Blue Is The Warmest Color: The Male Gaze Reigns Supreme

The top Google search related to director Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color is “Blue is the Warmest Color Sex.” The film’s sex scenes earned it an NC-17 rating in the United States, and video upload sites are now ripe with compilations of the film’s most graphic moments, easier to consume for those whose interest in the film does not include the plot. Maybe it is telling that lesbian movies are usually a Herculean task to procure in their full form, but all too easy to find as prolifically uploaded sex scene super-cuts. It doesn’t take an art history major to tell you about the history of female bodies being objectified and commodified, but if you’re looking for a primer in all the ways that modern media is still failing queers, this film is a good start.

I watched Blue with as blank a slate as I could muster. Of course I had already heard the extensive buzz, partly because I am obsessed with queer narratives in any form, partly because my social media network fits the exact niche that would want to inject all kinds of meaning into a ten minute lesbian sex scene. I had heard the film described over and over again as an experience, one I would come away from with a sense of emotional and psychological exhaustion. I was ready to be moved by something groundbreaking. You can only imagine my disappointment.

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 I am sad to report that I was underwhelmed and uncomfortable, and all too familiar with the tropes at play, none of them creatively handled. At a bloated 2 hours and 53 minutes, one wonders if there were any limitations placed on Kechiche’s vision, and if the film might have improved had someone taken him aside at some point and given him a lesson in the more harmful ways that one can portray a queer person. Or maybe, as Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel upon which the film was based, has lamented, the film ultimately suffered from a lack of queer advisory. “It appears to me that this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.”

Adèle is a high school junior newly arrived in her teenage sexuality. Her single encounter with a teenage boy is a sex scene that would be graphic to many American viewers, and yet we are meant to understand from her expressions that she is disinterested, distant, even bored. So this is tame, we think. The passion is to come. And thus we encounter one of many tropes of the lesbian film: The obligatory sex scene in which the character who will later find homosexual love must first dabble in heterosexual intercourse, where we get to witness their boredom, their awkwardness, the obviousness of their discomfort in this event. You’ve seen it many times before. The scene is meant to stand in contrast to the later sexual encounters with Emma, and yet this seems the least rehearsed of those scenes, the least choreographed and mechanical and voyeuristic.

And why wouldn’t it be? The vision of this film comes from a straight male director whose uncomfortable consumption of the actresses’ bodies is hardly subtle. Heterosexual intercourse would be the easiest for the male gaze responsible for the film to portray and naturalize. In Kechiche’s film, heterosexual intercourse doesn’t occupy the same lofty pedestal of lesbian intercourse, where the female form, untouched by maleness, preserved as “pure” by lesbianism, is seen as sacred and mystical. If you don’t believe me, wait until the scene where the man is giving a lecture to a group of women on the mysterious power of the female orgasm in art. Of course the sole straight sex scene of the movie seems like the most realistic, the most casual and banal. Lesbianism via Kechiche is incapable of being casual. Its intensity is all-consuming, inhumanly magnetic. And as far as I can see, that in itself is a problematic framework for a straight man’s portrayal of a queer narrative.

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Of course, I’m already doing a disservice to the film by using the term lesbian. Adèle’s story is infinitely more complex than the “lesbian coming-of-age narrative” it has been labeled, more often than not by people who would not have to be familiar with a history of queer filmmaking. Critics who refer to the character as a lesbian are mistaken, although I don’t blame them for not realizing that, given the way mainstream media portrays lesbian-identified women. Adèle is not a lesbian, or at least she never identifies herself as one, and one would say that her actions throughout the film don’t suggest she is monosexual at the very least. She is queer in some capacity, though, but this is not a term I would expect to crop up in the film. It seems a case of erasure to call Adèle a lesbian, when her multiple experiences with men seem equally legitimate to her experience with Emma.

Kechiche has not created a film about ambiguous sexuality, though, or one where the characters’ relationship remains unlabeled and artistically chalked up to the blindness or unpredictability of love. On the contrary, Emma is very firm in her sexuality, clearly stating her preference for women, only being shown in sexual situations with women. Emma is disappointed when Adèle hides her relationship from her family, and later from her coworkers, as Emma has always been confident in her identity. Her sexuality is tied to her art and her place as an artist, to which I can only say, “But, of course.” I’m sure Mr. Kechiche desired to make a point about how Emma is able to feel more comfortable in her identity and her work because she comes from the place of an artist, but I’m less sure that he knew the more dangerous trope he was playing into in such a portrayal. Queer sexuality, particularly female queer sexuality, is all too familiar with the caricature of the enlightened and liberated artist, the ties between that caricature and the idea of lesbianism as sexual experimentation. Of course, the trope implies, the artist is a lesbian, because she has the time and the liberal worldview to “play” in such realms, and alternative sexuality is a thing that belongs to people of privilege, people of impractical careers and creative mindsets. It can only be playtime to those who aspire to be teachers rather than professors, whose class level has them searching for practicality in their lives, whose narrative is bookmarked by men.

Which brings us to what boring narrative, exactly? Adele’s romance with Emma is framed by heterosexual relationships. Heavily implied or not, it seems an awful lot like the classic case of the experimental dalliance with the liberated artiste. The film ends with Adele being chased by a man who we assume will catch up, a man who flirted with her at a party and asked her what it was like with women, if it was more gentle. I thought that Kechiche would be aware of the fact that this man is “that guy” and everyone hates “that guy,” but “that guy” appears to end the film rewarded by the implied romance of Adele. And if that is the case, what a sad and limiting narrative Kechiche is promoting, consciously or not. Perhaps if we’d focused more time on the daily relationship of the two women, rather than close shots of Adele’s underage parts or the prescriptive too-long sex scenes, we would have been able to better understand the passion between these two women, and why it was much more than that implied dalliance. blue-is-the-warmest-color-pictures-1 Julie Maroh has weighed in on the adaptation, and her comments concerning its sex scenes stood out to me. “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 made me feel very ill at ease.” All I could think as I watched the scenes was that there were not two people fucking because they were desperately, even harmfully, in love. It looked like two women fucking in a way that would be stimulating to a viewer with little expectation for queer intercourse. It didn’t look like a young woman discovering the body of her partner for the first time. It didn’t look like an experienced partner relearning passion in the arms of her new lover. The voyeuristic angles, the awkward and choreographed movements, and all of them made me feel uneasy, unable to forget the directorial eye, and, quite frankly, bored. I feel sorry for those straight individuals who thought they were about to see something scandalous. Besides Kechiche’s somewhat clunky fetish for women’s asses, there’s little here that would shock your average Crash Pad viewer.

I expected something titillating, and did not find it. Is this still an important movie? Well, in some ways, yes. There are moments of aesthetic beauty that are worthy of applause. The film is about a woman, and she is a queer woman, and that is groundbreaking in 2013, unfortunately or not. Yet its overwhelmingly positive reception reminded me of Brokeback Mountain‘s debut, when the queers watched quietly as the critics stumbled over themselves to praise the performances of two straight actors succeeding in the “difficulty” of a gay role. Queerness as portrayed by straight people, as envisioned by straight people and directed by straight people, is Oscar bait. Brokeback Mountain isn’t an example of gay cinema anymore than Blue is the Warmest Color is an example of lesbian cinema, and I’m sorry if that comes as a shock to you. A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.

Do I sound like a cranky queer? I’m sure I do, especially to the devout fans of this film who include top critics and acclaimed filmmakers. I think I’ve become very sick of this continual settling for something subpar in queer portrayals in film, especially when it’s a straight male filmmaker, especially when I’m being made to feel gratitude for the bare appearance of a queer story, and most especially when the film receives widespread praise. Many of the comments about this film have mentioned the fact that it doesn’t matter that the narrative is about two women, because love is universal and the story is telling a universal story. But it does matter, because queer stories are still different than heterosexual stories. They are different in very important and unforgettable ways, and to dismiss that fact, to say as the director has that the issue of class is more important than the issue of queerness, is ignorant on a number of levels. Queer stories can be universal, but they should still be told differently, and by the people who intimately know them.

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Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 124 articles for us.

197 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    I haven’t seen the movie yet because I live in South America. But I have to say I’m really dissapointed in this review, I expected a different view and opinion from you than what I read on AfterEllen. I watched the sex scene and a 3 hour film can’t be reduce to a 6 minute scene. Yeah, the director is a man, yeah the director is straight. But who cares? I watch a film for the story, for the characters, for the places, for the emotions. I love a good love story. So, following your logic Luc Besson couldn’t direct a amazing movie such as Angel-a because he isn’t a catholic, and doesn’t know nothing about God and Angels?

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      The sex scenes are only a tiny part of the problem. The relationship between Emma and Adele is depicted in such a way that you actually can’t find the emotions you are looking for (and I kept looking for three hours, but towards the end I just wanted Adele to end up with her male colleague, which is saying a lot).

      • Thumb up 3

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        “The relationship between Emma and Adele is depicted in such a way that you actually can’t find the emotions you are looking for”

        I actually agree, but I think that it wasn’t supposed to be about the “epic love story”, but about Adele (French title is “Life of Adele”) and Adele’s take on it. I think you won’t argue that expression of her emotions was phenomenal.

    • Thumb up 5

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      This comment inspired me to read the AE review and skim the ensuing comments and I found the gem below:

      “…Each time they go to make love, music by Betty goes “Emma…Emma…Emma…Adele…Adele…Adele…” Then they are interrupted by their male roommate before they get nude. ”
      This comment was made by another person in another site regarding this criticism agaist the movie, the sex scenes, and not being lesbian enough.’ “

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      Well, there were good and bad things about the movie. But the sex parts were just silly. And that was sad because the build up, the aching desire in Adele was so well done. I felt like just kissing Emma’s neck would have given her an orgasm. It’s like Kechiche just got too excited watch two naked straight women in bed and messed his briefs. But he calmed down enough to make a fundamentally good movie. I found the breakup scene between Adele and Emma agonizing, in a good way. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen sexier snot!

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      I watched the movie 3 weeks ago and I want to watch it again. I think that the film leaves a big unanswer question. Kechiche talks about the social and cultural differences between them were the cause of the break up, but I think he failed portraying it. In the first part of the movie Adele talks about her love for literature, it’s clear thar she enjoys reading books and has a passion for writing. She’s smart and creative not like the rest of the kids in her school (that scene with Thomas and the scene when the teacher is discussing parts of “La vie de Marianne”). She has a great taste in films also (Kubrick, Scorsese) and on the other hand when she’s with Emma, Adele seems not that clever, it’s difficult for her to understand Sartre and the only painter she knows is Picasso. I don’t think that really realistic. In the last scene she seems uncomfortable once again with that artsy snobby environment but I didn’t feel real to me.
      That’s the big problem that I have with the movie, but the acting, directing, photography it’s on another level.

  2. Thumb up 19

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    Oh – thank you so much. I was waiting for this review. Le bleu est une couleur chaude is a beautiful graphic novel; everyone should read it (and then cry for hours).
    The movie, though, is simply ridiculous, and I just NEEDED it to be said and proved by someone on this website.

  3. Thumb up 8

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    I haven’t seen this film yet but I heard a lot about the infamous sex scene. I haven’t watched many LGBT films but I wondered what you thought about A Single Man since that was directed by a gay director.
    I find it interesting though to hear different perspectives on this film because I’m sure many heterosexuals think certain films about gays and lesbians are groundbreaking but actually they have no or little idea of how little insight there is to these films.
    For example I get really frustrated seeing films with black characters where they are the ones being pointed at, films like The Help etc. Not to say those films aren’t any good but I’m tired of seeing black people portrayed in the same way, through a white male gaze.
    Sorry I am rambling on. I might watch Blue Is the Warmest Color but I think now I will be looking at it in a completely different way.

    • Thumb up 1

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      I’m not that keep on A Single Man since it’s yet another mainstream LGBT film in which the gay characters die – have you seen Christopher and His Kind though? it’s a BBC adaptation of Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical Berlin novels, it’s quite good

      • Thumb up 3

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        Yes! It really doesn’t shy away from serious gay sex. Although I feel bad because whenever I watch it, I don’t read it as bio-pic about historical gay author,Christopher Isherwood, but rather as the Doctor’s big gay adventure.

  4. Thumb up 3

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    I’ve been looking forward to the AS review of this movie (thank you Kade!). I’d be grateful for suggestions of films about queer women that resonate (or books, for that matter).

    I’ve read many of Jeannette Winterson’s books and watched most of what’s available on Netflix instant gay and lesbian channel, but I know there are hidden gems that deserve more recognition out there, esp for those of us that didn’t take college courses in queer theory or similar and are less informed (speaking for myself).

  5. Thumb up 42

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    ***Spoiler Alert*** (I also apologize in advance if this comes across as harsh or as an attack. Tactfulness isn’t my strong suit and I know I tend to be pretty blunt. It’s not my intent to hurt feelings or whatever.)

    =\ I guess I should hand in my conscious dyke card due to actually enjoying the movie. I don’t know. Maybe I’m still too new to being gay to get the things you(Kate) said. I thought the story was a realistic depiction of the course of a relationship. There wasn’t any stupid magical making up once things fell through. To me, the final act of the film was painful to watch because going through what happened hurts. One of the reasons why I hate stupid ass romance stories is because they don’t have that. Everything seems to usually magically be ok in the end, but that’s not how it is in real life. I really appreciated the fact that BitWC avoided the temptation to put Emma and Adele back together.

    I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the sex scenes. The main one was a bit long, but I thought it was enjoyable. I definitely wasn’t bored by it. I also remember thinking that this somewhat makes up for the countless minutes of hetero sex that I’ve had to watch in movies throughout my life. Yet everyone else seems to think it was terrible. Maybe my lack of experience enabled me to enjoy it and the rest of the queer sex scenes in the film. Though I do agree with you on questioning how Adele automatically knew what to do despite never having slept with a woman before.

    You seem to insist that queer relationships are so very different from straight ones and that this film was such a disappointment. But you haven’t given any examples of what could/should have been done differently aside from implying it should have been done by a queer director. What was it about queer relationships that was depicted incorrectly or inadequately in the movie? Adele’s lack of understanding why she wasn’t responding to guys, how hurt she was when she finally discovered that she was attracted to women only to be shot down and later harassed by her friends, the exploration of a lesbian bar for the first time, etc. All of those things seem like valid queer experiences to me. They also showed the contrast between dinner with Emma’s parents (who she was out to) vs dinner with Adele’s parents (Adele remains closeted throughout the film to everyone but Emma’s friends/peers). How is Emma pretending to have a boyfriend to appease Adele’s parents not a queer experience?

    I feel like everything that happened in the movie are things that happen in real life. I really don’t get what’s so blatantly wrong and makes the film glaringly obvious that there weren’t any lesbians involved. The pretentious conversation about women in art that happened in the film is surely something that has happened(more than once and continues to happen) at art school, galleries, or gatherings of artists which contain a douche-bag man on a high horse. Speaking as someone who went to art school and had to take classes where we analyze art (in often bullshit pretentious ways), that scene was definitely plausible. Yes, they had “that guy” in the film since “that guy” exists in real life. Queer women have to deal with “that guy” and his questions about lesbians/lesbian sex at some point in their lives.

    So like I said, maybe I’m too inexperienced to get what all the hate is about. I’d really like to hear what should have been done differently, especially if there were lesbians on set. What scenes would have changed and what would they have been changed to? What is this monumental thing about queer relationships that makes them so different from straight relationships that was glaringly obviously missing from the movie?

    • Thumb up 7

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      “You seem to insist that queer relationships are so very different from straight ones and that this film was such a disappointment. But you haven’t given any examples of what could/should have been done differently aside from implying it should have been done by a queer director. What was it about queer relationships that was depicted incorrectly or inadequately in the movie? Adele’s lack of understanding why she wasn’t responding to guys, how hurt she was when she finally discovered that she was attracted to women only to be shot down and later harassed by her friends, the exploration of a lesbian bar for the first time, etc. All of those things seem like valid queer experiences to me. They also showed the contrast between dinner with Emma’s parents (who she was out to) vs dinner with Adele’s parents (Adele remains closeted throughout the film to everyone but Emma’s friends/peers). How is Emma pretending to have a boyfriend to appease Adele’s parents not a queer experience?”

      This is a fantastic comment but this bit in particular spoke to me. A+.

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      Really appreciate this well thought out response. My initial reaction to the AS article was complete frustration. Not only did I disagree that the film plays on certain tropes, but the overall message upset me.

