I loved the book "Perks Of Being A Wallflower", when it came out. I thought it one of the best books then. It gave me very much. I never dared to watch the movie. I am afraid it would not be half as good, as the book was for me back then.
"I entered this world on the Champs-Elysees, 1959. La trottoir du Champs Elysees. And do you know what my very first words were? New York Herald Tribune! New York Herald Tribune!"
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"When you're young the odds are very good that you'll find something to enjoy in almost any movie. But as you grow more experienced, the odds change. Unless you're feebleminded, the odds get worse and worse. We don't go on reading the same kind of manufactured novels - pulp Westerns or detective thrillers, say - all of our lives, and we don't want to go on and on looking at movies about cute heists by comically assorted gangs. The problem with a popular art form is that those who want something more are in a hopeless minority compared with the millions who are always seeing it for the first time, or for the reassurance and gratification of seeing the conventions fulfilled again.
The critical task is necessarily comparative, and younger people do not truly know what is new. And despite all the chatter about the media and how smart the young are, they're incredibly naïve about mass culture - perhaps more naïve than earlier generations (though I don't know why). Maybe watching all that television hasn't done so much for them as they seem to think; and when I read a young intellectual' s appreciation of `Rachel, Rachel` and come to `the mother's passion for chocolate bars is a superb symbol for the second coming of childhood`, I know the writer is still in his first childhood, and I wonder if he's going to come out of it."
<i>Trash, Art, and the Movies</i>, by Pauline Kael.
Another worth reading: <i>A Century of Cinema</i> <a href="http://southerncrossreview.org/43/sontag-cinema.htm">(click over)</a> by Susan Sontag.
On January and March 2013, massive protests against same-sex marriage took the streets of Paris and made news worldwide. On May 18, same-sex marriage was legalized in France, what lead to another big manifestation, on May 26, with thousands of people calling for the withdrawal of the approved law. On that same day, a lesbian film won the Palme d'Or at the 66th Cannes Festival.
There's no doubt that Blue is the warmest color (La Vie d'Adèle - Chapitres 1 et 2) was controversial even before its première. If at that time I already thought that the Palme d'Or was a political choice - Cannes Jury President Steven Spielberg denies it, of course - after watching Abdellatif Kechiche's film, no doubts are left. The award was followed and celebrated mainly on social networks, with the film being praised by thousands of people who came to watch it only months later. Groupthink, something common within the public, has become also a constant feature within the critic, pretty much unanimous in their praise. It's known that film festivals are not parameter of quality anymore, but it's still expected that a film will be acclaimed for something else besides ideological and political views and long shots of graphic sex and nudity, which, by the way, reminds me of Shame, although Steve McQueen's film has a more interesting background. We must also mention Stranger by the Lake - winner of Cannes 2013's Queer Palm Award and Un Certain Regard (Best Director)-, a film really worthy of polemics, however, innovative and thought-provoking.
Based on Julie Maroh's comic book Le Bleu Est Une Couleur Chaud (Blue is a warm color), that covers the (around) fourteen years since Clémentine (Adèle) and Emma meet until the melodramatic final shot, Blue is the warmest color is more like a cheap soap opera praised as masterpiece. While Maroh's comic book focus on coming out, prejudice, doubts and fears, Kechiche insists that he had nothing militant to say about it and was only telling the story of a couple. Maroh actually echoes him saying that none of them had a militantly activist intent, but if you make a book hoping to no longer be insulted, rejected, beaten up, raped and murdered for being gay, you do have a militantly activist intent. Perhaps that was not the film's aim, however, if an absurd but turning point scene from the book was not included, Adèle's friends' homophobic reaction, the gay pride scene and the "lesbian sex for Dummies" could've also been removed. If such scenes were kept is because homosexuality, albeit quite in vogue, is obviously still not widely accepted, with no place, therefore, to the simplistic speech of "a couple like any other." Or maybe, and I bet all my chips there, given the media coverage received by the film, it's just one more "lesbian chic product", because if homosexuality is portrayed in a natural way somehow, the sex scenes are so laughable that one is sure Kechiche made his homework: lots and lots of lesbian porn and corny romance (there were even candles in the room. candles!). It's true that Maroh narrates Clémentine and Emma's first time in five pages, and that's her fault if Kechiche's "imagination" goes too far - "I want to do everything with you. Everything that is possible to be done in a life time", says Clémentine to Emma - but if in the comic book the scenes are exciting, in the film is the opposite.
"You don't find it a pain a director explaining it all? When a director makes me over-analyze a scene or a character, showing everything, it closes off my imagination. I don't like it".
