It's just been a couple of days since Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue Is The Warmest Color" (read our review here) walked away from Cannes with the Palme d'Or, with the prize being shared by the director and the film's stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. But the semi-controversy around the film hasn't died down. In France, where gay marriage was recently signed into law, 'Warmest' only continues the fierce debate around the issue, and weighing in with her own opinion is the woman whose work without which the movie wouldn't exist: Julie Maroh.
Maroh is the author of the graphic novel that was adapted into Kechiche's screenplay, and taking to her blog yesterday, she has weighed in on the movie, and in particular the graphic sex scenes that have already caused a stir. Not only are the scenes explicit, but one particular sequence is long -- so long in fact we wrote "as it ran on and on we found ourselves escaping the film’s spell a bit and starting to contemplate the spectacle of the flesh in itself." But for Maroh, her concerns run deeper -- here's what she had to say:
I consider that 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.
And indeed, Maroh's lengthy thoughts on the film are balanced and she clarifies that she chose not to be involved in the movie adaptation, and supports Kechiche's desire to tell the story the way he feels fit. That said, she also notes that "tons of hours had been shot" and Kechiche "removed part of the middle." She acknowledges that for the most part the director got it right, but is a bit surprised he didn't mention her at all during the Cannes acceptance speech and Maroh is bit baffled why she wasn't featured more prominently with the cast on the red carpet.