La Vie d’Adèle
I went to see Blue is the Warmest Colour this weekend, and I have a few things to say about it so figured no place like my blog. I don’t profess to be any kind of critic, these are just my rather colloquial and general musings on the matter.
Disclaimer: There may be a few “spoilers” below so apologies if you are reading this and haven’t seen the film yet.
I’ve been really excited to see this film since I heard about it winning the Palme D’or what feels like many moons ago. I may have mentioned
once or twice that I am a lesbian, and am interested in what is probably described by some members of the general population as “gay culture” (read: things that are “a bit queer” or “not heteronormative”). This is because I like to see how “lesbians” are perceived through heterosexual eyes. (Serious question: Is Abdellatif Kechiche heterosexual? Can I get that verified?) As we’ve gotten closer to the film’s release, there have been a lot of conflicting accounts of the film – Did a director push too far? Kechiche asked the question, “Do I need to be a woman to talk about love between women?” (I personally think not however, more later.) The Daily Beast started it here. Adele Exarchopoulos brought things back down to earth (I thought) in her interview with The Guardian. Then today, we go from the sublime to the absolute ridiculous: Blue proves the warmest colour as 10-minute lesbian sex scenes pull in the plaudits. (Really, The Irish Times? Really?)
I went to The Cornerhouse in Manchester to watch the film, as I felt it was a bit art house-y (read: not mainstream) and also I’ve never been before so everyone wins. I was delighted to find that I was in the company of my fellow lone cinema going rangers, and some other queers, which I was obviously happy about.
I need to start by mentioning that I was mesmerised by the inclusion of the colour blue in pretty much every frame in the film. Amazing.
I know that there is/was/will be a lot of discussion about two heterosexual actresses playing the roles of WSW/women who fall in love and have relationships with other women, but Adèle Exarchopoulos is a highly skilled actress. She really does appear to leave everything she has on screen for all to see. I swear her theme song should be Turning Tables by her namesake. “Close enough to start a war, all that I have, is on the floor.” Maybe I’m just gullible and naive as hell, but I felt she played her part amazingly.
There’s a scene in the film when Adele is discussing sex with a guy with a friend (after she’s walked by Emma without knowing who she is), and says something along the lines of, “I don’t know, there’s just something missing.” This and the moments wherein she is having to deny that she’s a lesbian after receiving a torrent of abuse from friends for going to a gay bar – an incident heightened only by Emma turning up at her school – really had me right there. I’ve lived it. The feeling of knowing that there’s something different about yourself but not knowing exactly what it is cannot be underestimated. Having to deny your sexuality because it veers from the “norm” really does become something that consumes your every thought and starts to eat you up inside. Adèle dreams of Emma and wakes up with this scared, confused expression on her face – I just sat there like, “Oh . My . God”.
About the ten minute lesbian sex scene. Honestly, credit where credit is due, it started off pretty well. It was as convincing as it could be when played out by two (as far as I am aware) heterosexual actresses. After a few minutes though, I felt as though I’d overstayed my welcome – it was like I was watching something that I wasn’t supposed to be. It was a bit voyeuristic and I felt quite uncomfortable. Is this how Kechiche thinks lesbians have sex? Or how he wants people to think lesbians have sex? Not being a lesbian himself (again, as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t identify as a lesbian), it’s not exactly the easiest domain for him to enter. I guess I just want to know where he got his ideas from. Did he speak to lesbians? Was there a focus group? How did he come to the conclusion that this is what happens when women have sex with women? Films like Blue are the reason why I’ll forever be asked, “Is that how lesbians have sex? Scissoring? Is it? What’s it like?” I could write a whole blog on this topic. I don’t think that one has to be a woman to document two women falling in love however, when a man documents a woman (and, as has happened here, two women falling in love) it is a completely different perspective.
I nearly lost my shit when we discover that Adèle has been cheating on Emma with a man. The perpetuation of this “man signalling the death knell for a relationship involving two women” stereotype truly grates on me no end (see also: The Kids Are All Right). Not all lesbians (I’d say the majority, but I don’t have facts and figures to back that up) have relationships with men that lead to the end of their relationship with their female partner.
Whether you like it or not; however unprepared you are, you will – at one time – encounter “Emma” and she will leave a scar. I feel like Carson McCullers’ “The Lover and The Beloved” should feature somewhere about now. By the end, I was emotionally drained. I wish I could have entered some kind of media blackout whereby I wasn’t able to read anything that had been written, and was able to see the film on a clean slate. I’m mad that my opinions and feelings have been “tarnished” by the things that I’ve read. Sitting here five hours later, I feel like Blue didn’t even need the ten-minute-ten-day sex scene that appears to have become the focal point of the whole film. I wish I’d never even known about it. I wish it wasn’t necessary to make people want to see a film about love, just because it happens to centre around two women.