Lesbian Film “Blue is the Warmest Color” Wins Cannes Palme D’Or, And Not Just Because of The Sex Scene

Queer movies have an interesting history at awards shows. At least, when looking at one of the biggest accolades in the business, the Oscars, it’s always been a mixed bag in terms of how they treat movies about LGBTQ people. On the one hand, they’re usually nominated, and actors from Sean Penn to Hilary Swank have a history of picking up trophies for playing LGBTQ characters. On the other hand, they rarely win the top prize – most controversially with Brokeback Mountain being passed over for Crash in 2005.

Yet another one of the titans of film awards, the Cannes Film Festival, did decide to give its top prize, the Palme d’Or, this year to a queer-themed film. The French film Blue is the Warmest Color (or La Vie d’Adèle – chapitre 1 & 2), which focuses on a lesbian relationship between two adolescent girls – one in high school and one an art student – grabbed the coveted trophy this year. What’s particularly interesting is that, in an unusual move, Cannes jury chair Steven Spielberg decided that the award should be shared among the director and the two lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos because they were “central to the film’s success.”

The film is directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, a French-Tunisian director who has a history of films focusing on Arab minorities in the French suburbs, including Games of Love and Chance (2003) and The Secret of the Grain (2007). In an interview with The Upcoming, it’s noted that a lot of Kechiche’s films focus on a theme of “social justice,” but with regard to Blue is the Warmest Color, he talks more about the girls’ class divide than about homophobia as the source of that tension: “Emma belongs to an elite: intellectual, artistic. Each of my heroines is confined to her social class. The difficulties they have with their relationship… and ultimately what the film is about… is their social difference, since it generates a difference in their personal aspirations. ” He insisted he wanted to film it “like any other love story” rather than focus on any tension from homophobia, which he says “would be more or less tolerated, or understood, by the world around them,” and that he “has nothing militant to say about homosexuality.”

Even if Kechiche says he didn’t make the movie for political reasons having to do with sexual orientation, others don’t seem unwilling to use it for those purposes, with the Dhaka Tribune reporting that “the [Cannes] film festival’s director immediately urged the large crowds protesting against gay marriage in Paris to go and see it.” And even Kechiche himself, when reflecting on homophobia in Tunisia, says that he hopes “this is going to do Tunisian youth some good… a revolution isn’t complete unless it’s also a sexual revolution.”

And indeed, some reviewers seem to think the film does, in fact, due a lot to explore the myriad issues facing queer youth, from issues of labels to coming-out. As Shaun Munro’s review for The Film School Rejects puts it:

Blue leaps off to examine a wide gamut of emotional and social issues that define relationships, such as the problem that age differences can create, the fallacy of basing all your happiness on the partner you’re with and Adèle’s complicated placement on the sexual spectrum — is she a lesbian or bisexual? Also, Kechiche broaches the perception of lesbian relationships among youngsters – the gay panic among Adèle’s friends once they suspect her orientation is startling – and the inevitable awkwardness of deciding whether or not to come out to one’s parents, making for a hilariously awkward dinner scene at Adèle’s home.

All that being said, one particular aspect of the movie – the one that, unfortunately, seems to be getting all the press – doesn’t seem like it’d be too amenable to changing minds of anti-gay French citizens. What seems to be driving critics crazy about this film is the supposedly “infamous” 10-to-20-minute (reviews vary) sex scene between the couple. Honestly, it’s hard to say if some media’s quickness to call this “porn” is emphasis of a double standard; 10+ minutes is fairly long for a continuous sex scene, and recent controversies like the one over Blue Valentine’s rating show that the film world can still be prudish even about straight sex. But plenty of reviewers seem to be particularly weirded out by how much time the scene took up, often focusing attention away from the rest of the film. For example, New York Magazine’s Vulture even titles their article “The Ten-Minute Lesbian Sex Scene Everyone is Talking About At Cannes,” and seems more focused on audience reaction than anything else: “I clocked the first sex scene between Adèle and Emma — replete with fingering, licking, and, as a friend called it, ‘impressive scissoring’ — at an approximate ten minutes. Audience walkouts began around minute nine. That turned into spontaneous applause (and relieved laughter), when the women climaxed and finished a minute later.” Yet, they do ultimately conclude that the scene was a necessary element of the film.

Léa Seydoux, left, and Adèle Exarchopoulos, right, via Reuters

Léa Seydoux, left, and Adèle Exarchopoulos, right, via Reuters

Of course, it’s one thing for mainstream, mostly-straight reviewers to get upset by the idea that this is “porn.” But interestingly enough, Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel (Le Bleu est une couleur chaude) which inspired the film, seems to share some of their criticisms, at least with regard to the sex scene itself. She writes:

It appears to me that this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.
I don’t know the sources of information for the director or for the actresses (who are all straight, unless proven otherwise) and I was never consulted upstream. Maybe there was someone there to awkwardly imitate the possible positions with their hands, and/or to show them some porn of so-called “lesbians” (unfortunately it’s hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience). Because – except for a few passages – this is all that it brings to mind: a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which has turned into porn, and made me feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theatre, everyone was giggling. The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing at all, and found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn’t hear giggling were the potential guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen… As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I cannot endorse the direction Kechiche took on those matters.

Yet, contrary to some of the reports, Maroh’s issue seems to be mainly with the sex scene, and overall, is not unhappy about the film:

Whatever it may be, I don’t see the movie as a betrayal. When it comes to adapting something, I believe that the notion of betrayal should be reconsidered… Kechiche went through the same process as any other reader, he entered it and identified in a unique way… The conclusion in Cannes is obviously wonderful and breathtaking… I remain absolutely overwhelmed, amazed, and grateful for these circumstances. Last night I realized this is the first time in Cinema’s history that a comic book has inspired a Palme D’Or movie and this idea petrified me. It’s a lot to carry.

