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'Blue Is The Warmest Color' Author Julie Maroh Not Pleased With Graphic Sex In Film, Calls It "Porn"

by Kevin Jagernauth
May 28, 2013 2:26 PM
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"Blue is the Warmest Color"
"Blue is the Warmest Color"

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.

Lots of food for thought for sure. Give her full statement a read, in English, right here. [Thanks for Varga Ferenc at Filmklub for the heads up!]

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  • GUEST | May 29, 2013 7:43 PMReply

    Julie Maroh didn't write this to explain her concerns. She wrote this to calm down her fans who are worried about the "lose adaptation" of her graphic novel and about her non-visibility since the movie has been presented to the public. She explains that it was meant to be Kechiche's vision, that adaptation is not treason, that Kechiche performed a master stroke, that she may have liked some stuff to happen but she is still okay that it didn't, that Kechiche thanked her privately in Cannes ... And among that, she discusses the thing she was bothered with as an audience member. Truth is Kechiche isn't a crowd pleaser. He will not go elliptic if he thinks there is an essential feeling/truth to dig in an "unconfortable" scene. There is a radicalism in that approach that isn't Maroh's.

  • S. Mell | May 28, 2013 9:38 PMReply

    Someone is ticked the movie is getting adoration and she stayed at home. Maroh has always been a bore and I found much of the book to be self-loathing. A few of my closest friends saw this. All three are lesbians. So I asked about the giggling. One said they heard one older man tittering a little, look around uncomfortably, and then continue watching. That was about it. There was immense at the end of the first lovemaking sequence. As for the sex, they said it felt like a woman having sex with a woman for the first time - all the joy of discovery and wanting to make love in every way as if there won't be a tomorrow. My friends say everyone afterwards was saying how well done those scenes were. My friends agreed and said it seemed very realistic with the acknowledgement, all sex has it's variations. Is sex with any two people the same. As for the movie, it is stripped of the book's more numbing plots. Less focus on politics, parents, etc. The director also removes the book's most annoying plot twist and changes another one from a tired concept into an expression of devastation. All the friends agreed the movie was far superior to the original in this regard. The last 25 minutes could draw tears from the biggest Grinch. Maroh is being shelled on the net from her grudge. We should remember that the changes from the book to the movie all make the movie stronger and she is not the first person to be hurt by that or feeling she was not invited to the process. Plenty of screenwriters have gone down that road.

  • good god | May 28, 2013 3:22 PMReply

    I am sick of the idea that these 'men' are dissected, ironically, as much as she believes the sex was in this film. I can affirm, as having seen lesbian films directed by women, that no matter what, the sex will always be an odd thing to watch on film. Those who were quiet during the scenes probably weren't 'feasting their eyes'. They may have been embarrassed without resorting to laughter, or they might have been trying to take it seriously, or were thinking about the art of the scene as I'm sure they were aware they weren't watching porn. Porn is porn because the sex is strictly there in and of itself. According to the wide register of viewers, the sex stands as an act of character development. I'm sure anyone watching sex on screen with another person is going to make them cringe, especially when the person watching it wrote the original material. It sounds like the writer has more of an issue with her own displeasure of seeing her work performed by actual human beings, meaning sexual creatures, more than she does with the objective idea of the characters having sex. It just disheartens me that women see straight men and the male gaze as adhering to a groupthink bro-out when it comes to issues like sex and relationships regarding the opposite sex.

  • Good God 2 | May 31, 2013 5:12 PM

    Don't preach it sista.

    Maroh gave a precise and thoughtful explanation as to why she didn't like the film, and here you are trying impart your own pesudo-analaysis onto why Maroh must have not liked the scene.

  • Mongoosecmr | May 28, 2013 4:01 PM

    Preach it sister

  • D. | May 28, 2013 3:10 PMReply

    In other news it appears that the shooting was a complete nightmare for technicians working on the movie:

  • WTF | May 28, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    I really don't get it. Porn is characterized by extremes close-up of vaginas and penises amongst others things. This movie is surely very erotic but there is only one shot of full frontal nudity - and it's really in the spirit of Rosario Dawson in Trance. 3 minutes of women making love with a lot of noises, breathing, spanking and kissing is just inconvenient. It's a filmaker choice, that's all.

  • jp | May 28, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    Seriously, love the site, but please start even reading your posts once before posting them:

    "and Maroh is bit baffled why wasn't featured more prominently with the cast on the red carpet."

  • liz | May 28, 2013 10:41 PM

    They forgot one word and you're going to whine about it? Okay, while we're at it you probably should've said "start WITH reading your posts once", instead of "start even reading your posts once". I mean if you're going to be a brat about someone else's typing, at least fix your own first.

  • Qweery | May 28, 2013 4:48 PM

    You got the gist of it. Move on.

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