By Don Simpson | October 31, 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche (scenario, adaptation and dialogue), Ghalia Lacroix (scenario, adaptation and dialogue), Julie Maroh (author of Le Bleu est une couleur chaude)
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée, Benjamin Siksou, Mona Walravens, Alma Jodorowsky, Jérémie Laheurte, Anne Loiret, Benoît Pilot, Sandor Funtek, Fanny Maurin, Maelys Cabezon, Samir Bella, Tom Hurier, Manon Piette, Quentin Médrinal
While watching Blue Is the Warmest Color, one particular question repeatedly came to the forefront of my mind: What right does a male filmmaker (Abdellatif Kechiche) have in telling this particular story? Considering the historical shortage of female filmmakers — and even fewer female filmmakers from the LGBT community — most female-centric stories have been told by male filmmakers, albeit from an overtly male perspective. For a male to tell a female story, such as adapting Julie Maroh’s comic Le Bleu est une couleur chaude, there is no other option than to take the role of an outsider looking into a world that he can never fully understand (unless, of course, that man happens to be Tiresias). Additionally, men who are attracted to women seem to be hopelessly fascinated by same sex relationships of women. So, for a male to direct a film about two female lovers seems perversely voyeuristic; being that the lead protagonist of this particular narrative — Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) — is a 15-years-old girl, adds a healthy dose of “creepy old man syndrome” to the mix. So, it may be helpful to view Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color as basically a cinematic research project in which he observes Adèle’s maturation into a sexual being.
Within the narrative, Kechiche snidely attempts to negate any and all criticism by stressing the significance of each individual’s interpretation of art over the meanings designated by critics and scholars. In other words, you should experience Blue Is the Warmest Color for yourself and come to your own conclusions; do not listen to all of that dreadful noise being perpetuated by the media.
Secondly, with the camera’s ever-present gaze, Kechiche makes his love for the young female form (especially Exarchopoulos’ derriere) abundantly clear, as well as his obsession with the female orgasm. He is clearly trying to capture the pure, unadulterated passions of youth, as well as the animalistic cravings for sexual satisfaction. When Adèle becomes sexually intertwined with her first female lover, Emma (Léa Seydoux), their sex is primordially carnal. The two girls paw, slap and consume each other with uncontrollable passion. This hyper-sexualized encounter goes on for about ten minutes, as Kechiche attempts to study the way their two bodies are commingled into a single web of flesh. It is as if Kechiche is in awe of what women do to each other in the heat of passion and how they do it. Being that Adèle seems to require very little coaching or direction during her virginal foray in fornication with another woman, Kechiche suggests a certain innate naturalness to her movements and actions.
Kechiche cleverly utilizes Sartre’s thoughts on freedom and the Existential proposition that l’existence précède l’essence (existence precedes essence). To paraphrase Sartre from Existentialism is a Humanism, Adèle first of all exists, encounters herself, surges up in the world — and defines herself afterwards. By way of Sartre, Kechiche develops his own brand of Queer Theory from there, seemingly reducing gender to a human choice, just as Sartre did; but I think what Kechiche is really trying to express is that Adèle is free to do whatever she wants and be with whomever she desires at any given moment. Adèle is a sexual being but she is not confined to a specific gender (she adamantly denies being lesbian); her persona functions in stark opposition to Emma, who is wholeheartedly lesbian. Though her career path might be informed by her parents insistence that financial security is the key to happiness and freedom, Adèle does not give into peer pressure, though she does choose to accept the inherent limitations of her social class. She follows through with the career of her own choosing and becomes successful doing so. It is difficult to ignore that these references to Sartre might also be Kechiche’s way of claiming his freedom to adapt Maroh’s text however he wants.
This is very clearly Kechiche’s interpretation of Maroh’s protagonist, just as it is pretty indisputable that Blue Is the Warmest Color would have been a much different film in the hands of a woman. (For one, I suspect the fact that Adèle does not eat seafood would have been handled a bit more subtly.) It is also difficult to deny that the ten minute sex scene is gratuitously voyeuristic; though, despite what people seem to be saying, Blue Is the Warmest Color is definitely not a pornographic film.