Overall, it may indeed say a lot about the place of lesbians in media and culture that so much of the coverage of Blue is the Warmest Colour, from queer and straight media alike, seems to focus on the sex scene. In fact, though, many of the reviews stress the fact that the movie is about love — as opposed to sex — as the reason to see it. As The Guardian Film Blog’s headline puts it, “Blue is the Warmest Colour won at Cannes because it jumpstarts the heart,” noting the “passionate film-making,” “extraordinary and compelling intimacy” and “remarkable, courageous performances,” summarizing it as “a devastatingly emotional film about a love affair between two young women, with unforgettable notes of sensuality and sadness.”

Perhaps that should be the real take away from Blue‘s win at Cannes – that regardless of intensity of sexual content or lack thereof, queer films have proven their ability to tear at the heartstrings of viewers regardless of sexual orientation. And that’s the real reason they keep earning awards.


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Rose is a 25-year-old Detroit native currently living in Austin, TX, where she is working on her Ph.D. in musicology. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network.

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70 Comments

  1. For too long, the presentation of lesbians and bisexual women in cinema has catered to the notion that no one can, in any way, present the sex lives of women who love women in a manner that a man would possibly obtain arousal from. Such a stance has portrayed itself as an act of feminism when feminism is, first and foremost, about equality. How can equality exist when the depiction of sex between women is presented as in an almost asexual tone while sex between two men and sex between a woman and a man is given a pass as long as a man is nude? That pass based on the belief that as long as a man is nude it can no longer be considered of the straight male gaze of course is a convenient catch 22 that allows any portrayal between women having sex to automatically be labeled as being of a straight male gaze. After all, there are no men in the scene. This is more revealing about those who assert such imagery is made for men, a sort of unaware heterosexism which actually is pushing, whether meant or not, for a trivialized representation of sex between women. We have all seen plenty of films made by even lesbian filmmakers which seem so concerned with the idea that a straight male could possibly be intrigued that the film presents a relationship between women that comes across less as lovers and more as best friends who occasionally kiss in silhouetted imagery. It is wholly unsurprising that with such a mindset, with heterosexists and lesbians both worried about men seeing a truthful image, that sex between women has been so shoddily depicted and often caused an inability to relate. Watching Brokeback Mountain or Weekend, a person is able to relate to a great deal, no matter their sexual orientation, because they see graphic scenes that establish the men aren’t just pals who share some offscreen cuddles. The sex is raw and animalistic and therefore truthful. Films that pander to fears of being too explicit end up like The Kids Are All Right, in which the marriage of the women seems sexless. People wonder why so many moviegoers smiled at and enjoyed sequences where a woman has graphic sex with a man behind her wife’s back? Yet isn’t that going to happen when the main relationship is depicted as almost sexless and the relationship involving cheating has two nude people making love repeatedly.

    I have several friends who were lucky enough to see this movie and a few others at Cannes. They have spoken of it in the most glowing terms and rolled their eyes at Maroh’s comments – comments that seem based in annoyance and even envy of not being included in the celebration around the film and it’s prior making as much as she wished she was. There is no one viewpoint on how sex between women should be presented. Not all women do this or that. The journeys are different and that includes when making love. To say that a man cannot be the auteur that depicts this journey is, itself, a foolish concept that seeks restrictive ownership of what is a universal subject – love.

    The one thing reiterated to me was how the sex scenes destroyed concepts that are often pushed. Straight women, gay men, and straight men were telling people how these two women were so deeply in love and all the audience members my friends talked to were invested in this relationship in a way they said they never had been for a same sex romance. They were telling my friends about being blissful and happy as these two women fall in love and devastated to the point of tears when heartbreak happened in the film.

    There were ugly stories that came out to. Of a straight female critic decrying the sex scenes because, after all, all lesbian sex is about men. Of another female critic who, despite not even saying the film, posted repeatedly about the straight male gaze and how only straight men could possibly like it. Of certain American male critics that acted as if no lesbian story could ever be of importance as more than titillation.

    However these were just a few voices, trapped in fear and often in a lack of respect for women who love women, among an overwhelming group of people who felt that for the first time they were actually seeing a love story for the ages that happened to involve people of the same sexual orientation as themselves and people who related to a love story between women as they never had before. As Lynne Ramsay, the great filmmaker who was on the jury said, above everything this was a love story.

    • The question is not whether men can possibly experience arousal from a lesbian sex scene, but whether in an effort to service the male gaze, lesbian sex in film becomes primarily voyeuristic and thereby inauthentic.

      And when a film is directed by a straight man, starring two straight women and with no creative input from an actual lesbian on set, it should undergo extra scrutiny.

      Look at the majority of lesbian sex scenes on film. Almost all of them are between conventionally attractive femme-femme pairings, strap-ons and other toys are practically unheard of, and maximizing the audience’s view of naughty bits often takes precedent over realistic coupling. Maybe the male gaze wasn’t on the forefront of each director’s mind, but it’s hard to believe it’s not a factor (consciously or unconsciously).

      Lesbian sex can be quite steamy and evocative without playing to straight audiences’ comfort zone. Look at actual dyke porn aimed at lesbians (The Crash Pad, to throw out an example). I doubt many straight men get off on stuff like that, but it’s as hot and heavy as anything you’re likely to find. I’ve never seen a film with sex like that in it, but I’ve seen plenty that mirrors “girl-on-girl” porn aimed at men.

      I can’t comment on this specific movie (having not yet seen it), but framing sex between women as something that exists for men to gawk at is a huge problem in the movie industry and in general society and to pretend that the problem is just a delusion on the part of prudish lesbians and feminist fundamentalists is, to put it mildly, extremely naive.