      I saw the film and loved it. I thought it was an authentic story. It may not be the desired story of an underrepresented queer community. But it’s my story and my girlfriends story and I believe it’s a lot of other lesbians (that I know) story as well. I thought it was a beautiful film, told with the precise amount of attention, thoughtfulness, and respect. I hope we get more from Adèle Exarchopolous and Abdellatif Kechiche soon.

  6. Thumb up 12

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    This review echoes my experience, which is that the film is disappointingly conventional and heavy-handed in its class themes and its script, and that it really missed the target in portraying queer relationships and sex scenes. The Emma character in particular was not well fleshed out at any point and I didn’t find her relationship with Adele convincing. I bought them falling in love and I bought them post-breakup (the cafe and gallery scenes). As someone mentioned above, I too was left rooting that Adele end up with her male colleague. :(

    The critical acclaim this movie has received (especially and unsurprisingly by male critics) has been a disorienting reality check on the depth of the culture gulf between mainstream and queer cinema/experiences. Check out Manohla Dargis’s review (NYT) and Monkia Bartyzel’s review (Yahoo News) for more nuanced and on-point reviews of the film.

    • Thumb up 1

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      Thank you for pointing out Monkia Bartyzel’s review of the movie. I haven’t read the comic and thus had no idea of the differences between it and the film. It was very refreshing to read a review that didn’t revolve around the sex scene and actually used the source material to show that was changed in the film while talking about how problematic it was.

    • Thumb up 5

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      Of course, Emma’s character isn’t as fleshed out as Adèle’s.
      The original title is Adèle’s life (a parallel with Marianne’s life, a book they discuss at some point in the movie). So we see the whole thing through Adèle’s eyes. It’s her life, her coming of age story, her figuring out who she is and what she wants.
      I don’t think for a second that she ends up with the guy at the end. I think he was the only one who she sort of connected with among Emma’s friends because he’s working class like her. That’s how I viewed it. She leaves and is on her own. One chapter of her life behind her. The rest of her life still ahead of her.

  7. Thumb up 20

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    I’ve been hearing a lot of disappointment and frustration coming from queer women who have seen the film, but for me, I had a completely opposite experience.

    I loved it. I was completely floored by the rawness and relatability of the performances. I never cry during movies or TV (except for Buffy’s “The Body), and yet the tears started to flow during the third act. As someone who recently struggled with figuring out her sexuality, I identified so much with Adele in the first two acts of the film. It hit me hard.

    I’m a little more conflicted about the sex scenes, but I’m inclined toward the positive. I didn’t get a sense of the “male gaze’s” presence at all. Dana Stevens over at Slate sums up my thoughts far more eloquently:

    “[The] scenes of Emma and Adèle in bed, overlong and arguably cheesecakey as they were, captured for me the intensity of that stage of a love affair when the boundaries of your entire world end and begin with your lover’s body.”

    As choreographed as the scenes are, there is an undeniable sense of totality that just captures you as a viewer. Like Adele and her voracious appetite, the screen just swallows up your eyes and your undivided attention. Yet I didn’t feel like a voyeur; I felt like the movie was demanding, even seizing, my attention. It wasn’t titillating or exploitative to me. In fact, I became desensitized to the explicitness after a few minutes and simply watched in appreciation of their passion.

    I think that we, as queer women, are quick to conclude that depictions of queerness in art made by “non-queers” are automatically exploitative or cheap or what-have-you. As problematic as Kechiche may have been in the real-life filming of the movie, I don’t think that it’s fair to dismiss the movie automatically as a product of male gaze. I think that Kechiche presents a love story that is universal in its intensity and scope, and it just happens to take place between two women. The movie isn’t interested in the politics of queerness, but in the experiences of love and passion.

    It’s also important to note that French film, by nature, is very different from the typical products of Hollywood. This movie is sort of a fictionalized cinéma vérité, observing a story as it unfolds. I would argue that every scene has its relevance, no matter how seemingly insignificant, but that’d be a whole paper.

    I will say, however, that I think Emma has a lot more development and nuance than one might think at first glance. She is characterized primarily through her actions, on and off screen. First up: she leaves her girlfriend Sabine of 2 years to be with Adele. That foreshadows how her relationship with Adele will pan out, and we see hints of their fate at the party Adele throws when Emma and Lise are getting too close for Adele’s comfort. We can’t be sure that Emma cheats on Adele, but the seeds of doubt are there, and it makes it just that more frustrating and heartbreaking when Emma throws Adele out for cheating.

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        To be clear, I don’t think that at all. French film is just different from Hollywood, so it’s unfair to judge it by the same standards (too long, too much extraneous material, etc.) that we judge a studio movie.

        I’m sorry if it came across that way. I’m just trying to make the point that it’s a whole other animal from most (queer) movies. People can feel free to like/dislike it for whatever reason they have, but I think it’s worth keeping these things in mind when you’re criticizing a work of art.

        • Thumb up 6

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          I don’t see how it’s unfair to judge all films based on the same very basic criteria – such as not being pointlessly and painfully long, just because some films are made by artsy directors who think they’re much better than the rest of us. I have had the misfortune of watching a lot of fancypants “cinéma vérité” and so much of it is, honestly, just straight male directors masturbating, it’s pretty astounding. Studio films don’t usually end up being like that because they’re team efforts and the director has to take into consideration the creative input of other people, whereas with films like BitWC, the director has full control over the film and he’ll fire or harass anyone who disagrees with him – and then the press’ll praise him for it and compare him to Hitchcock – and then the masturbatory straight male director’ll win a load of prizes for his new and interesting and “raw” portrayal of female sexuality. Meanwhile female directors can’t get anybody to support their projects.

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        My pretentious European ass and I would be really interested to know the rating American and European viewers give this movie and if there is a difference between them.

        Because I like statistics of course, but also because I , not very subtly, believe that Americans and Europeans really do have a different experience watching this movie.

        • Thumb up 7

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          I agree. It’s not pretentious at all to think so, Europeans (and not just Wuropeans as a whole but from country to country) have different ways to understand art and cinema. French movies are very particular, just like Almodovar movies are a kind of its own. They can’t be compared to American cinema as a whole or judged the same way, in my humble Spanish-film-student opinion.

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          I lived in Spain for awhile and I will tell you that my Spanish friends had a completely different and more positive opinion of this film than my American friends.
          (And also, Susi, I love Almodovar. I went to Almagro, the town where Volver was filmed, which is right near where Pedro Almodovar grew up. Loved it!)

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          Well in France (or at least, where I live), no one is interested to see it, ever. We got so fed up with, on the one hand, critics being all “This is the best movie of all time !!” (people tend to say “if the critics loved it, it means it’s boring as hell and pretentious”) and on the other hand all the problematic stuff the director and actresses said/did, that no even even talks about it anymore and prefers to go watch Gravity :D

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        Honestly you guys I think my biggest problem with this movie (besides the creepy 20 min sex scene taped in horrible angles LBH) was how fucking awful Emma’s art was.

        And the supposedly nuanced and deep conversations about art? Real dumb, if they would have spent more time developing those conversations that made Adele feel separate from Emma’s art world, it would have made her loneliness and isolation more believable. Instead we have a silly argument about Klimt being decorative. Rookie mistake.

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          OMG yes this, exactly this! I thought I was the only rolling my eyes during the party and gallery opening scenes. This point really needs to be brought up in more reviews.

  8. Thumb up 7

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    I went in to see the movie knowing nothing about it besides that it had instances of lady-loving-ladies in it. I witnessed what seemed to me to be a profoundly sexually powerful relationship between two people who didn’t have much else going for them. It was something that spoke to me as I have been in similar situations. As far as I can tell, that was absolutely not the case in the graphic novel: the main characters were supposed to be in love. I would have liked to see that, for sure. But I do not think that this portrayal is necessarily bad or wrong? Unless the director WAS trying to find the same vein of emotion that the book did. If that was the case, then yeah. He done fucked up. I will add: from my experience, the scissoring was super unrealistic. I chalked that up to poor scissoring experiences, though.

  9. Thumb up 21

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    “The film ends with Adele being chased by a man who we assume will catch up, a man who flirted with her at a party and asked her what it was like with women, if it was more gentle. I thought that Kechiche would be aware of the fact that this man is “that guy” and everyone hates “that guy,” but “that guy” appears to end the film rewarded by the implied romance of Adele.”

    I disagree with this. First of all, I think that that character was projection of Kechiche himself, and I didn’t get an impression that he flirted with her at the party – he was simply a “friendly, concerned guy”, at that point, as well as later. What’s more, it didn’t feel to me like the ending was suggesting what you imply there. Adele never expressed any interest in him, and she leaves alone, showed walking alone for really long time after he started to look for her, he never catches her up.

    “It seems a case of erasure to call Adèle a lesbian, when her multiple experiences with men seem equally legitimate to her experience with Emma.”

    Not at all. Her words about “feeling like she’s pretending” after non-satisfying sex with boyfriend suggests otherwise. Also, don’t forget her internalized homophobia.
    Did we really see the same movie?

    “A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.”

    Like The Kids Are All Right? Sorry, but Cholodenko’s movie, even though she identifies as lesbian, was far more damaging to lesbian visibility than this. It was practically direct opposition – straight sex pronounced and presented as more “real” and passionate than boring lesbian “sex”, which wasn’t even sex on its own since they had to turn themselves on by watching gay male porn first. Here it’s straight sex that’s presented as boring, and lesbian sex as “lusty” (and BTW, it wasn’t choreographed – those two actressed were just told to “do their best”, so it was their idea of how lesbian sex looks like).

    And don’t forget that main problem with this movie, some particular lesbi-phobic cliche, comes directly from source material, comic created by lesbian.

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      Even more importantly, the man at the end is shown going the wrong way. So Kechiche is saying he will not be a part of Adele’s life. I think it is a sign she is coming to terms with her own identity. That she is freed of her internalized homophobia and will now date who she loves and not who society tells her she should be with.

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      Amelia, I agree- I do think that character was a projection of Kechiche, as well as the gallery owner during the party, discussing his otherness regarding the pleasure experienced by women. To me, those moments were some of the strongest, most true in the film- why not make a film more focused on that? On how you couldn’t possibly understand?

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    I just saw this movie today and I left the theater unsure how I felt about it. There was something off about the sex scenes between Adele and Emma, but I couldn’t articulate what and I think you did a great job of explaining what was off-putting about them. They just weren’t very believable and became gratuitous quickly. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with depicting graphic sex in films, but I would have rather seen the time spent on the sex scenes used on something else like the development of their relationship. For example, they only get into one fight in the film and it’s when they break up… I wish the film had treated their relationship like a real one instead of an experimental straight girl’s fantasy romance. All of the sex was sensationalized and felt more like a field guide to lesbian sex for heterosexuals than an expression of love between two people. Especially the scene where they reconnect in the cafe post-break up. What the fuck was that? Regardless of one’s sexuality, who the hell fingers their ex across the table in public like that? Not to mention that their sex life is the only thing Emma seems to miss about their relationship.

    I didn’t hate this movie. I really enjoyed the beginning and the start of Adele and Emma’s relationship. I liked that the film took it’s time in the beginning, but towards the middle/end both the story and the editing felt lazy. There were a lot of unnecessary scenes that dragged out the narrative and eventually the story began to feel like the serious French remake of Kissing Jessica Stein instead of anything truly groundbreaking.

    There are two things that greatly disappointed me about this film. 1) That the film felt that the only way to authenticate a romance between two women was to show them having extended, graphic sex, and 2) that the film abandons everything it was trying to accomplish (over the course of 3 hours no less) by implying that Adele will begin a new relationship at the end and a heterosexual one at that. Isn’t the point of the film to learn about finding and losing your first love? Doesn’t implying a new relationship at the end discredit all of Adele’s pain and her arc as a character? The ending was such a cop out, and it was frustrating because it had the potential to be subtle and resonating.

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      Seriously, when was it implied that she’ll be with that guy? Before reading this article and comments I’ve only seen such suggestions coming from people with deeply heteronormative views, so for them depiction of a friendly guy talking to a woman (BTW, interestingly that actor is ‘booked’ in French cinema for role of gay guys) inevitably has to lead to romance. Doesn’t matter that said woman doesn’t express any interest, that her attraction to men is questionable, or that symbolically, she leaves her “old life” alone.

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        It is not implied at all. But this is a person who says Adele’s longterm romance with Emma is a dalliance and considers two meaningless flings with men (one when she is 15 and one due to loneliness, fear, and internalized homophobia) to be relationships that are just as legitimate as Adele’s with Emma.

        The difference is we watched the film without making up our mind beforehand.

  11. Thumb up 11

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    “They are different in very important and unforgettable ways, and to dismiss that fact, to say as the director has that the issue of class is more important than the issue of queerness, is ignorant on a number of levels”.

    I disagree with this so much. This is Kechiche’s fifth movie. I’ve seen three of his previous movies (which I’m guessing were never released in the US) and his themes/obsessions are once again explored in Blue is the warmest color. Maybe this colors how differently we view the movie and that’s fine.

    I saw it as being more about class struggle than anything else.
    About someone who doesn’t fit in (Adèle) in Emma’s world, someone who doesn’t possess the social/cultural codes to her girlfriend’s world. And how frustrating it is for her. The only time we see Adèle truly being herself/comfortable in her own skin is when she’s teaching. It’s clear that’s where she truly blossoms. In the classroom. With her students. Not with Emma (I thought the relationship wasn’t healthy at all by the way: where are her friends? her parents? she sacrifies everything for Emma. Of course it’s about falling in love for the first time and also the first heartbreak).

    What I find annoying, though, is the assumption that because he’s a straight guy, the director is immediately suspicious and the movie is being prejudged based on that.
    And of course whenever Julie Maroh is quoted, it’s ALWAYS when she’s something negative about the movie, even though her review was overwhelmingly positive.

    By the way, I agree that the sex scenes were way too long and they made me cringe and took me out of the movie.
    But I thought the rest was phenomenal and to judge the movie just because it wasn’t made by a queer woman (and we all know how great movies made by queer women end up being, right?) is ludicrous.

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        i was speaking to kechiche literally saying in an interview that he found class to be much more of an issue than homosexuality, which is just…endlessly dismissive. he uses class as a way to silence lea seydoux’s accusations that he was abusive and sexually inappropriate as a director, saying she was too “bougie” and would never understand his technique. he keeps using class as a way to hide, and that seems shitty to me, especially as a working class person who is generally horrified by a director defending his abusive actions with the class level of his abusee.

        as far as referencing issues of class in this film, i don’t think he does a particularly noteworthy job – the poor people eat spaghetti and watch tv! the rich people eat oysters and talk about art! – and thus i didn’t think of bringing it up in a review that was mostly about the ways in which this didn’t feel like the groundbreaking queer film it was chalked up to be.

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          To Kate: Your reply to Hodge C. was immature. Instead of spewing nonsense about a keyboard, it would have been nice if you’d actually countered each point Hodge C. made. If you can’t handle the criticism of your review that specifically addresses your misrepresentations of the film, I suggest you don’t review anything else. Or maybe grow thicker skin and acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake.

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          Kate: I think your interpretation of Kechiche’s commentary on class in the film is a bit literal – i.e., oysters and art are classy, pasta and tv are not. There’s a lot in the film to indicate that he thinks Emma, her family and artistic friends are self indulgent and pretentious rather than sophisticated. And that their idealism about art is shallow and selfish in comparison to Adele’s idealism about teaching. Adele mentions specifically how important reading/ literature was to her and her desire to teach kids for this reason.

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          Why do you think Adele is poor??? I did not get that impression. And if you see the “poor eating spaghetti” to be a view on classes, then what about when Adele cooks the spaghetti for all of the art friends? I think the earlier spaghetti scene with Adele is supposed to show that that dish is a family dish, and when she shares it with Emma and her pack of friends, it’s supposed to be special. And all of them love it.

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        Kate’s comments overall are offensive. The site should have had somebody review it whose mind wasn’t made up in advance. It makes me sad is that people will read this review and buy the utter junk and distortions that Kate sells. Though you have to appreciate how Kate has completely distorted the film making it about Adele’s romances with men, calls Adele’s romance with Emma a dalliance, and makes up a romantic ending with a man that does not occur in the film. Note to Kate, when the filmmaker pointedly has the woman disinterested and has the man run the wrong direction it is not saying love ever after. It is saying that kind of romance is never meant to be and Adele has matured. Bravo Kate.

