Saw Blue Is the Warmest Colour, which is now on Netflix US. I had some reservations about seeing it despite hearing overwhelmingly positive reviews. This was mostly because the film is directed by a man and depicts the coming of age of a high school girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and her sexual awakening through her relationship with Emma ( Léa Seydoux). I wondered if it would be possible for a man to direct this film without it turning out weirdly exploitative and objectifying of the girls’ sexual interaction.
The two female leads in this film give really raw, stunning and brave performances. Both seemed to have given their all to their performance and commitment to their characters. This is especially true for Adèle Exarchopoulos who is unforgettable in this film. The two actresses definitely had a strong chemistry that plays out with a deep intensity on screen.
However, as expected there was a lot of distracting and lurid feeling close-ups like the obvious obsession with Adèle’s mouth. There is also a lot of focus on her body being on display, such as how she is always on her stomach and the camera is angled from under her butt when she is sleeping. Almost all the love-making scenes feel cold and hyper sexual except for one of the shorter ones that ends with more tenderness and talking between the lovers. There is a definite sense of a voyeuristic and obsessive male gaze. The writing and acting in this film are beautiful, but it makes me wonder what could have been done with it had a female directed the same story with the same actresses.
There are so many canonized filmed directed by men about what its like to be a women, yet these women can come off as objects of desire more so than real people. These women are basically a male constructed version of perhaps the real woman or composite of women the character is based on.
It would be amazing if our society trusted women to tell their own stories more, especially the really personal and powerful ones like Blue is the Warmest Colour. Women are the experts on the female experience and getting a man to try and express these experiences is like getting a portrait painted by an art history major. They may have studied everything about it, but they’ve never picked up a brush.
I do credit director Abdellatif Kechiche for opting for the two actresses to wear minimal make-up, which allowed both of their natural beauty to shine through and gave it a more honest feel. The film also does a great job of capturing all the small moments between them as they fall in love and the mix of emotions and difficult confrontation that occurs when the relationship ends. I basically cried my eyes out during those moments. Blue is the Warmest Colour definitely is deserving of major recognition and is worth seeing, but what is so frustrating is that for everything that it has going for it (mostly the story and performances) what is wrong become even more of a frustrating distraction in comparison.