Sometimes tender (Donna Deitch's Desert Hearts), sometimes hot (Zero Chou's Spider Lilies), sometimes "explicit" (Chantal Akerman's Je tu il elle), cinema's history is filled with beautiful scenes of love and sex between two women. We could claim that a woman understand it better, but let's not forget the terrible The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, and the delicate 80 egunean, written and directed by José Mari Goenaga and Jon Garaño, not to mention Lukas Moodysson's Fucking Åmål, one of the best lesbian coming-of-age films, Lianna, Egymásra nézve, Bound and so many other lesbian films directed by men. Much has been said about Kechiche's fetishism as something exclusively male, but if today Blue is the Warmest Color is the apple of the eyes and the enfant terrible of the time, three years ago was The Kids Are All Right the one raising warm (for) and exalted (against) criticism. Apparently so distant - a lesbian and a straight director - what brings these two films together is, indeed, the male gaze: a heterosexual and sexist view of the feminine. This discussion, by the way, reminds me of John Cassavetes's explanation for the lack of sex scenes in his work, which films can be considered rather sexist by some people:
"I'm concerned about the depiction of women on the screen. It has gotten worse than ever. It's related to their being either high- or low-class concubines, and the only question is when or where they will go to bed and with whom and how many. (...) As for showing the sexual act in film, I think that's a lot of balls, phony, exploitative and commercial. It's cheap voyeurism and I think there's too damned much of it now anyway. (...) Playboy magazine, tit films and cocktail-party diatribes have not only affected our society but have shaped it with such discontent regarding men and women that sex is no longer in itself sufficient without violence, death or neurosis as stimulants. I don't think there's aznything morally wrong with seeing a nude body on the screen, but it offends me to watch people kiss without genuine love or passion. Sex on the screen bores me."
It's known that Maroh and so many other lesbians didn't like Kechiche's "aesthetic approaches", but for me, not only the "so-called lesbian sex" was "brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold which turned into porn", but the whole picture. It's not Adèle that is voracious, Kechiche is; voracious, methodical and perfectionist. I can even imagine him shouting: "Adèle, lift that ass up!" Or, who knows, maybe measuring the lens'angle of view (i.e. Kechiche's thing for rear ends). As perfectly said by sociologist and gay activist Marie-Hélène Bourcier, the girl number of straight porn movies, where two girls go down on each other while waiting for a man to join them, is almost more honest, once the device is clear: a true voyeur shoots for guys. In Kechiche's case, she says , even if his thing is not wide open pussy (very pornovulgus), but nasal mucus and Adèle's gaping mouth, the voyeur device is present through its "cock camera" eager to close-ups. Indeed, his (oni) presence is so palpable that sometimes we have the impression of watching a ménage à trois not only sexual but also "intellectual", with Kechiche always standing out and offering the real pleasure: there are many artistic and literary references - Sartre , Francis Ponge , Choderlos de Laclos and Marivaux , whose novel La Vie de Marianne is a reference to the film's French title - however, Adèle's has a shallow depth (deeply shallow would be the right expression, but the photography technique shallow depth of field that consists in isolating "part of the shot which is nicely in focus while throwing elements in the background - and sometimes the foreground - out of focus and into a lovely blur" is exactly what Kechiche does in his film).
Although Maroh is ok with the fact that Kechiche's heroin has a personality far from hers and thinks that what "he developed is coherent, justified and fluid", I think that turning Clémentine into a dull, monosyllabic and vulgar (bad table manners and so on) Adèle was his most brutal move. The world is full of bestsellers, alright, but Adèle loves to read, likes Kubrick and Scorsese, and doesn't know what Fine Arts are? Not to mention that Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are not Picasso, but they are still quite known. Her bad manners, along with her lack of culture, far from representing certain voracity, show an exaggerated picture of the (simplistic, but good) working class in opposition to the (liberal, but "mean") intellectual/ high class, a point of view that is already quite clear in the selection of the leading actresses: Léa Seydoux, granddaughter of the Chairman of Pathé, "comes from an extremely wealthy, bourgeois, very comfortable milieu", while Adèle Exarchopoulos "comes from something that is definitely much more modest". Just by seeing some photos of the cast and watching the trailer, I knew that Adèle Exarchopoulos and Kechiche's Adèle were the same person. It's not a surprise to read that he chose her for the role after seeing her eating a lemon tarte, or to see, in interviews, that she speaks and behaves just like her character does. Kechiche opts for naturalism/realism, but more interesting and challenging would be to put the actresses in the opposite roles. One of the strongest points of the film, this social discourse could bring up an interesting discussion if not build on so many clichés. Nonetheless, like Boris says in Woody Allen's "Whatever Works", "sometimes a cliché is finally the best way to make one's point" and Kechiche sure does it showing how sexism is part of the gay community as well: Adèle, that has a "minor" job and a poor intellect is the good and helpful (house) wife; Lise, a cultured painter, but a mom and a femme, probably "cooks for Emma when she gets home at night and gives her flowers in the morning". The butch-femme relationship, an undeniable mirror of heterosexual relationships, usually perpetuates the so discussed stereotypes of male/female's roles.
Perhaps I am becoming too much demanding or too much bitter, but although Léa Seydoux is very convincing as a lesbian, I didn't see anything fantastic about the performances. If the ending is painful, it is not because of Adèle Exarchopoulos's good acting, but because one can relate to such heartbreak. Loving is painful, growing old is hard, and we all know about it.
- You don't love me anymore.
- (no)... But I have infinite tenderness for you. I always will.
* The burden of first love and Adèle's inability to move on slightly reminds me of Mia Hansen-Løve's film "Goodbye First Love".