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          ah! friend! you have used my name so many times that i am beginning to wonder if there is a key on your keyboard that is labeled “kate” and you just press it so that my name shows up. that would be pretty cool, and now i’d like to find out if i can get a keyboard manufactured with my name on its own key.

          at any rate, i’m super glad to see that one reviewer’s opinion is the platform for a lot of legitimate commentary. i think everyone is saying lots of legitimate stuff and these conversations are vital!

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    I had such a huge feeling of disappointment after walking out of the theater when this movie ended. I don’t know if it’s because romance films aren’t my forte or if the length just burned me out, but I’m thinking I just really didn’t enjoy it. This film just felt a safe, hetero-approved “tender love story” between two women. That’s my main problem with the film: it’s so safe. I really don’t think this film is for the lgbt community. It’s for the heterosexual public to help them feel comfortable.

    I finished the graphic novel right before the movie started and I 100% think the novel is 10x better, except for a few scenes. I felt like I understood their relationship so much more in the book. Their interactions were a lot sweeter. There was more focus on sexuality in the graphic novel, which I felt was important.
    If anyone has seen Weekend, there’s a scene where the two main characters talk about their experience with heterosexuals, and it wasn’t complimentary, but it was exactly how a lot of gay people interact in real life. Blue is the Warmest Color didn’t touch on any topics like that.

    And the director definitely did put too much of himself into the film, it was hard not to notice. It doesn’t surprise me that the director explained the sex scenes as wanting to portray the female figure as “art” (I’m paraphrasing). It’s just typical. In terms of the sex scenes, they weren’t that big of a deal, honestly. Obviously, there was too much sex, it was unnecessary and boring to watch. And it didn’t even feel like Adele’s first time (with a woman). How did she seemed so experienced?

    The sex scenes weren’t the most gratuitous part about the film, to be honest. Every scene with food as the starring character was.

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    Terrific review Kade. You beautifully and articulately stated pretty much all of my thoughts and feelings on this film. Most other places I go on the net however, I’m loudly and vigorusly shut down whenever I state them. I know a lot of queer women are invested in us finally having a award winning film that feels like it’s about us. But as far as I’m concerned this isn’t that film.

    Also I’d just like to say, it SICKENS me to see how many people dismiss the actresses claims of abuse by the director because they have some personal investment in the film being well recevied. He was in a postion of power. That is incredibly serious to me, not something to take lightly.

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    While marginalization of a minority is often attempted by members of a majority, it is also often found in members of that minority themselves. Kate writes that she brought a blank slate to this film. The likelihood is that if the sex scenes were the exact same but directed by a woman those individuals who decry them would praise them. But since no blank slate is involved we instead get an exclusionary manifesto which not only distorts scenarios in the film but creates scenarios that don’t occur.

    Lets start with Adele’s sexuality. Kate states Adele is definitely not lesbian and brings up how Adele’s multiple relationships with men are equally legitimate as her romance with Emma. While one can argue if she lesbian or bisexual, the latter part is is pure nonsense and completely distorts what is shown on screen. Adele is shown in two relationships with men. The first relationship is with a fellow male student where she is practically coerced in to dating him. After the date with Thomas she dreams of sex…with the blue haired woman she saw in the street. She is shaken badly by this and engages in very rote, mechanical sex with Thomas. She is shown as completely unsatisfied (if Kate finds that sex naturalistic I feel bad for her). She dumps him almost immediately after she shares with her gay male friend that she feels like she is lying to herself. In a 3 hour film, Thomas is probably given a whopping 10 minutes of screentime.

    The 2nd relationship is with a fellow schoolteacher. Kate leaves out how this occurs and how brief it is. Here it is context. Even after Adele has sex with Emma for the first time, she is intimidated by PDA at a gay pride parade. The two women go to an isolated park to kiss. We know Adele comes from a very conservative household when it comes to sexuality. A dinner has Adele’s Mom and Dad both stating the importance of being married to a guy with a stable job. Adele is not out at school and we see her telling the male colleague she cannot accept an invite by saying she has a family dinner. The male colleague mentions she always has family dinners. That night there is a party when Adele becomes very worried and fearful because she sees Emma flirting heavily with a woman. This sequence is several minutes and a screen shows Louise Brooks acting out Adele’s inner anxiety. That night Emma scolds her about not letting people see her writing. Adele says she doesn’t want people seeing her inner feelings (blatant allusion to her being closeted). Emma then denies a very horny Adele sex. Adele has no one but Emma but Emma begins to hang out late with Lise. Adele is scared that Emma is having an affair. So she goes out to a club, dances with the male colleague and they drunkenly kiss. The next time we see him he is dropping her off away from her house and they kiss again. This is the extent of the relationship between Adele and the male colleague in the film that we see. 5 minutes of screentime if even that.

    Then comes the breakup. And in the breakup it is basically stated that Adele cheated because she was lonely and afraid. She felt Emma was going to leave her and she freaked out.

    As Helen Eisenback of The Huffington Post wrote.

    “The irony of the film is that while Adèle Exarchopoulos’ Adèle blames herself for the breach she ultimately brings about, her straying is a preemptive act of self-defense, a desperate–and terribly sad — attempt at connection when the person who is her whole world has already started to slip away.”

    Adele’s cheating here is the same as in the book. The colleague is meaningless and Clementine (as she is named in the book) does so out of loneliness and due to internalized homophobia (the man with the job is exactly what her father and mom want for Adele). The breakup goes in depth over Adele’s fear of being out and lying to people about her relationship with Emma. Kate writes the legitimacy of her relationships with men but we are shown Adele has zero feelings for the male colleague. She not only states that but her breakdowns express it physically. The next scene after the breakup has Adele dancing with students on trying to not to break down in tears. The male colleague is seen for the last time in the background and Kechiche frames it to depict how utterly meaningless he is to Adele. Her life is Emma.

    That is the male relationships. All of 15 minutes at the most. One failed first time high school romance and one betrayal of herself due to internalized homophobia.

    Kate states that there is a potential romantic interest at the end. That is not at all what is shown. Not at all. Not in any way. Adele goes to a gallery opening to again try to win back Emma. She dresses to the hilt. She sees Emma kiss Lise, her partner of several years, and begins to break down. The male friend from a party years before (who comically thought lesbian sex was gentle – this got a big laugh as we know Adele and Emma’s sex is anything but – it is animalistic, passionate, hungry, etc.) noticed her and says hello. Adele briefly talks to him (maybe 30 seconds) and is completely uninterested. A man calls the guy over. And Adele is looking at Emma. She stares at Emma and Lise and has to leave. She says zilch to the man. Nothing. Nada. She never looks his way. She could care less. And Kechiche knows this. He is playing on the mainstream audience which figures here is the end of the movie rebound. NOT AT ALL. And anyone feel free to correct me on this. She walks out and does not look back. She is hurt and lights a cigarette. She turns a corner. The man wonders where she is and walks out too. He starts to go her direction but, and for some reason Kate did not mention this, the man changes his mind and instead goes the other way. The complete opposite direction Adele is heading. We then see Adele walking away from us too. The film is repudiating “that guy”. “That guy” had no comprehension of lesbianism or that Adele responds to women not men sexually. He finds out it doesn’t matter if Adele is no longer with Emma. She is not interested in him at all and Kechiche basically, with a 2X4, says Adele is not going to settle for someone she is not attracted to again to deal with loneliness or make others happy.

    But what kind of misrepresentation of film do you expect from Kate? After all this is a person who calls Adele’s relationship with Emma a dalliance. They are together for years. Adele has gone from 15 year old student to a teacher at a school. Then after they breakup, we find out Adele has been devastated for 3 years – unable to attach herself to anyone because she is stil consumed by Emma. In what world does a romance spanning almost a decade get called a “dalliance”. In what world does a dalliance end with a woman suffering for 3 years (and still almost breaking down at the gallery) over the other person. There is only one other person in the entire film that Adele desires sexually besides Emma. That is the girl she hungrily kisses at school and who rejects her.

    Kechiche took an over the top book that feels like something out of the 1980’s and made a masterpiece. It is fine that people don’t like it. But to misrepresent it is nonsense. Btw, Kate, look up Laura Mulvey’s male gaze theory. You seriously have no comprehension of it.

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      Hodge, on a non-sarcastic related note: you should write for Autostraddle (or some other publication, if you aren’t already). It’s a shame such an astute breakdown of this film is buried in this web of replies.

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      THANK YOU. You said everything I wanted to say and more. This review is SO OFF THE MARK, I wonder if the author even watched the film. Clearly, also did not get at all anything the film said about class, about otherness, about loneliness, about coming of age, about the hundred other things that are not easily dealt with by writing some kneejerk film “review” completed clouded by the author’s own arrogant, patronizing & American identity politics.

      Not to mention the deep seated bi-phobia making its way into Kate’s review.

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    Ugh, I am so worried about watching this movie. I’m supposed to be reviewing it too (probably) and that’s hard because for your average film review, you look at it like 90% a work of art and 10% a social commentary (or at least that’s what your majority of straight/white/male critics do). And granted, you can’t leave out artistic merit (which you touched on, so that’s not a problem).

    My problem is that it’s going to be hard to look at this film and see everything it is instead of everything that it’s not. Speaking as someone who has an eye towards the entertainment industry for a future career, or even just as someone who has had a lifetime interest in film and feminism in the most general sense, I have this problem with A LOT of movies. Most movies, actually. FOR ME, as far as I understand it, it’s not that this film isn’t true to some queer lady experiences, because, probability speaking, it will be. It’s not that it’s directed by a straight man. It’s not the explicit sex scenes, disingenuous or not, because who’s to say how two women have sex as if it’s some monolithic practice, or what titillates someone? What it is about is the huge gaping hole in the entertainment industry where films and TV made by queer women belong, and it’s a round hole, and this movie is an oval peg. It’s just not fitting, and it’s drawing attention to the emptiness of the hole (say hole again. Hole).

    You can’t deny the viability of gay narratives touching on coming out, having secret relationships, first love, struggling with their identity, experimenting with men AND women, all that. BUT, when almost every queer lady film is about coming out, we’re sad, our parents don’t know/can’t find out, maybe we’ll sleep with a man, then we die… that’s getting kind of ridiculous. All we want is to have the normal movies we see – the action films, the romantic comedies, the biopics, the stupid ensemble comedies, etc. – include us without our entire identity being GAAAAAY PERSON. I appreciate the fact that movies with queer narratives are getting made, I really do, but I’m just sick of it being the same old bullshit, and then fighting the same old fight with straight people and reviewers who don’t understand why we can’t just be happy with it. And I get that it’s a long road. I too have struggled with creating film/TV ideas that both include queer characters and their stories while also remaining commercially viable.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this necessarily, but I just saw people complaining about the review, and how it should be a “film” review, but if we don’t look at the sociopolitical commentary of films and television and books that involve us, then who will? And it’s not as if the artistic merit of this film has been ignored in this review. But I think a lot of us were excited that a THREE HOUR LESBIAN ROMANCE EPIC won the Palme d’Or and now I’m super sad to hear that it’s not as sunshine and rainbows as I thought it would be, and now I feel stupid for not knowing better.

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    Wow, I have some very Strong Feelings about this movie, many of which are negative, but I nevertheless disagree strongly with this review! As for my opinion about the sex scenes, I’m pretty much 100% on the same page with Manohla Dargis. Other than that, however, I am really flabbergasted at how many people I’ve spoken to read Adele as bi or “straight with an exception” or anything other than a character who is very overtly coded as a lesbian throughout the entire movie!

    As has been said before, her entire relationship with Thomas is in my opinion very clearly meant to exhibit her utter lack of interest in men and takes place concurrently with the demonstration of her burgeoning interest in women–she fantasizes about fucking Emma but couldn’t be less numb to the sex she has with Thomas; she kisses her friend and is hurt when said friend does not return her affection but keeps her eyes open every time Thomas kisses her. She is utterly disinterested in men who try to talk to her, including the man at the party who tries to chase her down the street at the end but, as has already been mentioned, ends up going in the wrong direction, suggesting that he will not actually end up factoring into life. She doesn’t even seem to be remotely interested in the co-worker she later sleeps with off-camera–which is part of why her sleeping with him felt, to me, like such a slap in the face: with no precedent on Adele’s part for that kind of interest or behavior, it felt like an obligatory inclusion–the “pretty”/more conventionally feminine lesbian is so expected to cheat with a man (see: The Kids Are All Right) that the inclusion of such a plot twist is just taken for granted. Nobody even tries to justify it; why bother, after all, when by all appearances nobody in the audience expects them to? This movie broke my heart precisely BECAUSE I read it so clearly as a movie about a lesbian who is then written into sleeping with a man for no apparent reason.

    And the reason I find the above so heartbreaking is because other than this, and other than the weirdly voyeuristic sex scenes (if this is la vie d’Adele, how come the sex scenes weren’t shot from Adele’s point of view?), I thought it was a perfect movie. Maybe you don’t get a very strong sense of what connects Adele and Emma other than chemistry–but maybe that’s all that does connect them, and the aforementioned chemistry was so palpable I could easily see how that might be the case. I have never seen a movie in which infatuation and love and excitement and heartbreak were so vivid, so tangible: the way Emma looks at Adele in the bar, the way Adele grins after kissing Emma for the first time… I gotta say, flaws and all, I wish this movie had existed when I was 14 and had no goddamn clue how queer I was–nor would I for years. You never see women like Emma (or, really, anyone demonstrably non-femme) depicted as objects of desire–how the fuck was I supposed to know that was what I wanted when nobody was even showing it to me as an option?

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      I have to disagree with you about the sex scenes. Almost none of the film uses a pov shot for Adele so the sex scenes are no different. And those scenes show that passion, sexual desire, and the want to consume every bit of your lover are very much part of being a woman with a woman – just as I figure they are for burgeoning straight or gay male couples. Frankly I think Dargis was bothered because she is used to lesbian sex being expressed as just emotion and not full out fucking. If it was a man and woman she wouldn’t have said something.

      But I love the rest of your post. Her cheating with the colleague is in the book. And I think the film and book are touching on the same thing. Adele is closeted. She is afraid of what others will think. Her friends. Her family. Her coworkers. Her parents have imprinted on her that she is to be with a man with a job. So when she sees Emma pulling away, she goes backward into the state her parents desired. You notice how the dance scene is in public, in front of everyone, but she hides the romance with Emma. Here is a lonely person who feels she is being rejected by her true love. So she goes back to what is easy and convenient and accepted. What was instilled by her parents and does not upset anyone else. If she cheats with a woman it is about her looking to replace her sexual desire for Emma with someone else. Even more so it brings up the possibility of love and at heart Adele does not want that. Instead she is trying to find comfort in acceptance since Emma is rejecting her. Adele is enacting the same attitudes her parents pushed just as Emma does when she gets on Adele for not writing.

      Adele is a young lesbian who is about to lose the only woman she has ever loved. She regresses to what she sees as safety and normalcy but also something that will not take over from Emma being her true love (which a woman has the possibility of doing). Her fears lead to a decision based in internalized homophobia.

      That said, all variations of the lesbian sleeps with a guy have been done. Time to move on filmmakers.

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        Yeah I definitely was not as thorough as I could have been re: the entirety of my negative feelings about the sex scenes (I think I’m just too drained this week) so maybe it would have been better not to discuss at all than to touch on it so shallowly!

        I’m not opposed to the exploration of a theme such as the one you’re describing, but I honestly didn’t see that in the movie. I can see how that might have been the intention but it was lazily executed–which I think only calls back to my impression that Kechiche simply didn’t feel like he had to bother laying out a reason for a “pretty” lesbian like Adele to cheat on her partner with a man. Maybe the book handles it better, I don’t know, but even if it didn’t I’m still holding Kechiche responsible for handling it poorly since as a filmmaker he is in a position to change the story as much as he likes in the service of making a good film (as opposed to just a transliteration, which he obviously wasn’t exactly trying to do anyway).

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      “I am really flabbergasted at how many people I’ve spoken to read Adele as bi”

      Because there is no reason why the same experiences can’t be the ones of a bi woman?! Bi women, too, fall for another women but struggle with coming into terms with their own sexualities, being closeted, and homophobic families. So even though bi women are potentially attracted to men, it doesn’t help much to have sex with random dudes when they are already deeply and madly in love with a specific woman. The wind does not suddenly start whispering random dude’s names, it still says “Emma”… Basically, when the movie fails to explicitly state what’s up with Adele, it’s a case of Schroedinger’s sexuality – she can be bi, she can be a lesbian. Both possible, both plausible.