      • I am in what would be called a conventionally attractive femme-femme romance. We both also have zero interest in sex toys. You are saying that my experience isn’t real, that my life is designed for straight men. How offensive. We all have our own sex lives. We all have our own journeys. This notion that only a lesbian can direct a lesbian sex scene is nonsense. It is the same as saying only a straight man or straight woman can direct a straight love scene or a gay man can only direct a gay male love scene. Otherwise they need some expert.

        BTW, the most tiring argument made is about the attractiveness of women in a lesbian sex scene. We don’t whine about how attractive a man and a woman are in a sex scene. We don’t whine about how attractive a man and a man are in a sex scene. But yet, whether it be out of self-loathing or as someone on AfterEllen said, jealousy, we pull this nonsensical the women are too attractive nonsense. People in movies tend to be more attractive. Not all gay male couples look like Heath and Jake.

        Anyways you really owe an apology on those remarks. I may not use a strap on and I may be conventionally attractive. But it doesn’t mean my sex life is based on a straight male gaze (a concept by the way that has long passed it’s expiration date). I am sorry I find the same things attractive many straight males do. I am not alone. Check out L Chat. Heck of a lot more pages on Ashley Benson than there are on Tina Fey.

        P.S. I don’t feel Crash Pad is remotely attractive. That said at least I don’t question you finding it attractive or say some nonsense like that is the butch female gaze. Why? Because I am not naïve enough to think that sex between women should be confined to a narrow vision by certain lesbians who feel they have a superiority complex.

        • I don’t think Lix was suggesting that relationships which ‘match’ the average straight man’s idea of a lesbian relationship are in any way inferior. I suspect their point was that the overwhelming majority of lesbian sex scenes in media /do/ fit this ‘cliché’. Calling it a cliché doesn’t make it any less real, though: clichés exist for a reason, and a lot of couples are going to fit it. Hell, my girlfriend and I are both femme, so I can see where you’re coming from and while I haven’t seen the sex scene in question I agree with you that it doesn’t sound unrealistic. (Except perhaps for the scissoring, though it may just be that we were doing it wrong.)

          However, the point I suspect Lix is making (and I may be wrong) is that focusing on what straight men think of a lesbian relationship (that is to say, a conventionally attractive femme-femme couple who have ‘non-kinky’ sex, that is to say without the use of toys etc) can lead to an erasure of couples who do not fit into this category. The issue of erasure is a pretty big deal in terms of lesbian representation: femme invisibility is a problem within the lesbian community, but at the same time, people who fit into the category of ‘butch’ or ‘boi’ or really anything other than femme are neglected by media representations, who want to present lesbians as ‘just normal girls’, which does include having them be conventionally attractive. This is also a problem for people who don’t identify as femme because a lot of the time, the perception in our society is that girls who are butch are unattractive. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is not a helpful message to be giving out, and as such it would be really nice to see more unconventionally attractive women on our screens to reinforce the message that being conventionally attractive is not the /only/ way to be attractive. And yes, the focus on unconventionally attractive women by communities such as our own (though actually I think Autostraddle tends to be quite well-balanced) in an attempt to counter this can leave conventionally attractive femmes feeling overlooked.

          It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, really, and I think the ideal answer is more-or-less equal representation of femmes and butches, as well as everyone not covered by those labels. That includes within relationships: be it a femme-femme relationship, butch-femme, butch-butch, whatever. And given how many of the lesbian relationships we see on our TVs are femme-femme, I think what is being said here is not that we need less representation of femmes but that we need more representation of other ways of presenting.

          I don’t know if all of that was what Lix was intending to put across, but either way I hope it gives you some insight into why some people may be feeling unhappy with the continuous presentation of a conventionally attractive, vanilla femme-femme relationship. It’s not because anyone here thinks your relationship is invalid.

          (Also, I apologise for any grammatical/spelling errors or lack of clarity. I haven’t had my caffeine yet.)

          • I am very aware of all these concerns. That said, the characters in the book are conventionally femme too to a great deal. There is nothing wrong with that depiction. Most couples we associate with are also femme-femme. Whatever Lix meant it was out of line.

            BTW, tribbing has become more and more common. I am aware it was once not common but it is certainly something I do and friends have told me they like to do. At some point, it became something young women were aware of (whether it be due to media depiction) and so it is something many young women try or feel they should give a try. Not everyone does but not everyone does any specific sexual act.

            We are dealing with not the most critically acclaimed lesbian film of the year. We are dealing with one of the most critically acclaimed movies ever. So for our community to go because it does not personally represent me and my lover’s sex life, I have problems with it only serves to make our community look like the most exclusionary, comically naïve community possible. As a gay male friend said to me and my friends, why do so many lesbians feel the need to act as if there is some manual.

            I would like to see more butch representation. But condemning a movie because how dare neither of the lovers is butch is inane in my opinion. If it was a movie about an ensemble of lesbians and there were no butches, than maybe it would be worthy of an argument against a film’s portrayal.

          • The most critically acclaimed film of all time?! I know you seemed to really like the film but isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? The movie hasn’t even come out yet in most parts of the world. It won an award at Cannes and that’s a big thing but it’s not the first film to win a Cannes award and the critics at Cannes don’t speak for everybody. I want to know what the general public thinks when this actually opens to a wider audience of actual movie-goers and not just film critics who get paid to do this for a living. I also want to see it for myself to form my own opinion without being told what and how I should feel about it. If I ultimately decide that I don’t end up liking it I would hope I wouldn’t be considered “comically naive” for feeling that way.

