Film maker Barbara Hammer and Reel Deal: Movies that Matter's Jim Fouratt talk BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
Blue Is the Warmest Color director Abdellatif Kechiche
Given the raging storm over the explicit lesbian sex scenes after winning the Golden Palm this year at Cannes and hearing how differently men and most women see the film, I asked Barbara Hammer
Barbara Hammer (photo: jackie rudin (cc) )
to share her insights . Hammer, a Westbeth resident is a feminist film director, world-renowned for making the first explicit lesbian film in 1974, Dyketactics, and for her trilogy of documentary film essays on queer history Nitrate Kisses (1992), Tender Fictions (1995),History Lessons, (2000) in addition to award winning narrative experimental shots and features
JF: Blue is about the sexual awakening of a high school student spellbound by a blue haired female artist in Lille, a mid-sized city in France (think Atlanta). Based on Julie Maroh’s French language controversial, award winning, graphic novel Blue Angles (just published in English),Blue is not pornographic. It is shocking because even in our sex-saturated culture, heterosexual sexual coupling is standard in almost every contemporary narrative film. Lesbian sex has been hidden except in the world of male fantasy and the porn that fuels it. In Blue, it is full frame, intimate, seemingly real and highly erotic, if still from a male point of view. While the bodies rolling around are not as graphic as rumored, Blue is much more than sweaty bodies.
Abdellatif Kechiche is a director of note. His Secret of the Grain had me convinced that these were real working class people and not actors. Yet in fact, it was a narrative not a document. His Black Venus seemed to me to fetishize an African woman put on display in 19 century Paris. In Blue, he replicates high school student interaction and the sometimes thoughtless group. He captures the closeness of outsider gay teens and their secret world of clubs, friendship, and survival tactics. The subtle class differences of the bourgeois artist and the ripe, besotted student threads the storytelling. The actual French title is in fact Adele Chapter 1 and 2, the beginning of a journey into adulthood, not an end.
In France, it is taken for granted that teenagers have sex and the age of consent is realistic unlike the puritanical anti-sex religious right policing here. See it with eyes wide open!
Barbara Hammer: The sex? Whew! Blow me away! Sex like you've never seen it in 70 mm, spanking galore, red-hot butts, and pussy licks.
The plot? Young girl falls in love with older girl and suffers break-up drama later when dismissed for another. Original story!
However, the depiction of class difference was superb.
The structure? Crowd interludes put in place to predictably follow hardcore sex or cat fights. After all, where can you go after gorgeous body scenery but to the mass of humanity on the street? But who does not love young supple nude bodies. And then, the setting: who does not love Paris?
The acting? Amazing work by Adele Exarchopoulo with the Louise Brooks mouth.
The composition? The depiction of bodies choreographed like paintings. Strong work here!
The cinematography? Gorgeous three shot reflection scene of Kerchiche opening the film to the kind of sex cinema I love with the camera right there between the participants. No doorway voyeur shots here. Still, leaving the film I felt like I had watched soft-core French pornography. I always think sex is a wonderful part of our lives but I missed seeing other desires like the drive to create, to play, to study, hey, even to think.
What film am I talking about? Blue is the Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kerchiche starring Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos. The breakout film that won the Pale D’or at Cannes is a groundbreaking luscious portrait of young sex? Now, please, could we have a graphic display of those of us still lusty in our seventies?
I hope I haven’t dissuaded you from seeing this “Kiss, kiss, sunlight through the lips” sumptuous dining film. You will never see spaghetti eaten like this again!