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        The problem is Adele is shown having no sexual attraction to men. To the girl in school and to Emma, she shows extreme sexual attraction. The closest to possible sexual attraction to a man is the colleague but the factors (acting out in public, internalized homophobia, the sheer meaningless of him to her, that he is the epitome of what her parents would desire for her) outweigh even that. She could be bi but nothing really points to it. She is no goldstar but she certainly seems to have a only romantically interested in women feel.

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          I disagree. The first person Adèle ever sleeps with is the boy at her school (the actress and him are an item in real life so that might explain why she seems more comfortable in those scenes as opposed to the lesbian sex scenes). And I don’t get why you keep insisting that she has no sexual attraction to men because it’s obvious to me that she enjoyed the sex with him, she even said it was great. She’s just not in love with him.
          Same with her male colleague. Just because he’s a meaningless fling doesn’t mean she’s not attracted to him sexually.
          Adèle never identifies herself in the movie but I read her as being potentially attracted to both genders.

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          Bsrbican, the first person she sleeps with is indeed a boy. It comes almost immediately after she has the dream about Emma which clearly unnerves her. She does not say it was great or even good. She says it didn’t feel real and like she was faking it. The sequence feels mechanical and rote. As with Kate, you apparently imagine what you want to see and even change dialogue if it serves that purpose. It is sad the places people will go when they have disdain.

          As for the male colleague, there is nothing to indicate sexual desire. The drunken kiss comes out of pain and misery and the film presents the indicators for that. Could she be bi? Yes. Does the film show that? Not really.

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          Wow Barbican. I just realized what you meant. As Adele stares in an almost depressed manner immediately after the sex, Thomas asks how it was. And Adele goes, with no emotion “It was great”. The next scene she is telling her gay male friend how phony it felt. Did you not realize she is lying to Thomas to make him feel better and that what she says to the gay male friend is reality? Did you not catch on when she almost immediately dumps Thomas? We usually don’t dump a person we just started dating after “great” sex just as we usually don’t tell that person straight up the sex sucked. There is what a person says to their girlfriend/boyfriend and what they really feel. And Adele voices what she really feels to the gay male friend. But you shouldn’t even need that. That she looks thoroughly unfulfilled in any way should have been clue enough. Just a horrible read of those early events.

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          @Barbican and @red she said
          In addition to what Hodge C. mentioned, Adele also said that she feels like she’s pretending, and that it’s not him, but her (which suggests it’s not that it’s only this guy that she doesn’t feel attraction to).

          I honestly don’t know how anyone could see those scenes and conclude that ‘yeah, she was totally into that guy’.

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          But I don’t think I ever said that Adele is “totally into that guy”?! On the contrary I implied quite the opposite – she in love with Emma and the guys are just random and meaningless.

          “Adele also said that she feels like she’s pretending, and that it’s not him, but her”

          So? Don’t you think that it is an experience that is shared by all woman who love women, not only those who identify as lesbians? Plurisexual women who struggle with internalized homophobia and homophobic families are as much likely to be desperate enough to pretend to be straight and/or like they are not totes into the one specific woman they actually love; consequently doing stupid things and feeling miserable about it. So yes, it is her – loving that specific blue haired woman; not loving him.

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        I… what? Look, I as much as the next girl would love to see more mainstream/acclaimed stories about bi women, but it seems obvious to me that Blue Is The Warmest Color is not that story. Every time Adele is sharing the screen with a man who is interested in her, the movie makes a point of showing how abjectly apathetic she is. The filmmaker has total control over what is shown and therefore what is deemed relevant–if Adele were ever attracted to men at all (other than the ones she is clearly shown as not being interested in), wouldn’t that be relevant enough to a story about a girl cheating on her female lover with a man for Kechiche to have shown it? The absence of such scenes, even before she meets Emma, even after they break up, even when she’s around the guy she actually sleeps with, pretty clearly codes Adele as a lesbian character.

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          So what you’re saying is: Unless the woman in question is portrayed in a stereotypical context of a love triangle the woman can not be bi?! Because that is the only way how plurisexuality can exist – only when expressed through being in love with two people of different genders at the same time?

          The novel/movie established that Clementine/Adel are quite obsessively in love with Emma; of cause she doesn’t care if someone other than Emma shows interest in her or not. You wouldn’t care about other girls flirting with you when your heart orbited only around one super special magical person, would you? So.

          But I am not gonna fight over weather she is bi or lesbian. If the novel/movie doesn’t care enough to make it explicit, why should I? Like I said to me both options seem plausible.

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          Oh, I forgot – both, the movie and the novel, make sure to let us know that Emma doesn’t think Adele is a lesbian:
          In the movie she asks Adele if she has been seeing a guy or a girl at the restaurant scene.
          In the book she says that Clementine is not a lesbian and that one day she will find a guy who she’ll make very happy.

  17. Thumb up 13

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    READ THE GRAPHIC NOVEL.
    IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.

    READ THE GRAPHIC NOVEL.
    IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.
    READ THE GRAPHIC NOVEL.
    IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.
    READ THE GRAPHIC NOVEL.
    IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.

    But for real. Support the amazing artist/storyteller that is Julie March. Everything wrong with the movie is right with the book.

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      The book is junk. She gets pregnant, has an abortion, the homophobes are over the top, the family is a caricature, it has a phony feeling reconciliation, and it ends with Clementine dying to get cheap tears. The movie is far superior on every level. The book is lazy fan fiction melodrama.

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          Have you read the book? It is abysmal. It is Bar Girls, Go Fish, Lianna, Maggie and Alice quality. And it ends with Clementine dying. Didactic and marginalizing. Give me Show Me Love (the greatest of all lesbian films – and directed by a straight man), Water Lilies, The Fish Child and other films that manage to tell a story without becoming didactic and filled with caricatures.

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          (“And I mean THE SAME. Monochromatic convenionentionally attractive white cis French girls…a male reviewer had actually said that the women who disliked the movie were “angry because they didn’t like seeing 2 beautiful women fucking”…if that doesn’t reek of creepyness and male gazing and ideaology then I don’t know what is. Then I decided to re-imagine the movie with Adele as a butch weightlifter training for a competition and Emma as a Black woman moving in next door. Emma then finds Adele and they become friends and fall in love over the summer)

          As you can see, that idea is uncompleted but is much better because it showcases another side of beautiful women. Same story, different take.

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          The fact that you attack any claims about the movie that you feel do not have evidence to back them up, write full-on essays as rebuttals, and yet criticize the graphic novel with unfounded, unexplained subjective statements. Especially after the author of the graphic novel publicly spoke out against the movie.
          Also the fact that you felt compelled to give a head nod to a straight man who made one of your fave lesbian movies.
          And you only signed up for an account shortly after this article was published and have only commented on this article.
          Sounds like someone personally invested in the movie.
          The jig is up.
          Totes khechiche.

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        what the hell book were you reading… she does get pregnant or have an abortion and the heckling was of the same level as the movie, since the scene was 1:1. what the fuck. actually.

        also i agree NOVEL >>>> MOVIE storyline.

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        Hey,

        The graphic novel came in the mail yesterday. I finished it last night. I didn’t see the abortion part. Did you read it in French? I have a suspicion that some things were cut out of the English version that I read. It seemed way too short. She dies like two seconds after the pills were introduced. I was confused. Beautiful art, though, and some lines were absolutely halting–“I felt as if light were running through my veins.” <3 But no abortion.

        AND NO LISE (thank God–although, after seeing the film for a second time this weekend [that's right, I said it], I hated her less).

  18. Thumb up 10

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    …I remember the buzz about this movie months ago back in May when I was starting school. I remember the Buzz about the French film with an infamous sex scene that won Cannes’s Palm D’Or. I was ready to make all the jokes in the world and that day I did.

    Then Autostraddle came in and posted a prediction on this movie; instantly it had people divided, as it does now. Some people liked the movie, others did not.(I’m the latter.)

    My first beef with this movie was because it seemed like it was profiting from the hype and the intense sexuality to market it under “a love story”. I remember that someone said that Blue was the “Greatest Love Story of All Time”…and I was WTF? IT IS NOT. I responded to that commented: “There are MANY Queer stories out there and there is one more than one way of telling it. This is not one of them.”

    Then I had another beef with Kechiche because of Black Venus, therefore I don’t trust him on anything he does. And not to mention as someone who has actively seeked and created visible lesbian content through various media (fanfiction, media review and original scripted written fiction and poetry), I can say with happiness that this isn’t on my list because it’s the same formula with the same kinds of people.

    (And I mean THE SAME. Monochromatic convenionentionally attractive white cis French girls…a male reviewer had actually said that the women who disliked the movie were “angry because they didn’t like seeing 2 beautiful women fucking”…if that doesn’t reek of creepyness and male gazing and ideaology then I don’t know what is. Then I decided to re-imagine the movie as)

    To be quite honest with the naysayers, I’d rather read the graphic novel because its from a self-identified queer woman. She wrote a story and shared it with the world. Everything in it is hers and and we’d go along with it with her. We may not like how the story ends but at least its authentic as we know who its coming from.

    Another thing that really baffles me is that we have loads of queer-friendly media content that is ACTUALLY produced by Queer-identified individuals EVERY SINGLE DAY like the ones produced by Julie Maroh. But the likelihood that they will be heard is slim to none and that makes me sad. And that is from FRANCE. (Btw, if there are any French Queer shows you guys know of, tell me!)

    In the name of identity, diversity, support and preservation I would rather support those who’re authentic, diverse in their creation than those who chose to use that to promulgate more of the same or distort it even further.

    To those who have a strong resonance with this movie, that’s good. It’s probably your First Queer Movie. But those who don’t agree with you have just as valid reasoning.

  19. Thumb up 6

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    These two quotes say it all!!! One of the best critical pieces I’ve ever read!

    “A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.”

    “Many of the comments about this film have mentioned the fact that it doesn’t matter that the narrative is about two women, because love is universal and the story is telling a universal story. But it does matter, because queer stories are still different than heterosexual stories. They are different in very important and unforgettable ways, and to dismiss that fact, to say as the director has that the issue of class is more important than the issue of queerness, is ignorant on a number of levels. “

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      Re quote 1: It’s not queer cinema, it’s human cinema with three dimensional lead characters who are queer women. This is a step forward and should be praised not criticized.

      Re quote 2: what’s great about the film is it presents multiple truths. Love is universal AND queer love is affected by homophobia. Not either/or, both.

      Same with class – in some social environments (upper-middle class, artistic Paris) being gay doesn’t impact acceptance as much as being working class does. Adele – as a three dimensional character – experiences both homophobia and classism to varying extents depending on her environment.

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        First of all, those aren’t my quotes! Second of all I haven’t seen the film and I’m not judging the film. I’m praising the critical thinking involved in this piece. Both those quotes portray amazing critical thinking skills. That is all :)

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        “A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.”

        What happens if we change a few things with this quote:

        “A narrative about African American people as directed and portrayed and produced by white people cannot be considered a work African American of cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by African American people is.”

        Or

        “A narrative about women as directed and portrayed and produced by men cannot be considered a work of female cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by women is.”

        Just something to ponder….

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          i think i would agree with all of those statements, actually. not that those movies can’t “be considered a work of [x] cinema,” but i think that all of those movies would be improved if they were made by a member of that group they claim to represent than by another straight white guy. if two producers of equal skill, talent and qualifications are being evaluated as the best humans to bring a story to the screen, the producer who is actually from the group that the movie is about will make a more authentic movie. (however i’d argue that due to the fact that we’re all exposed and immersed in and surrounded by and educated with straight white male narratives from birth means that white men don’t hold the same monopoly on effectively delivering stories about their experiences)

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          @riese
          So we had “The Kids Are All Right”. And I personally think that a fact that Cholodenko identifies as lesbian was used as an excuse to push her into introducing one the most offensive lesbiphobic portrayals since the time when Bond “turned” Pussy Galore, as director’s lesbianism “legitimized” it.
          Either that of Cholodenko actually tried to push agenda that “no lesbian is 100% gay since I identify as gay and like sex with men”, view that’s popular nowadays.

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          Thanks for posing these questions – they did make me think about “what if queer where replaced by African American or women?”

          I still disagree with film, as it’s a collaborative artistic effort – writer(s), director, actors, editor etc. – so there’s quite a few ways to inject authenticity into the project. I can think of great movies where the director does not share the identity of the principal characters – the Colour Purple (Spielberg) and Hunger (about the N. Irish conflict, directed by Steve McQueen, who happens to be black) to name two. As with Blue is the Warmest Colour, writers for both of these movies share identities with the principal characters even though the director doesn’t.

          If we were talking about novels – usually a single creative vision – I’d agree more about the difficulty of authentically representing someone who has a fundamentally different life experience.

          One other thing to think about is whether “authentic” representation of queer women in films, novels etc. should trump visibility. I read a quote from, I think, Stella Duffy (UK writer, out lesbian) where she said she’d rather see straight writers include gay characters and get it a bit wrong, than exclude them completely for fear of criticism. Assuming the writer is not attempting some hateful, homophobic caricature, I agree.

  20. Thumb up 14

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    I don’t know, I loved the movie. Me and my friends all left the theater in a state of emotional shock–I thought it was really an emotionally difficult movie, and I mean that in the best way.
    I do think that the sex scenes were inappropriately voyeuristic (I read some review that commented that the sex scenes were filmed in medium shots, while the rest of the movie was almost entirely close ups; I think that hits the nail on the head), but, hey, I also thought they were hot.
    I thought that we were supposed to see the guy at the party talking about female orgasms as an idiot, like Adele does; I didn’t think it was implied that she gets with the man at the end of the movie. And I really disagree with the idea that the movie portrays Adele’s and Emma’s relationship as a “dalliance.” We see her at the end of the movie, years after her relationship with Emma has ended, and she’s still clearly in love with her. I don’t know if her character is supposed to be a lesbian or bi, but either way it’s obvious that her relationship with Emma was a very serious and important relationship to her.
    And finally, about the idea that reviewers are praising the actresses’ performances just because they’re playing “difficult” gay characters–how could you watch that bullying scene in the high school, where Adele’s friends taunt her about being a lesbian, and not think that Adele Exarchopoulos deserves every bit of praise that she’s getting? She was on screen for basically the entire movie, and gives a completely natural, emotionally sophisticated performance for the whole thing.

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      In total agreement with Caitlin’s post.

      And re: this review and Autostraddle. It’s just…I don’t know. What is the editorial voice of this website? How can you guys get into stuff like Glee or whatever fluffery and then pull out all the stops to totally bludgeon a movie that you can at AT LEAST recognize as accomplished cinema? You have to recognize that you have a responsibility to put far more thought into what you publish when it comes to major lesbian film that is THIS visible, and this written about. It’s incredibly depressing to think that this review, because it’s on this website, might be taken as the “lesbian response” to this film.

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        I mean, I disagree with Kate’s take on the movie, but I don’t think that Autostraddle in any way has an obligation to publish a positive review of it just because it’s a lesbian movie. We deserve better than that! This is supposed to be criticism, not propoganda.
        And it’s easy to get in to fluffery because we don’t ask as much from fluffery; serious movies, on the other hand, demand to be taken seriously.

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        No, totally–Autostraddle is obviously free to publish a negative review. But if you’re going to weigh in on a film of this caliber, on a website that caters to queer women, throwing around contentious crit theory concepts like the “male gaze” (title’s a bit too on the nose, me thinks), and enter into a conversation that is being carried out by every major critic in the country, you should probably make sure you’re at least getting some basic facts about the film right.

        This was an opportunity for Autostraddle to make a serious argument (pro or con), and the result is a meandering, poorly researched, crit studies paper.

        (That being said, there’s definitely room in this debate for crit studies papers, and this one definitely brings up some interesting points. Over and out. Sorry if anyone’s feelings are hurt.)

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          I guess I’d disagree in that I think Kate is making serious arguments. We can disagree–that doesn’t mean the argument’s not serious. And the things we’re disagreeing about are interpretations, not facts.

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          Aaaand, have to write one more thing. I guess what I was trying to say to begin with, is that, when there are so very few sources for lesbian opinion–I mean, it’s really between this and Afterellen.com–you, and I’m not saying this is FAIR, have to take into account the fact that when you weigh in on a film whose ‘very realism’ is being debated by the wider media (is it an accurate portrait of lesbians, sexually, emotionally, superficially), whatever you write will be read as a statement for ALL LESBIANS.