          • Turkish, hi. Been a long time since we conversed. Missed your posts at TWoP (haven’t been on there in awhile). Anyways, I want to clarify that I said it was “one of the most critically acclaimed films ever.” not “the most critically acclaimed film ever”. And yes it is one of the most critically acclaimed films ever. In terms of the ratings, Blue is the Warmest Color got the highest average of scores for a film in the last 30 years. It topped every critics poll handily. It’s average was so high that the 2nd most acclaimed film of the festival, by the Coen brothers, was closer to # 10’s averages than to # 1. In terms of audience reaction it was even stronger apparently. Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase confirmed this morning it was a unanimous choice. The jury that voted on it was not allowed any access to computers, TV’s, etc. and did not know what critics thought. Here is the reaction by an audience to the movie winning (typically reactions are mixed). You can also check twitter for audience reaction – it goes beyond I loved this film. My friends, none of them critics, each called it possibly the most profound film experience of their lives.

            I have been covering cinema for quite awhile. I have never seen remotely close to a reaction as people have taken to this film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRDQrcYF1is

          • Yeah I’m going to have to agree with turkish that this film needs to be out for a bit longer and have a wider variety of people see it before we start ranking it among The Godfather and Casablanca.

          • Am I the only one who didn’t necessarily read Emma as femme? Then again I’m literally going off of one measly video clip I’ve seen of the movie and I thought Lea Seydoux played it very boi-ishly. I’m disappointed to know that I’m mistaken. I would have loved to see some major butch representation at Cannes.

          • Gee Rose, show me where someone said that. Thanks for distorting what I posted. Why don’t you take a look at the critics ratings so far. BTW, women, on average, rate it even higher than men going by the polls.

          • It was a joke.

            But that IS what comes to mind when you say “most acclaimed films of all time” and why people are making a big deal out of that comment.

          • Ally, I will make sure to inform my lesbian friends who saw the movie they are clueless on the apparent one way that all lesbians have sex on crash pad.

          • Whoa, Chris H., I wasn’t hating on your comments with the link, sorry if it came off that way. I also don’t go on Crash Pad either.
            I just posted the link because everyone was discussing porn and how ‘real’ lesbians have sex, more because the video is funny and to lighten up the mood.

    • Chris H., your response to this article is the best ‘review’ I’ve read so far of this film. You’ve beautifully expressed an often-overlooked complexity. When humans see and feel profoundly authentic relationships represented on screen we relate to them no matter who we are. Though, just as you say, internalised fears and prejudices can blind some of us even then.

      Sounds like this film strongly represents both the universality of love and the particular quality of this lesbian relationship. Seeing both the universal and the particular made accessible and real is rare for audiences. It’s no small achievement for a film. A much deserved award for all the right reasons.

      The prize also raises the chance of full cinema release without any editing of the explicit, realistic and probably messy sex scenes. IF they get cut out there’ll be an outcry! Give us whole lives, with all the exultation and messy bits thrown in. Don’t we all crave representation, our lives reflected back to us from a huge mirror. This is the origin of theatre and of film – a communal experience of the best and worst of life, together as an audience we see and feel our humanity as a shared thing. Lesbians have been left out of that experience for so long – symbolic annihilation etc etc. We can hope this film brings us closer to having our lives seen and felt and understood even while we sit in the audience with the shy, the ignorant and the fearful.

    • “How can equality exist when the depiction of sex between women is presented as in an almost asexual…”

      Amen

      Among Lost Girl fans there is this fight, mainly coming from overzealous Bo/Lauren fans, who say that anyone who likes the character Tamsin is rooting for the wrong situation. They believe she is more appealing to the male gaze and we will lose all meaningful lesbian interactions. It always makes me wonder. Am I the male gaze? Cause I certainly enjoy watching them together. I don’t want to watch plastic porn stars with long nails, but I don’t find artsy soft scenes to be realistic or sexy at all. I also don’t think a woman has to look a certain way so that she only appeals to lesbians.

    • Chris H: Yes yes! I actually saw the movie last week at a press screening and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I think it’s completely groundbreaking. Blue takes you deep into Adele’s experiences, so it almost feels as if you’re living her life with her. In that sense, her desires, impulses, feelings seem as if they are happening in real time and without context. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a romantic movie less concerned with the “male gaze” actually. I will note that there are definitely one or two super stupid choices made in the movie–and they’re in the realm of the Picasso scene from the movie “Titanic” (you’ll see…).

      After the movie I had a discussion with a straight male friend of mine who found the movie stupid and cheesy and also quoted (sigh) his “lesbian friends” who said that the sex in the movie was a joke. After some intellectual filler, I finally caved and pulled out the truth: ‘As a lesbian, I’ve never seen a movie that takes romantic feelings I’ve felt and things I’ve gone through so seriously and so casually at the same time.” In short, get excited (to cry) girls!

  2. Honestly, the minute I heard the buzz that the movie had a 10-minute sex scene in it…truth be told, I was a bit baffled. A good sex scene in a non-erotic movie should be half that. And I was waiting especially for the creator’s take because this was first and foremost her story, though it went through a different path than hers.

    To me, when I saw Julie’s blogpost (in French too, might I add), it sounded to me like she was talking about said sexual inclusion leading to overshadowing the whole of the movie; which I think that is in itself a problem. If its all everyone can talk about, then its diverting away from the overall path of the story and it might lose meaning. This seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy because that’s all the movie will be known for (that and I’m seriously surprised that no one has made Golden Palm jokes yet.) I’ve seen movies and I’ve read books and I’ve written stories that have made sex part of the story and where sex itself was front and center. It can and should be a pleasureful act performed through many means and many stories…and it can be also be part of a coming of age story. But I’m not sure that this was the right way to do it.

    No one makes a fuss over Room in Rome because it’s unabashedly erotic and doesn’t dance around it. This movie however, will forever sway in the minds of the audience as that indie french drama that had that real 10-minute grabber…

    • Julie, I think this movie will stay in minds forever because it is the first queer film to win the Palme d’Or. It is a film that has topped every critics poll. It is a film that is being called one of the, if not the, greatest love story of the century.

