Cover to Reel: BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

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~post by Katie G. 
Cover to Reel is a regular column in which I offer my two cents about that age-old debate about whether or not a movie did any kind of justice to the book it’s based on. 

Blue is the Warmest Color (or, La Vie d’Adele – Chapitres 1 & 2) on DVD came out on Tuesday. Under much controversy following it’s release, it still received extremely positive reviews by the film community.

Julie Maroh, the author/artist of the graphic novel, has come out against the movie. She praised the film as, “coherent, justified and fluid.” As an adaptation, she was left wondering where exactly all the lesbians were. And, I have to agree.

Maroh’s graphic novel is a well-paced, lyrical tragedy focused on a teenager-turned-adult grappling to accept herself. It’s especially poignant at a very critical time in the world when LGBT rights are, finally, starting to be legislated.

The version that Kechiche created for the screen is not a bad movie. It handles the difficult translation of inner voice & monologue to the screen well enough. It gets you under her skin, instead of into her diary, as it is in the novel.

The first half of the film is an almost page-for-page adaptation of Blue is the Warmest Color. Which makes it all that more shocking when it suddenly derails itself into Kechiche’s original screenplay with only a loose semblance to Maroh’s story. Her story is about sex, love and the war within oneself during those formative years of becoming both an adult & an individual. But, his movie isn’t that. It’s a movie about pure carnal desire. And…that’s about it.

Many have accused the director of voyeurism, and I don’t believe they’re far off. A side character in the film talks about women. How men can’t possibly hope to understand a woman’s experience of pleasure, and thus it’s impossible for them to honestly depict such feelings in any artistic endeavor.

As soon as he strays from the pages of Blue is the Warmest Color, we lose touch with any sort of story. Instead, we watch the expression of a young woman’s id at play. The movie cut out all the back story that was important to understanding the two main characters’ relationship. More importantly, it left out the reality.

Like the character in the movie talking about women, I have to believe that Kechiche has no idea how to begin to express women’s souls artistically. But, whoa daddy, does he love imagining them in the sack. Many, including Maroh, have criticized the sex scenes saying they feel heterosexualized.

The two actresses talked about the cruel treatment and harassment they endured from the director, even vowing never to work with him again. However, Lea Seydoux (who plays Emma) gave an interview not long after the screening at Cannes saying, “The way he treats us? So What!”

How you react to Seydoux’s statement, I feel, speaks to how you’ll grade this movie. Either, you’ll praise it for it’s aesthetic style & brave effort to shove lesbianism in your face (which, frankly, some people need) while ignoring the fact that it really treats women as objects – as is far too common I’m afraid. Or, you’ll be disappointed. Why can’t women have the whole enchilada? I want my issues to be out there, but I don’t want to have to forsake my voice to do it. I want to be seen as a woman, and not as a man would see me as a woman.

blue-is-the-warmest-color-posterThe best this movie has to offer is the hue of it’s title. I don’t believe a single frame in this movie goes by where there isn’t some hint of azure. It’s details like this that always get me.

The worst this movie has to offer (SPOILER ALERT) is the fall-out & aftermath of Emma & Adele/Clementine. With so much cut out from their development as characters, you’re left viewing a scene that just feels hypocritical & cruel. Emma’s character is so wishy-washy, she’s completely lost from the character Maroh created. Maroh’s Emma is complex unlike Kechiche’s version that will jokingly call herself a dyke and will slander her partner without much hesitation.

I call this one for the book. The movie, I could take or leave. I think it is truly a subjective experience and difficult for me to say whether or not you’ll enjoy it. You’ll either love it – like Spielberg, Ang Lee & Nicole Kidman who gave it the Palm d’Or award at Cannes- or feel like it really doesn’t measure up.

I want more. I demand more from movies that are going to pave the way for women.

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Blue is the Warmest Color is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The film is available for rent at both Vulcan Video locations here in town.