          We could say it’s sad that we only have so few sources of lez infotainment, or perhaps it is sadder still that the general public seems so utterly baffled by who we are and what we do.

          Regardless, when you dismiss this film on a website like this one, without at least acknowledging the possibility of another point of view in the lesbian community, you speak for all of us when you broadcast loudly that: these characters, these love affairs, these sexual positions, etc. do not exist in our lives.

          For those of us who deeply identified with this film, that’s really frustrating. Adding insult to injury, major media outlets are listening and using articles just like yours to perpetuate the mystique of lesbian sex (which is ironic, given what you accuse this film of):

          http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/07/fashion/blue-is-the-warmest-color-through-lesbian-eyes.html?ref=movies

  21. Thumb up 16

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    Blue is the Warmest Color is easily the best movie with lead gay women characters that I’ve ever seen. It may not tick all the politically correct boxes, but it’s orders of magnitude more sophisticated and interesting than any gay movie you’ve ever seen (promise!)

    The subtlety of the themes, the direction, the acting is superb. The characters feel like real people – instinctive, clever, sometimes foolish, sometimes pretentious. Their passion for one another feels real – erotic, undeniable, ultimately unable to overcome their differences. Their lives feel real – episodic, mostly mundane, sometimes thrilling. Politics – homophobia, sexuality, class – are ever present, but not more important than their every day experiences and emotions. In other words, REALITY – so hard to capture, portrayed beautifully in this film; captivating for over three hours.

    The criticism of the principal sex scene – in this review and elsewhere – is legitimate. Unlike the rest of the movie it’s graphic and UNrealistic, making it feel pornographic rather than erotic. It’s far and away the weakest point of the movie – but don’t let this put you off – it’s 9 minutes out of three hours of real brilliance.

    My view on this autostraddle review is that it’s small minded and not worthy of the complexity of the film. The principal accomplishments and themes of the movie are ignored in favor of boring, simplistic dogma. Some of the “male gaze” clangers that the reviewer points out are actually references by the director to the very “tropes” that the reviewer objects to. I find this so frustrating – theoretical commentary about the straight world view of us, rather than what we – as gay women on our own website – feel about a complex, flawed, emotionally rich movie. Disappointing.

  22. Thumb up 8

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    Couldn’t disagree more with this review. I saw the film and I was absolutely in awe with it. It felt like the most real film I have even seen in my life and I can’t wait to see it again.

    Yes the movie was long but it didn’t really feel that way to me. At no point I was bored with this film, because I was completely engrossed in it. It felt like I was in the story witnessing Adele’s life. Adele is easily one of the most likeable characters I ever saw in a film actually. A honest real flawed character. Nothing felt fake about her character. Whenever she felt sad I felt it. When she said something adorably cute it made me grin. When she was happy I was happy.

    I disargee with you on the sex scenes. They felt real to me. Not perfect like you sometimes see in films, but raw. Like sex sometimes really is. And I think these scenes where necessary to explain part of the relationship between Adele and Emma and Adele’s sexual awakening .I mean compare Adele’s reaction to sex with Emma and than sex with Thomas. THere is a complete different reaction.

    Adele’s relationships with guys in this movie is not comparable with her relationship with Emma. I mean it’s obvious she is not really having feelings for Thomas. She just pushed to him by her friends. She clearly didn’t enjoy sex with him. No she goes fantasizing about the blue haired girl instead of her boyfriend.

    Than she has a relationship with Emma. And everything in it felt real. It’s not just some dalliance they have. They have a real relationship for years and it’s obvious at the end of it all neither is over the other. Yes Adele cheats with a guy but Kechiche followed the plot of the comic written by Maroh (queer comic writer)there. Actually most components of the comic are used in this film (except thankfully the ridiculous end).

    And it’s obvious Adele doesn’t have real feelings for the guy. She cheated because she felt lonely, because she didn’t feel like she belonged. This is also what is portrayed in the comic. And it is why the guy in the end isn’t even shown anymore. He is completely unimportant for Adele.

    Than there is the last guy. I honestly don’t get where you get that she is going to be chased by this guy. Adele is so interested in him she leaves without even saying goodbye. Than you see the guy walking in different direction than Adele. So the complete opposite of what you say is implied.

    I also disagree strongly with this:

    ‘A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.’

    I mean seriously !? Some of the best queer films or films with queer characters come from straight people ( fucking Amal, Auf der anderen seite, La vie d’Adele, etc.) while some of the worst comes from queer people.

    This is a film about a girl finding out who she is and a love story between two girls. It’s groundbreaking. It won the palme d’or and for the first time not only the director but also the actresses for their magnificent prestation. It’s sold to 131 countries (including countries that are very homophobic) , which is incredible for this kind of movie. And maybe it isn’t an entirely queer movie. Et alors? But at the midst of it still is the lovestory between two girls, that is going to reach to more people than any story produced in an entire queer circle could.

  23. Thumb up 7

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    I’m happy to see that you wrote an honest review based off your experience with the film, regardless of the negative feedback I’m sure you knew would happen in the comments. I haven’t seen the film yet so I don’t have any praise or criticism to add, but this was wonderfully written, as always. Thank you!

  24. Thumb up 7

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    Wow, reading the comments, it is pretty apparent that more than one PR agent/someone involved with the film (or one of them making multiple accounts) is trying to defend the movie/save its reputation. It’s a joke, because it’s so obvious which commenters they are.

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      So if someone doesn’t agree with this review they are PR agents/involved in the movie. No one can have a different opinion than you or the reviewer? Sorry but that is just immature and not even a little.

      I guess all those people that genuinely enjoyed the movie are all PR people and they got the Palme d’or because Steven Spielberg and co are also in the La vie d’Adele PR machine.

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        Nope, when did I say that? Obviously EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion! I only said that there appears to be at least one person involved with the film on this message board. I didn’t tell you explicity why I think that.
        But I will now.
        I have seen about 2 or 3 commenters comment in the exact same style. It starts with a long diatribe that shows they have an excellent familiarity with the movie. Eventually, they say something to the effect of “how can you invalidate the movie because it mas made by a straight guy? A bunch of lesbian movies that are good have been made by straight people, in fact, lesbian movies made by queer people have turned out bad” (which is problematic in itself, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now). I have seen this exact same format in 2-3 commenters, all of which only signed up for an account after this article was posted, so that they could post only on this article.
        Go ahead, call me immature, but who jumped on my previous post like it hit them personally?
        I haven’t seen the movie nor read the comic, but I tell you what: When I smell bullshit, I call bullshit.

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          Yeah I admit I made my acount because I wanted to comment on this article because for me it’s not accurate and I want to tell that.

          and that other posters (including me and I can assure I have nothing to do with pr of this movie, it is just a movie that personally got to me in a way that no other movie has ever done. ) see a problem with comment like: how can you invalidate the movie because it mas made by a straight guy? is normal in my mind, because it is a problematic and very presumptuous, because it’s basically saying that someone who is straight can’t possibly get anything about being gay. I find that offensive and that is why I refer to it.

          And I react on your post because I feel that I have every right to comment on this review if I don’t agree with it. I am not insulting the reviewer. I just state that I don’t agree at all.

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          Ok with response to that tangent, yeah I just meant that to say “straight ppl make all these great (in your opinion) movies and queer women have failed at it (in your opinion)” doesn’t take the intersection of class and gender and sexuality into account. Movies take money to make. Queers have less money on the whole due to institutionalized barriers etc. Plus the whole thing’s subjective anyway! Its a movie! Why do you have to put down movies made by queers to prove that straights have the right to make movies about queers.

          You said”:

          “see a problem with comment like: how can you invalidate the movie because it mas made by a straight guy? is normal in my mind, because it is a problematic and very presumptuous, because it’s basically saying that someone who is straight can’t possibly get anything about being gay. I find that offensive and that is why I refer to it.”

          I never said movies about lesbians can never be made by straight ppl/dudes. Its just that those movies will never be complete/ a truly good representation of the queer experience, and I think Kate touched on this. You said that its problematic and presumptuous to think that a straight guy can never get anything about being gay. Maybe they can get a bit of stuff, but thats it. A straight guy can NEVER get the actual queer experience. NEVER. to think they could is intensely problematic.

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          Same, Michelle. I mean, I’ve had an account for ages but I’ve never commented on anything before.

          I am still really disappointed with the fact that this review didn’t touch on any of the controversy surrounding the sex scenes which came directly from the actresses themselves. For me, I struggled with whether I wanted to see the movie at all because I had heard that the cast and crew were abused on set. Kate, I know that you touched on this in your comments, but I wish that you had addressed it in the actual article because I think it would have added to your whole male gaze argument. If a straight cis guy wants to film two straight women faux-scissoring for seven minutes, that’s one thing, but if the actresses afterward admit that they were really uncomfortable during the sex scenes and felt pressured into doing thing that they didn’t want to do, that’s a whole nother ballgame and I think it really should take precedence over whether this film is an accurate portrayal of queer women.

          I think this has been said by others, but I also take issue with the fact that this article seems to imply that there is only one queer narrative with not very much variation, and the only people that can ever hope to represent that with any level of accuracy are other queer people. Do I think this movie could have been improved by having a gay woman at the helm or at least involved in the process? Yeah, probably. But honestly, a straight woman or even just a man who respected his actresses at all could have probably done nearly as good of a job. I agree with you in principle that a straight guy can never UNDERSTAND queer experiences on the same level that we can, but at the same time, all of these problems could have been alleviated by just having Julie Maroh on set or not ignoring her emails for two freaking years! Whoever said that most queer movies are probably lower-quality because they have less resources, though, I think you are spot on. After all, the L Word, as problematic and geniunely weird as it may have been, had many episodes and arcs that were quite creatively strong, even if everything kind of devolved toward the end there. But yeah, I just really object to your use of the phrase “the actual queer experience,” Stevey. What on Earth makes you think there is just one?

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          no you’re right, there is certainly not one queer experience. That was my mistake in wording, and I definitely don’t believe that.
          And I was the one who suggested that queer movies are probably lower-quality because they have less resources. I said that because I didn’t like how some people were saying that queer movies made by queers are bad as a way to somehow support that straight dudes are allowed to make queer movies.
          I was only ever critiquing reasoning
          (I do think straight dudes can go ahead and make gay movies, but I do think that having queer advisory is an asset, actually being queer is an asset…other people in the comments above have worded it better)

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          But I never ment to put down things that queer people make. I just meant that it isn’t because it’s made by queer people that it’s better than when it’s made by a straight guy.

          I mean I have liked films made by gay people but it’s just something that does not matter to me. The sexuality of a filmmaker just doesn’t play a factor from me.

          And maybe your right when you say that they don’t get it entirely. But the experience is so different for everybody. I actually relate better to the story Kechiche wrote than most others.

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    Am I the only person who has absolutely no desire to see this film because of all the attention it’s getting? I haven’t been this anxious for the public to get over a movie since The Kids Are Alright came out 3 years ago. Hell, I’m still waiting for someone to make a lesbian movie that doesn’t use the same plot devices as all the others.

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      I’m waiting for a queer movie that’s a genre I actually like to watch. I get a little tired of watching romantic coming of age stories, romantic tragedies, romantic comedies, and A Movie About Gayness Being Difficult/Dangerous movies for no other reason than because I want to watch a movie with queer people in it. TV has gotten a bit better (bisexual succubus! prison drama! hurrah!) but movies have branched out very little.

  26. Thumb up 7

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    Nope, when did I say that? Obviously EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion! I only said that there appears to be at least one person involved with the film on this message board. I didn’t tell you explicity why I think that.
    But I will now.
    I have seen about 2 or 3 commenters comment in the exact same style. It starts with a long diatribe that shows they have an excellent familiarity with the movie. Eventually, they say something to the effect of “how can you invalidate the movie because it mas made by a straight guy? A bunch of lesbian movies that are good have been made by straight people, in fact, lesbian movies made by queer people have turned out bad” (which is problematic in itself, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now). I have seen this exact same format in 2-3 commenters, all of which only signed up for an account after this article was posted, so that they could post only on this article.
    Go ahead, call me immature, but who jumped on my previous post like it hit them personally?
    I haven’t seen the movie nor read the comic, but I tell you what: When I smell bullshit, I call bullshit.

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      Link to this article was posted on L chat, so it’s more likely that simply angry lesbian fans came here. And to be honest, I can’t blame them, since even though I have concerns with some thing in this film, but this review was written with such clear malice, and is so full of half-truths, like words about last sequence of the movie, so I feel like I have to defend myself for actually generally liking it.

  27. Thumb up 6

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    I saw this film last night. I agree with everything you said, and simultaneously, also with the reviews that hail this film as a modern and nuanced love story. It’s bizarre.

    One thing that crossed my mind during the forever lasting sex scene is that what seems to have been attempted by this film is a criticism of the hypersexualization of women and relationships between women, (and the monologue at the party, of the gallery owner regarding the voyeurism of men regarding women as lovers was perhaps the most illustrative of this) but that the filmmakers somehow lost this agenda, and instead, fell deeply into what they were trying to critique. The fact that Adele’s relationship with Emma is framed by relationships with men is annoying, but it didn’t actually piss me off until reading this, because I think that is the experience of some queer people. Sure, fine, but call a spade a spade- you’re right.

    There are a million things to say about this movie, and I think that means it is overall worthwhile. There are deep issues within it, but honestly, I think that the burgeoning reality of queerness cannot occur without these clunky productions. The fact that these women became only the second and third women to win the Palm d’Or is another discussion too, but also one worth having.

  28. Thumb up 10

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    Also what the hell, there were no cats in this movie. Hello, not lesbians.

    And the sex- no moisture, anywhere- (!) so unbelievable. And come on, these women are FRENCH and had absolutely no hair below their necks. Chyeah right.

  29. Thumb up 8

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    I just had to create an account to comment.
    1. I agree with Kate completely. I felt so much better knowing that my wife and I are not the only ones that were of this opinion. I’ve now read a handful of reviews that make the same points, but there’s only a handful.
    2. I’d like to remind everyone that those of us who were bothered by the film in the ways that Kate masterfully articulated are in the minority. The film has a 90% positive rating on rotten tomatoes. Please do not feel like you have to put us down because we see what we see in this film. Apparently a vast majority of people see what you see. It’s not going to stop me from thinking this is not a good film (lesbian or otherwise).
    3. Can we please stop saying “lesbian movies” are bad? Let’s face it, most movies are bad. Think of it this way: of all the “straight movies” that come out you probably only enjoy a small percentage, why would “lesbian movies” be any different?
    4. As someone who works in the film industry I feel we should look at the fact that both the crew and the cast have publicly expressed they were treated poorly by the production and director as a sign that something’s not quite right here.
    5. Am I right to assume that we’re all taking this so seriously because this is a love story and the people who see themselves reflected in this film take negative comments on it as a comment on their own experience of love? I know I’m a little shaken up myself because I do not see myself in this film and it baffles me that people (queer or not) do. Not to mention that I did not appreciate the cinematography, acting or editing of this film which is held as a masterpiece (as someone who participates in making films it baffles me that most people think it’s brilliant, but I have to respect their view).
    I just had to get this off my chest.

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      Seriously? You completely agree with opinions that relationship with Emma was portrayed as a mere “dalliance”, that her encounters with those two guys were just as legitimate, and that the ending makes it look like she will be with that guy?

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        I think that trope of “the experimental dalliance with the liberated artiste” is there, yes. I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them and I think that’s why what’s supposed to be this great love story didn’t register for me. As for the encounters with the 2 guys, they seem more like plot points than anything else and I think if anything it delegitimizes Adele’s relationship with Emma. In the case of the ending, I feel like cutting to that guy just makes no sense. Whether you think he’s going to catch up to her or not and whether you see it as Adele going back to men or not, it just is a useless element IMHO.

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          @2gay2function2french2care
          “I think that trope of “the experimental dalliance with the liberated artiste” is there, yes.”

          Then what was supposed Adele’s encounter with the girl from her class, way before Emma, mean, or her words about feelings like she’s pretending after het sex with boyfriend and that it’s not because of him, but her? Rather to suggest she’s queer, right? So how her relationship with Emma could be interpreted that it was merely “experimental dalliance with the liberated artiste” if the viewer knew already that it wasn’t any experiment, that it’s how Adele truly feels, as shown by her encounters with boyfriend and schoolmate?

          “As for the encounters with the 2 guys, they seem more like plot points than anything else and I think if anything it delegitimizes Adele’s relationship with Emma.”