      My friends who saw it said the sex scenes were profoundly moving and of the utmost importance.

      BTW, here are comments by Stephanie Zacharek which my friends say nail the problem with those complaining about the straight male gaze (solely because it is a man directing two women).

      Zacharek
      (The love scenes between these two characters are beautifully staged, perhaps among the loveliest ever put on film. Sex scenes, as any director will tell you, are a nightmare to shoot: It’s extremely difficult to make good sex look good–a combination of stylized artifice and sensitivity is needed, and the perfect mix is elusive. But Kechiche (director of the 2007 critics’ favorite Secret of the Grain, as well as the much less loved 2010 Black Venus) and his actresses achieve something extraordinary: The sex scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Color are classical without being sterile; they’re real and immediate in a way that honors the idea of terrific sex between two people who are madly in love, instead of just trying to paste a clumsy picture of it onscreen.

      The picture has already drawn some criticism: There are those who believe Blue Is the Warmest Color is just an excuse for an old guy to use his camera to paw at young women’s bodies, and, accordingly, the male critics who like it simply cannot resist the allure of two hot young things in bed. Thank you, Theory of the Male Gaze, for giving us such a handy template with which to diagram the mysteries of beauty, sex, and desire!”)

      http://www.villagevoice.com/2013-05-22/film/cannes-2013-award-winners/

      • …I’m sorry Chris, but those who think that this movie is the greatest love story of all time…is greatly kidding themselves because Moulin Rouge takes that title. (In my eyes anyway)

        It’s a good story, but it doesn’t deserve that much of an accolade. And again, let me re-iterate that I’m sure the choice of the jury was difficult especially with all of those choices in their hands (*snare drum hiss*), they made the right decision.

        If you’ve seen the movie “The Incredibly True Adventures of Two girls in love”, then that is a movie possibly deserving of a high-award. It follows a similar story to Blue and it’s warm, touching, funny and the protagonists also make love; but it’s evolved as part of the story and not something that’s focused on to boost the movie, which is where the criticism of Blue’s film adaptation seems draws from. In my opinion, there should more queer movies that follow that model of storytelling.

        As for Stephanie’s positive critique, she has her opinion and I have mine.

        And as Lix said, this does in fact show a small view of what queer love stories can be. There are many facets of what “The Greatest Love Story” could be.

  3. I’m not sure how “queer” a film whose entire production team is straight is? I was talking about this on tumblr the other day, there’s this whole genre of ~gently sad~ films about queer teen girls – in which one of the characters almost always isn’t sure about her identity, but falls for the older, mysterious but more experienced – and in some ways more “aggressive” lesbian – and their love is very passionate, – and they don’t know any other queer people so you can’t see the dynamics of actual queer communities, – and they end breaking up in a very dramatic way, although the break-up does teach the younger girl a valuable lesson about life etc etc. This kind of narrative is in many ways a male fantasy (it’s very similar to the plots 60s pulp novels had) and it actually has little in common with most queer women’s experiences growing up. We talk so much about youth suicide and young queer people feeling alone and desperate – I feel we must do better for them, if not for us? I remember being a young queer as just really awkward? you dream of being whisked away by a gorgeous older woman, but actually you’re pretty petrified of attractive girls / women and have no idea how to talk to them? wouldn’t it be nice to see something like that on screen? to see something that might actually represent you and your experiences?

    • Andy, the film is based on a story written by a lesbian. Everything you complain about is actually what she wrote. However the director did make several changes. I don’t want to spoil anything but you will find almost everything he cut out was probably something you would not like (he is being praised on several sites for what he got rid of). Also the film has a great deal of lesbian culture in it. Emma has several lesbian friends, they go to pride parades and clubs together. Other times they just hang around talking. The main problems in the romance apparently come out of social status and education.

    • Yes, I think it was on poesizing… the thing about being sick and tired of “tender young lesbian love” that is pure and cute and non-threatening to the dominant society… No?

      And I agree, just for once I wish the narrative would go away from plot lines that make lesbian love look effortless and flawless but focus on the realism of teenage experiences instead. Seriously, nobody is Shane, so amazing women usually don’t throw themselves at baby dykes. Mostly because teenage bodies are pretty much entirely made of hormones and anxieties. Consequently teenagers don’t have any “game with the lady” simply because they don’t know how to talk and approach or even spot a queer girl.
      I mean, you don’t just realize that you have legs and then go on full mode ballet the second after! You take baby steps. And you worry and freak out. A lot.

      And for once, I wish the directors would stop carrying about making sex look stylish and beautiful but go for more realism. I mean, while yes, sex is hot and steamy, but it is also awkward and funny and weird at the same time. Real sex is not perfectly choreographed and that is what makes it feel awesome, not just look pretty.

      So… I am still going to see the movie, just to show that there is money to make with (a) queer stories and (b) female leads. And maybe “Blue Is The Warmest Color” is not as bad/full of worn out clichés as I imagine it to be. But my points still stand, I want variety in plot lines and also diversity in gender identities & presentations, race, body types, ages, …

      • My friends said the reason they can see lesbians having problems with the sex is there aren’t any of the clichés and it rejects the stylish, pretty sex we are used to (in great part thanks to many a bad lesbian movie). Instead, my friends used the words animalistic, raw, etc. to describe it. They think that is why everyone connected with it – because it didn’t feel like the watered down, almost asexual sex we typically see when women make love on screen. And apparently choreographed is not the word to describe it. That is part of why it feels so real – it feels like a woman’s first time going through this.

        And yes there are women like Shane out there. Again we really should stop acting like the only story that can be told is our personal one. Every story is different.

