Let’s just get right to it: The 12-minute graphic lesbian sex scene at the heart of Blue is the Warmest Color is crazy problematic. Not because the hauntingly talented participants, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux), aren’t infusing the scene with honest passion and sexual self-discovery. No, it’s more that it doesn’t feel “right;” the framing and pace, along with several “logistical” components, seems wrong. It felt like a porn scene between two women directed by a man for male pleasure.
That’s because it was a porn scene between two women directed by a man for male pleasure. That’s a hell of an accusation, but the undeniable feeling of disingenuousness was felt even by this heterosexual male. It was like an alarm yelling “Wrong! Wrong! This isn’t how this goes! Wrong!” Usually, what goes on behind the scenes is irrelevant, as it is our job to engage only the work. But calling writer/director Abdellatif Kechiche, who worked from a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, a pornographer who exploited his lead actresses requires evidence. Lo and behold, evidence exists.
Seydoux and Exarchopoulos have gone on record, describing the 10 day shoot of this one scene as torturous. While both stop short of outright calling Kechiche an icky, icky perv-man, they did agree they wouldn’t work with him again. And then Maroh came out and blasted the scene as wholly false and insincere, owing to the fact that the women involved had no “real-world” experience in that type of sexytime so they couldn’t make it authentic on their end and Kechiche was apparently content to put them in heterosexual sex positions that made no sense when you stopped and thought about it. Which you have time to do. It lasts 12 full minutes.
Listen, women’s sexuality (especially women who love other women) rarely gets any legitimate screen time. The prospect of a movie like this, which is a thoughtful three-hour journey of a girl (Adèle) discovering the truth of the beautiful woman she was frightened to become, is fantastic. And when it isn’t interrupted with such invasive and gratuitous intercourse, it’s magnificent. Exarchopoulos effortlessly moves from concealing her sexuality beneath forced heterosexual experiences to fully loving Emma, a blue-haired woman with a capital W. Emma knows who she is and, at first, is slow to walk backwards to where Adèle is in her life. But the love between them demands it.
All that is great, even if Weekend did a better job on the passion and Pariah did a better job on the individual acceptance of same sex love. But Kechiche totally dirts the whole thing. Both through the objectifying male gaze he shoots through and in the bloated, completely indulgent three hour running time. Had he used the time to further unpack these complex characters, maybe it could be justified. Instead, Blue is the Warmest Color is half spectacularly moving and half Larry Flynt’s email inbox.
Grade = C