          So you actually don’t agree with Kate on this?
          BTW, not sure what you mean by “delegitimization”. That cheating wasn’t about the guy at all, it was entirely about Emma, as well as (although as far as I know it’s more pronounced in comic – yeah, source material created by lesbian has those “deligitimizations” too – but here there are hints about that as well) Adele’s internalized homophobia.
          And like I said, that first guy, who was way before Emma, only solidifies Adele’s queerness. Have you actually watch this movie?

          “Whether you think he’s going to catch up to her or not and whether you see it as Adele going back to men or not, it just is a useless element IMHO.”

          I actually agree that it didn’t seem to have much significance, and thanks to some people pointing out that he runs in opposite direction we know that he’ll never catch her, but that’s not what I was asking. Kate clearly suggests that film shows us that ‘she’ll totally be with him’.

          Sorry, but to my eyes, Kate’s small “misinformations” are only meant to make readers hate this movie like she hates it (after all, what pisses lesbians more than ‘lesbian movies’ with woman ending up with a man), but to do that, she had to make it look like Adele’s encounters with men were much more significant (and stay silent about words of Adele herself directly stating otherwise), to make it look like relationship with Emma was the first time that Adele expressed interest in woman, thus leaving room for words that it’s merely “experimental dalliance with liberated artiste”, and lastly, after such build-up, suggest that man chasing her at the end will totally be rewarded with relationship. Subtleties like a fact that she never showed interest in him and left without giving him a second glance, or that it’s not even clear if he wanted anything from her, and most significantly, that he went the opposite direction so he’ll never catch her, were thoughfully concealed.

          That’s why I can’t take Kate’s stance serious. Critique is one thing, but that appears to be malicious misinformation, just for the sake of making people hate this movie.

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          I think there’s a misunderstanding here. I don’t think that Adele is not queer. I do think she doesn’t identify herself and us all arguing about it isn’t really productive.
          When I wrote “As for the encounters with the 2 guys, they seem more like plot points than anything else and I think if anything it delegitimizes Adele’s relationship with Emma.” I didn’t mean to imply that it makes Adele less queer. I meant that these encounters didn’t feel real and were told badly and in a cliche sort of way.
          Honestly I don’t have so much of a problem with what the story is rather than how it’s told.
          I think it’s completely unfair to say that Kate intends to “make readers hate this movie like she hates it”. I also think that my thinking the film is bad doesn’t make your experience of it invalid. Like I said above, you’re the majority. Attacking the few people who felt Kechiche’s voyeuristic mise-en-scène ruined what could have been a great story is not right.
          Also I’d just like to say that I find using the phrase “Have you actually watched this movie?” to be ironic when you’re trying to make the point that someone else is negating your experience in watching this film. I feel like that’s clearly negating my experience of the film.

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          @2gay2function2french2care

          I asked if you actually watched this movie because you claimed something that was obviously untrue – you said that relationships with those TWO guys deligitimized relationship with Emma. It couldn’t be so for simple reason – that one guy came before Emma (and his only purpose was to legitimize Adele’s queerness, but that’s not important here).

          It’s not a matter of “personal interpretation” or different “experience in watching”, but simple fact that couldn’t be missed, so if you actually didn’t know it, then you apparently didn’t watch the movie.

          And I’m not sure whether I am in majority or not. Both Autostraddle and AfterEllen seem to hate this movie. And it’s not like I like everything in this movie. But I definitely didn’t like this “review”, for reasons I described above.

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        …I agree with Kate and I agree with the user who wrote this. Because to some people, Kechiche made the movie look like something that it could’ve been but wasn’t quite there. I am honestly confused as to why this movie should be praised and idolized when it has been done before and done better by both straight men and queer women other than the fact that the yaysayers had a personal connection with this movie, which is completely fine…

        But your positive opinion doesn’t color mine any less with my thoughts on it.

        And to be quite frank, I will see the movie with these preconceptions in mind and when I come out of it, I will have a new perception formed from the actual viewing and the knowledge of what the movie was supposed to be like.

        What I can also say though is that this movie does bring out discussion of queerness and identity and what that means for us when one of our stories is represented by a different lens; for a lot of us, it seemed to bring out a fury of emotion and passion; but for others, it most likely saddens us that we don’t feel that way because we saw things that just didn’t click for us. We are allowed to not like a movie and our response is just as valid as yours. You telling us how bad Kade’s review is will not change the impact of this.

        I mostly am annoyed that this movie jumps on the hype of being THE GREAT FRENCH QUEER MOVIE…when i’m sure there are actually plenty more that have had a much better way of getting it and have been doing it for years.

  30. Thumb up 0

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    I’d be interested to know if people who enjoyed Blue have seen Room in Rome (2010). I thought that Room in Rome succeeded where Blue failed at giving us that feeling of universal love while imbuing it with a queer sensibility. I haven’t re-watched it recently, but I’d be interested to know what you all think. Thanks.

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    I feel bad for your Mom. :(

    SEND IT. SEND IT. SEND IT. She will understand it.

    Either that or Imagine me and you. Or better than chocolate.

    Like seriously.

    Though actually I would like to know more about French queer films though; like I get that England, Sweden, Spain and America and totally ruling the roost in that department but my googling of French lesbian writers have recently come up slim! :(

    I know I should catch up on Les Revenants and I should look up Tomboy…but still. J’veux supporter mes cheres francaises! (I have English keyboard)

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      The only queer French film that comes to mind is Bye Bye Blondie (2011) which was written and directed by a queer woman so maybe check that out. Honestly I didn’t like it, but I’ve come to realize that my opinion is not shared by many. I did really enjoy Too Much Pussy! Feminist Sluts, a Queer X Show (2010)which is also directed by a French queer woman.

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        I trust your judgement so I’ll check those out! :)

        If you didn’t like it, you had your reasons and they’re true to you. You are you and shouldn’t keep quiet so the majority can be appeased and not be challenged.

        Thanks for all the links! :)

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      Tomboy was great. And you know what? It cost very little to make.
      And the production values, the acting, the writing were all great.
      So yeah, the whole argument about how “lesbian movies suck because we don’t have any money”? Sorry but it’s bullshit. Not to say that money doesn’t play a part (and I mean, obvioulsy if you have literally no money at all, yeah that must be hard) but there are queer movies being made so they must receive money in some form or another and yet the result is often very very poor.

      I think it has to do with something that’s quite obvious in a lot of comments: because of lack of visibility, a queer director often feels like the movie has to resonate for a community that’s so diverse and complex to apprehend that it’s impossible to succeed.

      Like, some people complain that Blue shows two white girls (not diverse enough!), they’re both sort of feminine (omg, where are the butch/moc/any other term I’m not familiar with). Others will say that it’s too depressing and they want something to cheer them up (so no depressing ending!), some will say that there’s not enough sex, others will complain that the sex wasn’t realistic, some people will complain that the movie doesn’t paint gay relationships in a positive way (if the characters cheat/lie/are unlikable). Add to that the fact that it’s a French movie, set in France (Lille) so another hurdle to overcome (because cultural differences, they exist!).
      Basically, like any movie, it’s impossible to please everyone but apparently every single queer movie has to encapsulate every single queer experience in the world ever.

      Wow that’s the longest comment on Autostraddle I’ve ever written, I’ll stop here ;-)

  32. Thumb up 9

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    I loved this movie and I’m not ashamed of it. Not handing in my lesbian lav pass, either.

    I totally related to this movie. The alarming disinterest in males. The marathon sexing. Hiding from your parents. Losing yourself in a person so much that you…lose yourself, then lose that person. The regret. The despair.

    I think the reason that I didn’t have a problem with it is because I didn’t go into the movie hoping it would fulfill some sort of thesis on queer identity for me. I hold my own beliefs on that. I don’t need Abdellatif to express that for me, just like I don’t need this website to accurately express every view and opinion on queerness for me. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Doesn’t mean that Adbel is MALE GAZE BAD GUY. He’s making a movie. He doesn’t need to make every queer person happy just because he’s dealing with queer content. Do we put the same responsibility on lesbians making lesbian movies, or, fuck, anyone making a movie about hetero couples? He’s not claiming this is the GREATEST LESBIAN FILM OF ALL TIME. The viewers who liked the movie are the ones that are saying that.

    A major problem that I had with this review is Kate’s “dalliance” rhetoric. Adele was with Emma for several years, then wanted her back for years after (Lise’s baby was three years old by the time they meet in the diner). What is a dalliance about that? I think you are projecting.

    The only scenes in this movie that bothered me were the ones with LISE. God, I hated her.

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        I COULD KILL LISE. That nesting bitch was making moves from the start! I still believe Adele cheated because LISE psyched her out (okay maybe not really). My copy of the graphic novel should be delivered today. Don’t confirm yes or no, but I’m hoping LISE (whenever I think of her, it’s in italics) makes no appearance.

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          Yeah, that guy from her school was SUCH a troll too. LISE! I can’t with her. It’s amazing how much I disliked her based on the fact that her character was not remotely developed. But ahhhh everyone needs to get their heart broken at least once. Fat, hot tears, y’all.

          And OMG at the cafe when Adele asked, “you don’t still love me?” and then again, later. JEEEZ. Heart death.

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          The diner! And how Emma is all “We’re like a little family now.” It killed me for Adele because she would’ve totally had kids with Emma at some point.

          Also, it’s like, “yeah, you know–that baby that was in the stomach of that girl LISE at OUR dinner party? yeah! that baby!”

          I just felt so small for Adele in that scene.

          Why, Adele? Why’d you have to go all Havana Nights with dude from work?

          Because LISE. That’s why.

          Okay, now I’m projecting.

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          I mean, she did go all Havana Nights immediately after listening to that voicemail that her girl would be up late working on a project with LISE and her unborn child so that’s what I read into that.

          As soon as Adele pulled up in that car with that troll I was like oh shit, here it comes. AHHHH

          Am I the only one who thought it was really weird that Emma kept calling her a whore and a slut? That was weird. I mean, fighting is filterless often, but she said it like, a whole mess of times and kind of freaked me out.

  33. Thumb up 1

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    I think Kate is a brilliant writer..so ease up on her people.
    I grew up in Sweden which was the first country ever to have legal marriage.
    It is a very liberal and open culture when it comes to sex.
    I thought the sex was raw and real, i personally found it refreshing and was thinking FINALLY!!
    In the american culture everything becomes controversial and political.
    Lea seydoux should be grateful to be the first award ever in cannes.
    People suck a lot of c&*% in this country with alot less money and recognition.
    Nobody forced her to take on the role.
    The only thing I think is that you can only pound at eachothers vaginas for so long without a strap on.
    Like I said people are so “politically correct” in this country and way more sexually repressed.
    I honestly was more concerned about the story -line and how the difference in “class” is what drove them apart. Not the usual social pressure or the typical straight girl experimenting and then backing out.

  34. Thumb up 5

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    Here is what I find lovable on this planet: a place where all kinds of humans can go and express opinions in a thoughtful manner, with meaningful rhetoric, towards other active, listening humans who can respond in kind. The comments on this post are what Autostraddle is all about! Even though there are about 17 different contrasting points of view expressed here, with all of the passionate fiery feelings flying around like bats in the bat cave, I feel privileged to belong to a community of such passionate, independent thinkers. Kate: Thanks for launching your thoughts into cyber space, and to all of you commenting members of cyberspace: thanks for existing and having opinions and talking about art the way it is meant to be talked about.

    Two for you, glenn coco.

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    Thank you again. Thank you so much for this. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I agree with you . I was also so mad about this whole thing. After everything that has happened in France about our human rights (l’égalité our tous). This movie was not okay and had nothing to do with queer people.

  36. Thumb up 5

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    what a prolific debate!!!1

    KATE, i think i can see where you’re writing from and i’m not going to say this review is “small minded” — it’s not (and you’re not, either); i really appreciate your writing/take on ~~~~things~~~~, always read your posts and consider you a great, funny, VERY SMART, GENUINE, ALSO VERY TALENTED writer (nobody can deny this, i think).

    THAT BEING SAID, these are my ponderations:

    1) i don’t think kechiche’s work should be dismissed based on this argument that he’s a straight man. i really dislike this type of reasoning according to which only a member of a specific group (no matter what the “code” of that group is — gender, color, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality etc) could legitimately say/write/do things related to the experiences of that group, or to the fact of belonging to that group, you know? i mean, of course he will never be able to overcome the fact that he exists in this world in the form of a straight dude. that’s just a ***fact* that nobody can change and over which kechiche himself has no control.

    anyways,,,,,, i think it’s possible to do that and not be a total asshole, who “steals” cultural references, or tries to impose a certain identity to a group he/she does not belong to in first place.

    we can discuss whether kechiche accomplished that or not — portraying a lesbian story, while male and straigh, without being an asshole. reading previous comments, it seems like this is a very active thread: are the sex scenes voyeurism and exploitation of the actresses’ bodies? or are they a reflection of his way of doing cinema, or even a (maybe poorly executed?) attempt to criticize that same “objetification” of actresses bodies?? I HAVEN’ WATCHED THE MOVIE YET, DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY. the point is that i don’t think his “”””maleness” or “straightness”” is a good criteria to judge his work. that may sound a bit naive — or even “ignorant on a number of levels” –, but i really do believe in the potential universality of good works of art;; like, some things are so good and so sublime that they detach themselves from the person who made them and the context/epoch in which they were created, therefore being able to just be::::: “”contemplated”””‘ by us, mere mortals LOLLLL

    2. i’m not sure kechiche is using the “class argument” as an excuse (?) to the way this story was portrayed. someone, dozens of comments ago, said she thought european and american audiences should have really different experiences watching this movie — AND I THINK THAT’S SO TRUE. i don’t know why — maybe it’s the revolutionary heritage, maybe it’s the marxist influence, maybe it’s the contemporary social tension generated by the presence of so many immigrants –, but, specially in france, things tend to be judged primarily on this class assimetry/social inequality paradigm. THAT’S A THING, for real.

    i remember when Frances Ha came out in france, and people analyzed it as a movie about class, not as a story of the friendship between two girls, or even of this ””’time in life”’ where we have to transition to ””adulthood’. to them it was a film about class!!!! that’s super interesting/very surprising, isn’t it?

    so,,, i don’t know, of course you can,,, like, not agree with this way of looking into things, but that may also be because you’re trapped in your american incarnation with your american experiences and references??? and that may also imply that looking into the movie through the perspective of class isn’t necessarily “”””ignorant”””‘????? i don’t know,,,, but i feel that should also be taken into account, maybe??????////

    3. FINNALY,
    this movie came out in france in a super polarized political context, remember???? people were litarally beating each other in paris’s streets because of that gay marriage law. 2012 and early 2013 were really intense times; very hard, lots of arguments and fights about this, with thousands of people having taken the streets several times, all over france, in order to protest against/for gay marriage.

    so idk, i don’t think that this movie having won la palme d’or is necessarily the ultimate proof of Canne’s “bullshit”???? it may also be interpreted as an “””””interesting stand”””‘ of the festival, given the context?????? i think this factor should also be wheighted, you know?

    ANYWAYS,,,,,,, yeah,,, i guess that’s about it. loved the review, though. it’s weird cause i kinda agree/disagree with it at the same time. these things i’ve written are just, as i said, “”””ponderations”””” (and lighthearted ones, i promise!11).

  37. Thumb up 0

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    I hate to be “that girl” but after a fairly thorough search for a video compilation of the various sundry sex scenes, I have yet to find any. Mainly I wanted to re-watch them for analytical purposes (sort of), but they seem to not be as readily available as the author of this article makes it seem. Did anyone else encounter this?

  38. Thumb up 1

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    Spot on.

    also…
    Shots of Adele’s lips while she is sleeping: slightly disconcerting
    Similar shots of a child’s lips during her naptime: creep level fever pitch

    Only acclaim-worthy moment of the entire TEDIOUS film IMO is the shot of Adele, post break-up, lying on the bench with the dusk sunlight coming through the tree and flooding over her. That image will stay with me. Nothing else was even remotely memorable.

  39. Thumb up 2

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    This whole thing just makes me sad. I am so tired of feeling watched, I am so tired of every single portrayal of the sex I have even having hints of this crushing voyeurism thats in everything. I mean even so called feminist porn – so much of it is clinical and not a whole lot better than the male made stuff its trying to improve on.

    Its just disappointing. I look at the porn that my gay male friends have readily on offer, or even sex scenes in movies, and we haven’t even come remotely close to that sort of representation. Show me something honest.