        • While you can keep repeating what your friends said about the movie, we still can neither agree nor disagree with you or with them because we didn’t see the film yet. We just can voice our concerns solely based on the promotional stuff and the fuss that is happening in the media. And judged by that alone, it doesn’t look like “every story is different” but like the same narrative that has been told over and over and over again.

          We will see. Maybe it turns out to be a great movie. And as someone who likes the bitter sweetness of French cinema, chances are that I will end up loving it even. Or maybe not.

      • Yep, poesizing is me, it’s weird to think where your tumblr post can get. I dunno, I guess my annoyance at the film is exacerbate by the fact that everyone who worked on it seems to have been straight (although, yes, the director did buy the rights from the lesbian graphic novel writer). It’s so hard to break into film and if I were a director or producer making a “queer” film, everyone I’d hire would be queer – even if I made a film without any queer characters / themes, I’d still go out of my way to hire queers!

        • This is because tumblr people are a dangerous species. They undergo everything!

          So, hi 🙂

          I agree with you. Especially because I suspect the film becoming hugely successful and hugely popular among straight female viewers, it would have been awesome if there have been actual queer women working on it to portray queer life in an authentic light. So that they would understand that girls who love girls are no exotic fairy tale creatures but real and complex and diverse human beings.

        • The Kids Are All Right was made by a lesbian identified woman.
          Your Sister’s Sister – by bisexual woman.

          Meanwhile, Show Me Love and Imagine Me and You – by straight men.

          • Many of my favorite lesbian movies have been made by straight men Show Me Love, Edge Of Heaven being just two. The next film made by Moodysson, the maker of the great Show Me Love, had a gay male romance. Didn’t hear anyone complaining only gay men should make that type film. And as hard as it seems, even Show Me Love was denounced by some critics because any film with a lesbian romance not directed by a lesbian or bisexual woman was seen as made for men.

          • Coincidentally, both The Kids Are Alright and Your Sister’s Sister feature no lesbian sex at all but rather lesbians sleeping with men and I hated the both of them so even lesbian filmmakers can fuck up a movie about lesbians. I have no objection to straight people making lesbian-themed films if they can do it right. There are have been many that haven’t though. I have no way of knowing if the straight people behind this particular movie get it right or not until I can actually see and form my own opinion about it.

          • It feels disingenuous to say that The Kids Are Alright and Your Sister’s Sister are the epitome of lesbians producing art about lesbian experiences given how painfully horrible the lesbians sleeping with men plot is – but, at the same time, doesn’t anyone else wonder exactly WHY the only films on queer women actual queer women seem to get to write / direct / make are about lesbians sleeping with men? WHY is it that queer women can only get funding for films which revolve around horrible, unrepresentative tropes while straight men get money from producers for seemingly more daring projects? Might this have something to do with homophobia? Why is it that we don’t have straight men writing popular / prestigious novels about queer women anymore, but popular / prestigious films on queer women are still made almost exclusively by men? There’s a LOT of institutionalized discrimination in the film industry which prevents queer women from presenting their experiences truthfully, and we should be careful about which films we praise – this isn’t about being a “prudish” lesbian who frowns on porn – it’s about being critical of who gets to control how queer women are represented on screen. And the truth is that straight men whose priority is jacking off are the ones who control how we’re represented.

    • Love comics and graphic novels but when you say sad is that in the vein of someone dies, someone turns into a homicidal maniac or at least a psychopath, they have to run away forever or someone ends up in prison, or one of them decides that actually they’re not gay after all? Because then that would be really sad and I would have to abandon all queer fiction of any format forever and lose hope in everything. I can’t take the disappointment anymore.

      • See: the spoiler alert by wepa, but I didn’t feel it was like that, like in all the things where lesbians die.
        Also because the author’s grief of losing her own wife suddenly seeps through the pages: it’s love, it’s growing up, it’s grief, and it’s real.

        If you want lady-queer French comic books that are less depressing, you have Lisa Mandel’s Princesse aime Princesse, which is lovely, and the princess’ name is Végétaline, I love it.

  4. Ok, so I’m definitely buying this comic book. ASAP.

    But I have a question!

    1. When and where can I watch this movie??????

    I’m in France now, and this movie is playing NOWHERE! Squat diddly nowhere. And I’ve tried in vain to find it streaming online. This is driving me MAD! Is there a U.S. release date? I love Léa Seydoux…I think she’s one of the most sophisticated and elegant actresses today!

    Also, I’ve never heard of Adele Exarchopoulos, but I love her name and I love her in this interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUymIfdWg44

    • It doesn’t come out in France til October. It’s only played at Cannes so far, I think. There’s no date for it coming out in the US (or UK, where I am) yet as far as I can see on the IMDB but seeing as it won the Palme D’Or, it should get wide release – I hope so, anyway.

  5. Naturally I went and watched every available interview of the two stars and the director. And overall based off of their off-screen chemistry, I would like to see the film.

    But…ten minutes is long. I typically don’t even watch porn longer than five minutes. Hell… I got bored during Shame when Fassbender’s character took that long run. Or during Somewhere when Dorff’s character was having his prosthetic makeup applied. Haha. But if it’s integral to the film. So some sort of cathartic release of all of their angst or love or what have you, I’m willing to judge the movie as a whole and not on one scene.

  6. Oh wow. Just read through all of the comments. Le Deepness.

    Whenever the “male gaze” comes into play, femme women who also admire/date/desire femme women tend to feel demonized.

    So in that vein… I agree with Chris H because I fall in that category. If a film/show has two “conventionally attractive” women in love/in like/ in lust, I feel as though the entirety of the queer world immediately villainizes it as for the “straight male gaze.” And my first and only thought during that discussion is “f*ck the male gaze, I am thoroughly enjoying everything about what’s happening on my screen so please don’t protest so it can continue for my sake. For femaleeeeee sake. :)”

    On the other hand if we are viewing queer as not a designation for someone’s sexuality, but as an identity, then I understand how it is problematic and how erasure of the totality of queer bodies can occur.

