a negative experience the recording seems to have been, but if Abdellatif Kechiche decided to make a “Before” series out of this, returning to the same characters in ten years, I would definitely be there to see it.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adèle, Abdellatif Kechiche, FR 2013) My rating: 4/5