  40. Thumb up 4

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    I might suggest that the stance the filmmaker has taken in public interviews re: the film (that BITWC is less an *overt* exploration of queer issues and more an examination of love, the complexities of long-term relationships, and class in the sense that dissimilar, unconsciously absorbed values can make cross-class relationships a struggle) is actually, from a queer perspective, a powerful strategy. I see it as clandestine activism for these reasons: aside from Lea Seydoux’s other-worldly good looks (which, one could argue, are the incarnation of what one feels and thus sees when madly in love), her representation of a certain type of lesbian is more true-to-life than most femme fatales we are used to seeing in much of cinema. The story—and the hauntingly convincing, subtle details with which the performances tell it—is a moving tale of a widely experienced situation: utter heartbreak. I sat next to a straight man who was in tears during the climactic restaurant scene (I’m assuming his sexuality here because I know his girlfriend). My point is that cultures outside of the queer are not just embracing BITWC: they’re connecting to it. My position is that this movie, in spite of it’s arguable faults, is creating empathy. It’s putting a human face on queer people. Empathy is an essential step toward equality.

    I was deeply moved by the film.

    Don’t get me wrong: in an ideal world (which, I’m suggesting, these somewhat “compromised” steps/films are necessary in advancing toward), we would have far more authentic filmmaking. We need to ultimately be at a place where harmful stereotypes and antiquated visual tropes are not propogated by films that mainstream populations are celebrating (not that BITWC necessarily does any or all of this — still processing that). We need to have more real queer women expressing themselves on and off screen.

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    Since I wrote the article about when this film debuted at Cannes, I’m really disappointed that it turned out to be just as played for the Male Gaze and not really aimed at representing LBTQ women well at all, just as its critics made it out to be. It would have been nice if, for once, the sensationalism in the straight media about “omg lesbian sex!!!!” was just that – sensationalism – and the movie was otherwise sensitive about its portrayal of us. I guess that wasn’t the case here, though.

    But it’s particularly frustrating that they took a source material that seemed to be a more accurate portrayal of queer women and turned it into a Girl On Girl Is Hot type of movie.

    I really liked what you had to say about Brokeback Mountain, though, since that’s a movie I’ve been thinking about a lot lately in terms of how so much of the groundbreaking “queer media” feels like it wasn’t made for us. BBM, more and more with the passing of time, feels like a movie that was made for straight people, since its gays end up sad and dead, mostly to make a point about how bad homophobia is. People rag on queer media that is unrealistically happy and treats being gay or bisexual as NBD but honestly, I would rather watch that any day than something that seems to be made to help straight people learn how hard we have it. Because queer people know how hard we have it and don’t have to be told. And being reminded of that isn’t why we go to the movies.

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    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I think you may be reading too much into the trope that female-female sex is better.

    I think for any lesbian woman, sex with a woman is better than sex with a man. If you like something it’s going to be more intense. One of my male friends has recently come out as gay. He dated and had sex with women previously. To hear him describe male/male sex you would think he was describing the joyous tears of unicorns.

    I’m bi. I have had super sensual and passionate and intense sex with men. In fact for me it’s the norm to have sex in that manner with whoever I’m having sex with. I just like sex better that way.

    But I imagine if I didn’t find men at all sexually attractive, I would only find my female sexual experiences all-encompassing and the creme de la creme.

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    Thanks for this article, great review!
    I watched the film in Europe. It’s much applauded by the mainstream media as a story about “first love” (lesbian sex scenes are also mentioned).
    I totally agree with this reviewer: This film is a disappointment in many ways. I found it very disturbing, mainly because it is full of stereotypes.
    In addition, I thought Adele was pictured in a very unattractive way. So I was turned off after the first scene (when she left her home for school)… the rest of the film felt quite annoying…
    Watching this film is no pleasure…

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    I saw it last night with my partner. It was ok. On the up side, I thought it did a good job of showing Adele’s discomfort with Emma’s friends and social circle and her own discomfort at coming to terms with her sexuality. Is Adele’s fish out of water feeling a class issue or is it just she’s in a different place in life? I don’t know if this is a French culture issue that I’m not attuned to but it seemed less class and more age/experience discrepancy to my sensitivities.

    On the down side, the sex scene really did come off as a man’s idea of a lesbian sex scene. I expected to be titillated but I wasn’t. In fact, at one point I thought “honey, if you keep doing that, you’re going to get a cramp.” That’s probably not the reaction the director was hoping for. My partner remarked that there really wasn’t a lot of intimacy in it until the end when one of them stroked the other’s leg. Sexual actions, yes, but actual intimacy was really lacking, especially for the first time for one of the women. My partner noted that it was a lot of “bang-bang”.

    I was also annoyed by the standard “cheat with a man” crap that always seems to come up in lesbian movies. Maybe that was in the original graphic novel (I haven’t read it) and I should take it up with author but I find that annoying. Are there never any women to cheat with?

    My last nitpick is that it was too long. They could easily have deleted the beach scene and we would have been no worse for it. Tightening up some of the others scenes would have made it move along a little better too. And there were too many lingering shots of Adele’s snot for my taste. I got the point.

    Anyway, for me, it was a mixed bag and I would like to see what an actual lesbian director would do with it.

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      Indeed, I also can’t wait for a decent film with same sex relationships between women that does not feature a plot point about cheating with a man. It’s old hat, the oldest, worst hat.

      While I agree it was too long, I count the beach scene among my top favorites. I thought it was really depressing, and thus, fucking loved it.

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    I read this film so differently! To toss in another queer perspective-the sex scenes were pretty different than most representations of “lesbian” sex. They didn’t look like they could both star in a straight “lesbian” sex porn, they also were characters with backstory and motivations of their own. I’ve heard the Lolita argument being thrown around (elsewhere), and actually see Adele’s aggressive sexuality as radical because she is making her own choices. Beyond that, seeing women be aggressive in regards to pursuing the kind of sex they want is RARE in cinema.

    Side bonus to this movie…it’s NOT “The Kids Are Alright.” I would take this any.day.of.the.week.

    Another thing that it’s not…a movie about lesbianism. It’s the characters. It’s the criticism of the douchey elite artist, who objectifies Adele in much the same way the director is accused of. Not to mention, the classical paintings Emma drools over. The director is self-consciously identifying with Emma’s objectification/exploitation of Adele.

    Also… the last shot. I saw the actor dude at the end as running in the opposite direction of Adele. I think they exit in opposite directions from the front of the gallery. So, it’s not that there’s a budding straight relationship in the future. And besides that, his character is supposed to be on the same class level, being exploited in similar ways in Hollywood…”playing the role” for rich ass-wads. The director tries to connect them politically, but I think it’s pretty obvious Adele’s not sexually interested in the guy. She leaves him, on the route to the next stage.

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    There are so many comments on this article that I doubt anyone will read mine, but I think we all needed a place to vent our feelings on this movie and the comments are that place for now, so I’m gonna go ahead and throw in my unnecessary two cents.

    I definitely got similar feelings (to Kade’s) about the sex scenes/conversation about female pleasure/ending. I also echo the sentiment that (in straight or queer film) we have to look past the poor handling of sexuality/sex/love/gender and see what a good job the (usually straight male) director did. I was frustrated by the fact that, when talking to my girlfriend and lesbian friends about the film, they all got really defensive and said I/others are too critical about film, which is why there are so few portrayals of queer relationships in the medium. I think that’s kind of shitty and sounds like white patriarchy talking. At the same time, I did genuinely enjoy the movie overall. I felt that the performances by all the actors were robust and nuanced. As AfterEllen has mentioned, I thought Lea did a really good job with Emma’s character, embodying a masculine queer persona, even if she is unable to necessarily understand/articulate that process now. Adele was also very believable and relatable to me.

    When watching the sex scenes, I had trouble believing a first-timer would engage in so many complicated positions, and I wished that not all women in movie sex scenes have to be totally hairless and thin, but I wouldn’t say that the type of sex portrayed was 100% unrealistic to the lesbian experience. The male gaze was present, but there was also a lack of focus on the fingers/strap on as a phallus (which I felt like The L Word was wayyy too obsessed with) and some authentic seeming pleasure.

    My big problem is that I felt like the director turned what would otherwise be a very full and human portrayal of Adele’s coming of age into an idealized male fantasy by making the sex the center of Adele and Emma’s relationship. The dinner party conversation about the difference between male and female pleasure was really annoying to me and, as others have said, seemed to be Kechiche’s POV. When Adele and Emma meet up in the restaurant after having broken up, Emma says she is happy with her current partner except for the sex, and then the two proceed to almost have sex at the table. I thought this dismissed the non-sexual connections between Emma and Adele, which I acknowledge may not have been as well developed, but I do think were present.

    I, too, think that the man from the dinner party is running after Adele at the end of the movie. I do not think she will necessarily end up with him (as signaled by the do not enter signs), and if she does, I think she will always long for Emma and they may even have an affair together. What saddens me, however, is the way the dinner party/sex scenes/restaurant scene/and ending scene together kind of cheapen the human relationship they had and make it this male ideal version of lesbian sex as that which surpasses all other sex/pleasure.

    So yeah, I have a lot of feelings about this movie, and many of them are complex/contradictory, but I am glad to see a review that points out some of the problems I had as well. As a side note, this review only focused on the negative comments Julie Maroh made about the sex scenes, but she actually supports the movie in general. I think her problem was specifically with the way the lesbian sex was executed.

    Julie Maroh

    ending

    sex scenes

    I went in to see the movie knowing nothing about it besides that it had instances of lady-loving-ladies in it. I witnessed what seemed to me to be a profoundly sexually powerful relationship between two people who didn’t have much else going for them. It was something that spoke to me as I have been in similar situations. As far as I can tell, that was absolutely not the case in the graphic novel: the main characters were supposed to be in love. I would have liked to see that, for sure. But I do not think that this portrayal is necessarily bad or wrong?

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      Ha ha woops apparently I accidentally left some copied and pasted random ideas/brainstorming at the bottom of this post, including part of someone else’s comment. Now you can see how hard I work on my AS responses lol. BTW, can we get an edit button? I’d love to avoid this kind of thing in the future… >.<

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    in all honesty, I identified with the bulk of the film, found the sex to be completely relatable, the break up even more so, and the entire movie so applicable to life that it’s haunting me days later. I also went to see it with a group of queer friends and we’ve all had an on-going dialogue running about it. the review above is one person’s take on the film, but I really hope it isn’t forwarded as the standard, since I would love to see more movies like it (and less of typical cinema focused on lesbian culture, most of which is fucking terrible). everyone’s allowed their own opinion of course, but I found BITWC to be incredibly moving and I hope people will give it a chance rather than dismiss it based on a few strong opinions (which, unfortunately, seems to be the trend amongst a few of my friends/acquaintances).

    on another note, if I never see another article discussing a movie “through lesbian eyes” written by a man again, I might die significantly happier. thanks new york times.

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    Thanks for the amazing article!!!!

    Damn I have to say that I am totally baffled by a lot of the press interviews covering the film, not even offended, just like “wtf are these people talking about??” lol.

    A few interesting tidbits:

    at 3:30 ( http://bit.ly/17wuwID ) the interviewer says “Ang Lee did Brokeback Mountain, and you have made this film which is the first really incredible lesbian film I think that I’ve ever seen, to be honest”….ummm….okay? Apparently this interview is by a Canadian gay media youtube channel, & I know there are a shortage of lesbian films out there but there are still a TON. So for the interviewer to say this movie is the only excellent lesbian film as some sort of definitive statement, unless he has actually seen all of them is really crazy!!

    at 11:00 (http://bit.ly/1fEwAyj ) “Given that the film was considered eligible for the Queer palm (award) at Cannes (film festival), how you feel about queer cinema as a label & particular films by lesbian filmmakers that you consider forebears or antecedents.”

    The filmmaker starts laughing, says he cannot remember the name of the film he wants to say, the translator is trying to help him and eventually the director says “Ben Hur”. When the director says Ben Hur the whole audience starts laughing, because this is obviously a joke and a ridiculous thing to say. Ben Hur was directed by a man & it’s a classic film from 1959 that more recently writer Gore Vidal admitted he put a gay subtext into the film without telling at least one of the lead actors. ( http://bit.ly/Qkimra ) . To me it’s just a really oddly rude response. I mean if you are a director who has clearly studied film your whole life you should be able to mention one lesbian directed film that you appreciated. Or at least not make a total joke out of the question!! Totally weird, right?? lol

    Another really weird thing.

    How every interviewer of the two lead actresses felt like it was okay to extensively quiz the actors on their sexuality and whether they experienced any personal attraction to women versus men, etc.

  49. Thumb up 2

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    This movie made me weep. If we can all forget about labels and director’s motivations for a second and watch the film for what it is…it’s clear that this is a study of Adele, her internal struggles and her intense love for another person. Her desire to be equal to that person and her deep sorrow when she loses her.

    It all felt very real to me, and though much can be said about the gratuitous length of the sex scenes, I felt that they were important in gaining understanding about the nature of their relationship. Carnal and vulnerable intimacy (physical and emotional) are the things one thinks about when love is lost. And those thoughts wreck you. The scene in the coffee shop at the end punched me in the gut and without a firm understanding of what Adele and Emma had, I think it would’ve been much harder to provoke such empathy for Adele in the viewer.

    I don’t doubt that there was an element of male gaze in the film, and I don’t doubt the things the actresses have said about the director…that said, I found this film to be the truest depiction of my experience I’ve ever seen on screen. And for that, I am grateful.

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    I am a bisexual inspiring writer/director currently in grad school in an MFA Creative Writing program. I submitted a sample of a partially finished script called “Fixed” about the stigma and fear of lesbian relationships based from my own feelings when I was in one. I never finished my script and I haven’t seen this film yet, but after reading your comments I have a few distinct thoughts:

    1) I am not sure I want to see this film
    2) I definitely think I should see this film
    3) (and this is the most important in my opinion) I need to finish/rewrite my script to provide a genuine voice to this genuine struggle of not only dealing with societal stigmas, but also inner homophobia and love and sex in general.

    The first time my ex-girlfriend and I were together it was awkward and sloppy despite the fact we had both fallen in love with each other over the course of a year. I even remember, while being dry humped, that “damn, this lesbian sex is not going to work for me.” Of course, things changed/evolved over the year and a half we were together.

    I agree with your statement about the hetero sex scene, based on your explanation of it since I have not watched this film yet, since I think the first sexual encounter with a new partner, and ESPECIALLY when you’re in love (where there is expectation) and you’re not drunk, is awkward and foreboding. To me this has little to do with gender and more about the challenge of expressing your feelings physically with a new person and when, until this point, those feelings had only existed mentally and emotionally. I’m sure there might be people out in the world who’ve experienced “seamless” sexual embraces the first time, but for me, and again when I am not drunk and have genuine feelings for someone, it has never been that way (keep in mind that I happen love sex and I’m awesome at it). My ex-girlfriend would barely even kiss me the first time we were together because she thought it would be “too intimate.” Though I agree with you that queer stories are different and need to be told differently, there are overlaps and there is a universality to love-that I can say from my experiences both being real romantic relationships with men and women and having direct experience in queer/lesbian theater/performance. Perhaps it is the white male director that is the most off-putting as it seems that lesbians take on two main personas in contemporary culture: that of intimidation and fear usually manifesting in queer bashing/making jokes about dykes, etc. or lesbians as objects for male erotica and fantasy. It’s a no-win and films like this might not help in that struggle.

    I’m sure when or if, I write my film and I can charm my way into its production (though I’d hope my script would be so good I wouldn’t have to do much charming) it would be controversial as well considering I am bisexual and my personal sexuality is fluid, often based on the individual more than gender. At times it’s been difficult talking about my sexuality because I feel like I am part of the problem-like I am holding the gay/lesbian struggle back by suggesting that it’s possible to fall in love with both men and women as a woman, thus undermining the convictions of being born gay. Though I also don’t think this is true because there are people born “straight” and it would only make sense that there would be people born “bi” as well. Ultimately, I think sexuality and gender position/role is more fluid than not. That opinion in itself could be controversial.

    It’s interesting to think about the context of art school because, coincidentally, that is also where my ex-girlfriend and I met. I do think there is a correlation between environment and sexuality. I grew up in a small rural town and though I did experiment in a threesome once with another woman, I also didn’t think dating a woman was an option for me. This is also a struggle many people around the country deal with. I have a transgendered friend in Virginia who only tells the people he may become intimate with that he used to be a woman. Most of his friends do not know he is trans because he lives in a very conservative area and is very fearful how people would react-thus he is not “free” to be himself despite his decision to undergo a sex change. There is a freedom to art, as well as the creative environment it often lives in, that can liberate the individual-and that can go beyond sexuality.