    • A million times yes. And it is hurtful when so called feminists and many lesbians pull that stuff. I won’t go as far as some other persons who have pointed out that tendency to treat femme-femme romances as inferior or just male fantasies says very sad things about the person pushing those angles.

      • I don’t think that acknowledging that most media about lesbians is femme/femme, and the fact that straight men tend to be more into femmes, is treating femme romances as inferior.

        Sincerely, a femme-leaning bi girl who has a strong preference for femmes in women

        • Sorry Rose but the comments that were made due treat femme-femme romances as inferior. It is one thing to say an ensemble, such as The L Word, is not demonstrating variety. To condemn representation in a movie due to one couple being femme-femme is a whole other picture.

          • I don’t think she is condemning femme-femme relationships or the film for being about one. She is just pointing out that this problem exists in the film industry as a whole. You have to acknowledge that for the most part straight male filmmakers would prefer to see lesbians that are femmes in movies. One would could say they probably consider femme lesbians to be SUPERIOR. Some men have a real problem with women who present in a more masculine way for whatever reason. Maybe they feel threatened by it. IDK. Just look at the history of film/tv and it is overwhelmingly femme when it comes to representation. I have no problem with femmes getting representation. I am one! But I also acknowledge that their are other types of lesbians in the world and they deserve representation too. Bringing that up isn’t a condemnation of femmes. It is a valid point that needs to be addressed. And it doesn’t always have to be up to just an ensemble tv show to provide that. So should mainstream movies. Even as a femme myself, I totally get the frustration that butches and androgynous lesbians must feel when they don’t see themselves reflected on screen. That has to suck.

  7. Lesbian or otherwise, I don’t think I could stomach watching a +10 minutes sex scene in a public theatre. The audiences at Cannes must have nerves of steel. I might watch it in private though.

  8. On a completely different note, I like the idea that Maroh takes the attitude that an adaptation doesn’t have to be a completely faithful one or it’s a “betrayal,” and that part of it is how the filmmaker responds to the work individually. I’m getting really frustrated with what feels like an increasingly common attitude these days that the quality of an adaptation is how faithfully it replicates its source material, rather than how good of a film/TV show/whatever on its own it is. Because the fact of the matter is that film/TV and books/graphic novels/etc. are different media that are naturally going to be better suited for different narratives, and a film that is a perfectly adapted book is not necessarily going to mean a quality film (and vice versa).

    But that seemed a bit separate from the point of the article, so I’m leaving it in a comment.

  9. I find this thoughtful article and ongoing discussion fascinating. In particular I want to go back to something Chris H said at the top.
    “For too long, the presentation of lesbians and bisexual women in cinema has catered to the notion that no one can, in any way, present the sex lives of women who love women in a manner that a man would possibly obtain arousal from.”

    This combined with the ongoing talk of the male gaze by other posters raise two important questions to me: 1) Is it fair to assume that the straight male view of what depictions of woman are erotic is always contrasting with the gay female view?
    2) Why should male arousal over depiction of lesbian sex (or mere physical intimacy between woman) automatically be consider bad for gay woman?

    The first question I’ve brought up on this site before and has already been address by other so I’ll just say here that agree with those who say it isn’t always clear with a straight fantasy versus gay one and even between straight men there is no universal agreement over what is sexy. The same Madonna video that one man (or woman) may find hot another may find tedious.

    The second question stems from a more important question of arousal versus attitude. If we really want to fight so much of the body shame and sexual shame in culture, shouldn’t we be moving away from this notion that eroticism is only go for certain people who have less power and denied to those who have more? I agree with Lix that…framing sex between women as something that exists for men to gawk at is a huge problem in the movie industry… and I do prefer that sex in movies to be a part of character relationship in the course of an involving story rather than something tawdry to excite the randy. At the same time however, I’m getting a little tired of this tendency to call any male arousal by displays of eroticism between woman as ‘sleazy.” Even if it’s a well made work that isn’t just play for erotic purposes and many gay or bi woman liked it too.

    Is it just easy to assume that any straight or bi male who finds lesbianism sexy secretly assumes that two woman in a state of sexual heat would automatically let him join? Not some man really are that shallow and stupid, but for all the psycho-cultural speculation about why man find lesbianism hot I thing usually boils more down to arithmetic. If one is nice, too is nicer. And yet most of the so-called girl-on-girl porn is totally crap (as the video posted by Alley illustrates) but so are most kind of porn period and some studies suggest more men who watch it can figure that the woman involved aren’t really lesbian.

    So yes if straight or bi men do enjoy movies like this one (which based everything I’ve seems like it not SUPPOSED to just be artsy-erotica) many of them probably masturbate thinking about it later, but that doesn’t mean the didn’t also enjoy the story or the characters. Don’t gay or bi at least that combined reaction to movies that are best well done and honestly sexy is showing what (some woman) really do together, so is the old assumption that woman is generally are just more aroused by writing than visuals really true? Maybe, but I don’t it. More likely most man in the industry just don’t get what woman like sexually in general!

    I now see despite my best effects to keep this tight, I’ve already gone on too long. So hopeful someone else can just take this suggestion and offer up there insights. Some things you can only hear from someone whose been there.

    • Okay I’ve got my usually grammatical errors in as usual. Just to clarify a big one. It showed read in the sixth paragraph down: or is the old assumption that are more aroused by writing than visuals really true?”
      Just to clarify, I think only a woman could answer that kind of question and there aren’t very many places where it seem right to ask as a discussion point.