    Anyway, this comment is turning into an essay or so I’ll end here. I want to thank you for your perspective and inspiring me to perhaps tell a story from my bisexual perspective and the challenges that go along with that. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Take care and keep writing reviews.

    Thanks,
    Kelley

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    Kate, I do love your writing and articles, and I think you are a very perceptive writer.

    Having said that, this article offended me on a somewhat personal level. In general I’m really frustrated with the articles that set about saying that this movie portrayed lesbians inaccurately or wrongly. I personally felt that this film resonated with me extremely powerfully, and was very true to my experiences as a queer woman. To say that the film got it wrong, invalidates the experiences of the rest of us queers who felt that this film was very real for us. I would like it if we could stop making sweeping statements about how false or wrong the film is because that is just a non-constructive way of discussing this film.

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    No matter what she says about the “blank slate,” the reviewer’s deep misunderstanding of the movie started before she went to see it: She was going for a “queer narrative,” thus narrowing her own perception to the thinnest slit. The power of “Blue…” is in its universality – it’s a movie about love as a cosmic collusion, an experience that can shoot you out into the stars and than drop you back on the ground, breaking your entire being into small pieces that can’t ever be fitted back together again. And I have to say, the director has mastered this Shakespearean with an incredibly artistry. It doesn’t matter whether the heroines are the same sex, opposite, reversed, or whatever. It is too bad that many people, not just Kate, failed to understand the complixity and nuances of this movie.

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      True!

      I was so pleased at work. I work in tech… lots of guys… lots of close mindedness sometimes.

      10 of us or so went to lunch and I had the most satisfying discussion about the film. They all saw it! Some with their wives, others with their friends, and they all really enjoyed it. Most of them said they had forgotten the movie was depicting two women and we all discussed the performances and the universal themes and some of the nuances of the directing.

      One guy even joked that the scene at the restaurant reminded him of a moment with his ex girlfriend except he was Adele. And that he said a tear.

      So I commend any movie that can drum up this kind of reaction across a broad spectrum of people and cultures and sexual orientations.

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    I was avoiding seeing this, but a friend of mine wanted to. So yesterday, 4 of us went to see it.

    My wife and I thought certain parts of the sex scene were funny (e.g., how quickly they moved their arses)but otherwise a lot of it seemed pretty realistic for early relationship enthusiasm. Reminded me of when we’d have sex four or five times in a day…

    I also recognised some of the positions as ones we do. So overall, not all that unrealistic. Probably the most realistic I’ve seen in a film.

    I’m too late to the party and too lazy to write out much of my criticisms of this review, but I definitely agree with some of the dissenters about this film. I think it’s pretty clear she doesn’t like guys.

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    I disagree with this review and how this film is being presented. Its transcendental filmmaking. It took a simple coming of age story and turned it into something powerful and deeply moving by not pandering to convention. It is so realistic in its depiction of life. Every scene felt real. Its a difficult film to approach but if you invest the time and allow it to simmer slowly…by the end you feel you have experienced something really special. The film perfectly captures the beauty of sex and love. Its actual power did not hit me until the second half. Suddenly all the scenes before it started coming together. We get such a full understanding of Adele as a character and as a human being. I love the little moments in the film, like when Adele tries to keep up her appearance by fixing her hair or putting on nail polish even though she is falling apart inside. Subtle character developments like that really brought this film alive.

    As, a lesbian..I connected completely with this film. I felt like my life story was being presented onscreen. I saw myself in both characters. I have been there: where love changes the course of your life. I do not think if this film was about a heterosexual relationship would it have resonated with me as deeply as it did. I have never connected with a film in this way even lesbian films made by lesbians. My friend scott, who is a straight male told me that the film opened his eyes to the powerful connection two women can have.

    By focusing so much on the gender of the director and the sexuality of the actresses you are narrowing your vision. You are forgetting that they are still WOMEN. And they contribute immensely to the success of this film. Adele is in almost every scene adding depthness rarely achieved. With Lea right there next to her. Who can understand women and the love they share better than women?

    And about the sex scenes. They must be viewed within the context of the film. Looking at the first long sex scene within the context of the film, I hope I dont have too many spoilers here but Adele is pretty much lost and confused during the first half of the film. Shes the kindof girl that has trouble expressing her emotions. Shes deeply troubled by the fact that she cant find men attractive. Then she meets Emma and her world shifts. She said in one scene that she loves to consume everything. So the sex scenes are about consumption, excitement, discovery. FINALLY she has found the connection she was looking for so it makes sense that she dives head first into it. It fits her character and it perfectly captures the craziness and high one feels with first love. You want to explore and understand every inch of your lovers body. Its passionate, all consuming love that changes you forever. Finally Adele can express all those desires that she has kept hidden for so long. Finally, she is free. THAT is why I found the scenes realistic because I know what that feels like – that is MY story. HOW is THAT NOT a Queer experience?

    Just my impressions of the film and my opinion BUT I HAD to share them.

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    A disappointing, retrograde, propagandistic review like something out of Socialist Realism. The reviewer impugns any viewer’s lesbian bona fides if she likes the film. However, many other comments on this site attest wonderfully and exuberantly to the diversity of viewpoints and thoughtfulness of myriad readers. Hooray for that.

    This film was profoundly effective. It blew me away. It reflected much of my life. Does that make me less “queer” than the reviewer? Richard Brody (oops, male) noted on his New Yorker blog : “Soon enough, Emma shows up and protects Adèle (claiming that they’re cousins). Thus their romance begins and with it the movie’s great question: What does it mean to be gay without participating in gay culture? Or, rather, is there such a thing as gay culture that differs from homosexuality itself? Does the physical and psychological fact of homosexuality entail a distinctive place in society?”

    Good questions worth pondering.

    As much as it was visceral to identify with the film, it was also monumental to get OUT of my own experience. Is this not was cinema is for? Do we only want an endless cycle of mediocre movies that ” show our lives.”?

    It is important today attention to how carefully, critically and lovingly the camera examines many different factors in the lives of the characters in Lilles. Note the seemingly accepted ethnic diversity of the students, yet note the virulent lesbophobia of Adele’s so called (white) girlfriends.

    Of course, the cliche’s were ridiculous, including the oysters, bit this voracious commenter gulped down three with a glass of bubbly after the film as an homage.

    The graphic novel was excellent. This film was not a remake of it. It was a riff on it, if you will the graphic novel could have been, and still could be, made into an animated film, after all.

    In closing, I now envision a fabulous double bill of all the episodes of Orange is the New Black and Blue is the Warmest Color. Neither was available to me when I was a 20-something beginner in the 70s. I am happy to be alive to revel in this time, with a heart, soul,and libido of a young, notorious lesbian in an aging body.

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    The author talks about how this film is the media “failing” lesbians and throws support behind the lesbian author of the graphic novel. In case she didn’t read the graphic novel aside from watching the film, she would know that the lesbian has one of the characters DIE, which is not serving the LGBT community or showing any positive representation. At least director Kechiche was smart enough to give the character an open-ended potential future. Just because there weren’t lesbians involved does not mean this stor was not told in a realistic and beautiful way. These actresses gave all they had to play these characters and should be commended.

    I think it’s hilarious that the author is so obsessed with the “male perspective” with respect to this story and the sex scenes. I wonder if she knwos that the actresses were co-creators on this project and improvised most of what is onscreen, including the sex scenes. These scenes mostly came from women. As a woman who loves women, I had no problems with these sex scenes nor did I think there was anything misogynistic at hand. This is a man who chose to make a story about two women in love and did these characters justice, portraying the rich and complex layers of love that can exist in any relationship, gay, straight, or otherwise. The author seems to miss the point that this is a story that is universal and audiences of all stripes don’t focus on the orientation of its characters because the point isn’t to be a lesbian movie, it’s to tell a story about the nature of love, and that is something all people have in common. He doesn’t have to cater to anyone elses viewpoint. “Desert Hearts” also had lengthy sex scenes that were shocking to people only that was directed by a woman. People weren’t up in arms accusing her of the “female gaze”. He’s a male director, obviously it’s told through his perspective, but he allows these women to exist and breathe on screen in an honest way, largely through scenes they created. Sex is part of love, this is also a story about a young woman’s sexual discovery and realization. Such typical pseudo-puritanical nonsense so rife in our culture with respect to freaking out over seeing sex or nudity (gasp).

    As for her notion that such stories should be told by lesbians and those who know them, does this apply to other groups? Movies are fabrications. They are often told by directors and writers very different from the characters they create, this doesn’t invalidate them or spell doom for those stories. It’s a fiction. It’s unfortunate that people have chosen to politicize a movie that is not about politics. That is a strength of the film, it doesn’t obsess over their orientation and just lets them be two people in love. I am fine with that. This film isn’t anyone’s spokesperson. It’s not about that.

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    Sigh.

    I don’t know if anybody besides myself is still kicking around on this post, but I just FINALLY got around to seeing BItWC and I have a lot of feelings. By the way, there will be SPOILERS AHEAD, so be forewarned.

    Sigh. I’m so ambivalent about this movie! Let’s start with the things I liked:

    1. Adele at the party, Adele teaching, Adele fighting with Emma, Adele talking to Emma in the café up until the awkward public fingering, Adele walking away from the gallery alone. The simple fact that it’s a “queer movie” starring two women!

    Now onto things I didn’t like:

    1. Everything else.

    Seriously. The sex scenes felt incredibly artificial, painfully voyeuristic, and, quite frankly, boring. Adele’s character felt utterly “blah.” Emma, meanwhile, is a pretentious slut-shaming asshat. The movie ran on much longer than it needed to. The director’s “analysis” of class is ham-handed at best.

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I got almost no sense of chemistry between Adele and Emma. Like, none. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that these were anything but two very straight actresses throughout most of the film. In fact, Adele’s flirtations with the second boy she sleeps with felt so much more “real” than every kiss she shares on screen with Emma that it left me feeling kind of empty inside. That’s how the “lesbian content” of this film felt to me: it felt empty.

    Kate’s analysis of Brokeback Mountain really struck a chord with me, and I think it applies equally well to this movie. “Queerness as portrayed by straight people, as envisioned by straight people and directed by straight people.” And while I don’t think that it’s inherently problematic to have a straight male direct a movie about queer women, I definitely think this movie IS problematic for that reason.

    Everything I’ve read about Kechiche’s behavior behind the scenes rings as atrocious. First, can we talk about the authorial decision to CHANGE THE NAME of the character to the name of the actress playing her? Can we talk about how that is creepy as fuck? And can we talk about how retitling the film “La Vie d’Adèle” makes it infinitely creepier? It’s like Kechiche is saying, “Let’s pretend that the character you’re playing is yourself and that this movie is your life. Now let’s film you naked for six hours straight having terrible simulated sex with another woman!”

    Second of all, Léa Seydoux calls the filming of the sex scenes “humiliating,” and implies that Kechiche wanted to change the name of her character from Emma to “Léa” as well. WTF? Like, can someone explain to me how this ISN’T creepy as fuck? Kechiche apparently made them repeat scenes over and over again, all in the name of “realism.” Then why does this movie feel anything but “real?”

    If we’re retitling things around here, Kechiche, might I suggest: “Two Thin Conventionally Attractive Able-Bodied Straight White Cis Girls Pretend to Fall in Love While I Watch?”

    In short, I do think men (even straight men) can succeed at producing queer content. Would I name this film as an example? Absolutely not.

    And am I the only one who got very little from Adele’s character? She just seems so “blah” throughout most of the film. She comes alive in scenes where she teaches, and in scenes where she cries. That’s about it, to my eyes. And what does she do with Emma other than 1. have sex, 2. fight, and 3. hang around being conventionally attractive?

    I am frustrated with the “mystical magical lesbianation thing,” where sapphic love is presented as inherently all-consuming, sparkly and captivating to the exclusion of all else. I mean, I get it. Adele’s and Emma’s love is supposed to be the all consuming kind. Theirs is supposed to be a passionate, torrid, first-love kind of thing. But if that’s what your movie is trying to accomplish, you had damn well better make the passion on screen convincing. And, as mentioned above, I think the film failed to do so.

    I am frustrated to see straight ladies playing queer ladies in the same way I’m frustrated when I see cis ladies playing trans ladies (just stop!). I’m frustrated that this film managed to be both in my mind voyeuristic and boring. Yes, this movie has its wonderful scenes. They are powerful and moving and they held my attention. But on the whole, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

    And hey, if you enjoyed this movie, felt it was genuine, got a lot from it, I’m glad for you! I really wanted to be one of you! And I hope no one feels like I’m trying to convince you that you ought to dislike this movie if you liked it. I simply needed to vent my feels as one of the queer women who apparently didn’t like the film quite so much.

    I will say this much. I remember when I was a baby queermo, back when I first saw “Brokeback Mountain” alone in my room, on my computer. I fell in love with it, because I was so hungry for anything that even seemed like real love between two queers to enter my life. Sure, one of them died in the end, but at least it was something! It was only years later, once the dust had cleared, and I watched the movie with new eyes, that I realized the extent to which it wasn’t made for me.

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    SPOILERS!

    Finally saw the film.

    I was hesitant.

    Due to this review (which I appreciated! even if I don’t necessarily agree), and a lot of the comments on this review, and a lot of the other negative reviews, and the conflict between Lea/Adele and the director (which was disappointing)… this movie just had a lot of external brouhaha.

    But I finally sat down and watched and braced myself and… I absolutely loved the film. I was shocked by how much I appreciated it despite everyone else’s opinion.

    On one hand, I hate that the two actresses seemed to have had such a negative experience dealing with the director. he seems like a slave driver when it comes to “his vision” and that behavior is inexcusable (but pretty common among directors), but I truly enjoyed the performances.

    Regarding the sex scenes and the voyeuristic “male gaze” claims.

    The movie seemed to be about “bodies” and “flesh” and “rawness” in general. I think of Roland Barthes and the Herbert album “Bodily Functions”. Zero makeup. Zero film score. Extreme closeups throughout everyday minutiae, including the shower and bus rides and looking and looking . Snot. Tears. Chomping down a bolognese sloppily, but enthralliningly.

    So for me, the sex scenes being graphic and as raw as possible makes sense. Them being erratic and exceptionally intense in juxtaposition to Adele’s usual aloofness and Emma’s stoicism was an important part of the storytelling. The sex scenes were how we saw just how desperately Adele needed, wanted, and desired Emma. That was her happiness. That was where she felt unadulterated and free (not writing or painting). And that’s what a first intense love is all about. You’re totally consumed by the other person. She even says that in the movie during a scene that probably wedged them further apart.

    So I was disappointed in all of the male gaze and “too graphic sex” talk. The movie was subtle and real and showcased excellent performances.

    Also regarding “male gaze,” what makes Tasya Van Ree, Jenna Elizabeth, and Ellen Von Unwerth any different than let’s say Terry Richardson.

    In all fairness, all four of them have a similar perspective when it comes to shooting female bodies and bodies in general. They all want to illicit something similar, and that thing seems to be provocation and sensuality.

    I personally love all four, but the arguments I hear against Terry Richardson seem hypocritical, when the same person approves of Ellen Von Unwerth.

    Sometimes I feel as though some criticisms are cherry picked and made into something they’re not with an intent to utterly invalidate. And I respect all opinions, that’s just mine.

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    “Of course, the trope implies, the artist is a lesbian, because she has the time and the liberal worldview to “play” in such realms, and alternative sexuality is a thing that belongs to people of privilege, people of impractical careers and creative mindsets.” Not to sound rude or anything, but this is a whole new level of reaching.

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    A thousand times YES to this piece. My favorites are below. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    “Queerness as portrayed by straight people, as envisioned by straight people and directed by straight people, is Oscar bait. Brokeback Mountain isn’t an example of gay cinema anymore than Blue is the Warmest Color is an example of lesbian cinema, and I’m sorry if that comes as a shock to you. A narrative about queer people as directed and portrayed and produced by straight people cannot be considered a work of queer cinema in the same sense that a film written, directed, and portrayed by queer people is.”

    and

    “But it does matter, because queer stories are still different than heterosexual stories. They are different in very important and unforgettable ways, and to dismiss that fact, to say as the director has that the issue of class is more important than the issue of queerness, is ignorant on a number of levels. Queer stories can be universal, but they should still be told differently, and by the people who intimately know them.”

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