      • I guess I would be salty too if somebody bought my work, misinterpreted or misrepresented it and then didn’t give me any credit. I don’t know if that’s how Maroh really feel but I get the sentiment. It’s why JK Rowling wouldn’t let just anybody turn her books into movies unless they met certain provisions. And comic book writer Alan Moore has been very vocal about his dislike of movie studios taking his works and making shitty movies out of them but they continue to do anyway. It’s gotten to the point where he has asked them to remove his name from their works because he doesn’t want to be associated with it.

        If Maroh has a problem with how the filmmakers have handled things I think it’s only fair she is allowed her opinion on it. After all, this movie wouldn’t even exist if she hadn’t written the comic in the first place. It’s not like this is their original material.

        • And Stephen King did not like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining (a great film from a mediocre book) and Robert Benchley had massive problems with Jaws (a great film from a worse than mediocre book). It is a lengthy list. However it is beyond evident in Maroh’s comments that I just linked that this sour grapes about not being feted.

          • It’s also beyond evident that you really love the film and its director and have been going out of your way to insult and dismiss Maroh.

          • Two things I can’t stand with a passion.

            A) When a writer gets miffed they weren’t celebrated enough when a film does well and goes on a passive-aggressive spiel.

            B) When anyone says there is a definitive way lesbians have sex that only they can understand.

  10. No one is ever satisfied with the way lesbian sex scenes are portrayed. Not anyone. Not any lesbian ever. And this makes me wonder what it is that they are expecting really.

    The other day I saw a video on youtube, (by the ex-girlfriend of the person who did the Lesbians react to lesbian porn video) loudly and proudly declaring that REAL LESBIANS DON’T SCISSOR. Now, I won’t say at what age, but my first sexual experience was incredibly young. It was also a lesbian experience and I had never seen porn though I had of course, to some extent been exposed to hetero-sex scenes that showed pretty much nothing, on TV. Yet, the most natural thing to us, at that young age, was to do what people consider scissoring. Later in life, and in my most recent lesbian relationship, it was something we did and one of the only ways I orgasmed with that particular person.

    If you think about where the clitoris is, in all of this, I don’t know how anyone, even if you’re not a fan of scissoring, could not see how it makes perfect physical sense that scissoring would work to get two lesbians off.

    Duh, friction.

    This whole idea of what lesbian sex is SUPPOSED to look like, and whether it is meant for lesbian audiences or not, seems to just be another way for lesbians in deny the authenticity of each other’s identities.

    Like saying you aren’t butch if you date other butches is total crap, saying that you aren’t lesbian-sexing the right way because you scissor is also total bull.

    I used to say that NO REAL LESBIAN would have long nails. And you know what? I know several lesbian women with TALONS.

    In a particularly judgmental moment i said to my then girlfriend about the lesbian-with-nails in question “how the hell does she even have sex??” And my girlfriend kindly reminded me that that’s not our problem. What she does, or does not do in the bedroom with another woman is not make her a lesbian. What makes her a lesbian is that she’s a woman who identifies as such and has chosen to be in the bedroom with another woman to do the sexy time in the first place.

    That is all that lesbian sex amounts to. Two women getting each other off however they want to, for the pleasure of no one else but themselves.

    Mind blowing! I know.

    And just to add: barring shows that go out of their way to make it ‘realistically’ awkward (here’s to looking at you HBO’s Girls) when has hetero-sex scenes ever been ‘authentic’?

    For those of you who may not know, because this is after all autostraddle, and you may have never had sex with a man, the answer is: next to never.

  11. i like this last comment from rush

    but did i miss something? did someone already here who saw the film describe the actual mechanics / techniques of the sex scene in that film?

    i just wanted to present this important counterpoint:

    chantal akerman: je tu il elle (1976)

    http://vimeo.com/31297500

    a stunning, beautiful film – a classic: the belgian filmmaker herself gets in front of the camera for a nude sex scene with her character’s girlfriend or ex or friend with benefits or whatever (it’s intentionally ambigious and the previous kitchen scene which illustrates the ambiguity is hilarious)

    brilliant cinematic deconstruction of sex, definitions of sex, male gaze (as in – not enabled/denied), female agency and desire, authorship, with no cut aways

    the culminating sex scene is 15-20 minutes long

    this is a good basic summary of the film:

    http://criterioncast.com/reviews/a-journey-through-the-eclipse-series-chantal-akermans-je-tu-il-elle/

    this academic text is also pretty decent:

    http://www.academia.edu/187992/Braiding_polyphony_Je_tu_il_elle_and_lui_

    but there are tons more, also by ivone margulies, who did the first academic book on akerman

  12. This movie had many messages
    EMMA was in higher society
    Her parents were more “Parisian”
    (people of luxury and lovers)
    More educated
    More open
    Metropolitan
    Emma measured her own success by her professional acquaintances
    And what gallery she will be shown in.
    THE IT MAN at her first exhibition did not appreciate her work but instead was interested in te subject or muse (Adele)
    ADELE
    Gypsy whose parents were hardworking immigrants
    They were simple unsophisticated
    With basic ideals and goals.
    Right there ::culture clash::
    They did not need society or family to break them up.
    There was an invisible but foreseeable force driving them apart.
    LISSE was the appropriate choice.
    She was a painter and could give her that family image which is usually equated with Heteros.
    Since THE IT MAN has a thing against lesbians. ( can never experience lesbian sex because he is a man.
    Emma drove Adele away but made her believe that her infidelity broke them.
    THE IT MAN did not like Emma’s lines in her paintings because they they were like a heart missing something.
    BUT he liked the innocent girl in the photos who only got naked for Emma’s eyes
    The shy domesticated girl who was simple and knew how
    To cook, but was nothing less than a succulent sexual being.. Much like the oyster.
    “Tragedy is the essence of life..and no one can escape it.”
    LOVED the sex because it is how it is for me .. Sorry if most people dot experience that especially in America..so much more to learn from this film.

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