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Blue Is the Warmest Color Author Julie Maroh vs. Abdellatif Kechiche

Blue Is the Warmest Color Lea SeydouxLéa Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Color.

‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ graphic novel writer Julie Maroh discusses Abdellatif Kechiche’s film adaptation + lesbian sex scenes

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel on which Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color is based, wrote a lengthy essay on her blog following both the film’s Cannes Film Festival win and vociferous anti-gay marriage protests organized by the Christian far-right that drew more than 150,000 people to the French capital.

In the text, Maroh touches on various topics: the “immense and intense” process she has undergone following the movie adaptation of a “ridiculous” story she wrote during the summer when she was 19; her concerns regarding the “banalization of homosexuality”; Abdellatif Kechiche’s handling of the film’s widely discussed lesbian sex scenes; and the fact that the movie adaptor kept the author of the original text at a distance both during the production of Blue Is the Warmest Color and at the Cannes Film Festival itself. (See also: “Blue Is the Warmest Color Director Congratulated by Tunisia’s Islamic Government.”)

Blue Is the Warmest Color tells the story of the love affair between a blue-haired woman in her 20s (Léa Seydoux) and a dark-haired one in her teens (Adèle Exarchopoulos). The film opens in France on October 9, and in North America – via IFC Films’ Sundance Selects – probably some time later this year.

And here are a few snippets from Julie Maroh’s essay (“adapted” – via the French original – from the English-language version found here):

‘The banalization of homosexuality’

What interests me is the banalization of homosexuality. I didn’t write a book to preach to the choir, I didn’t write a book only for lesbians.

[Blue Is the Warmest Color] is a purely Kechichian film, with the typical characters that inhabit his cinematic universe. As a result, his heroine has a personality that is very different from mine, that’s true. But what he has created is coherent, justified, and fluid. It’s a masterstroke.

Don’t go watch it expecting to experience what you went through while reading [the graphic novel]. You’ll recognize its tonalities, but you’ll discover that the movie is something else altogether.

Blue Is the Warmest Color lesbian sex scenes ‘turned into porn’

When it comes to the ass [translated as “banging” on the site’s English-language text] … Yes, when it comes to the ass [banging] … Since it has been on the lips of those who talk about the film … First of all, I should clarify that in the three-hour film, these scenes take up only a few minutes. If we talk about them so much that’s because of the director’s approach.

I believe that Kechiche and I have opposing, and possibly complementary, aesthetic approaches. The manner he has chosen to shoot [the lesbian sex] scenes is coherent with the rest of what he has created. Sure, to me that feels far from my method of creation and representation, but it would be quite stupid of me to reject something on the pretext that it’s different from my own vision.

That’s me as a writer. Now, as a lesbian…

It’s clear to me what was missing on the [Blue Is the Warmest Color] set: lesbians.

I don’t know the sources of information for the director and the actresses (all straight, unless proven otherwise) and I was never consulted beforehand. Maybe there was someone present to coarsely show with her hands the possible positions and/or to show them some so-called “lesbian” porn (unfortunately, rarely made for a lesbian audience).

Because – apart from a few instances – that’s what [the lesbian sex scenes] brought to mind: a display both brutal and surgical, demonstrational and cold of so-called lesbian sex, which is turned into porn, and that made me feel very ill at ease.

Especially when, inside a movie theater, everyone tries to contain their laughter: the heteronormative ones because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous; the gays and transgender people because it’s not convincing, and they find it equally ridiculous. And among the only people not heard laughing are possibly guys too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of one of their fantasies.

As a feminist and lesbian audience member, I cannot follow [“endorse” in the English-language version] the direction Kechiche took on those matters.

Anyhow, I don’t see the film as a betrayal. In my view, when it comes to adapting another work, the concept of betrayal should be reconsidered. Because I lost control of my book the moment I made it available for reading. It’s an object destined to be handled, felt, interpreted. [Maroh then adds that Kechiche’s own work has gone through the same process.]

Blue Is the Warmest Color movie Lea SeydouxLéa Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Color.

‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ movie: Julie Maroh discusses Abdellatif Kechiche’s failure to acknowledge her

In the segment below (translated from the French original), Julie Maroh describes her less-than-satisfying professional relationship with Abdellatif Kechiche. I’m not a mind reader, but I do believe that her last couple of sentences carry a heavy dose of irony.

This finale at Cannes is evidently incredible, breathtaking. … Tonight, I discovered that it was the first time in film history that a “comic strip” [graphic novel] inspired a Palme d’Or winner, and this thought leaves me petrified. …

I’d like to thank everyone who was astonished, shocked, disgusted that Kechiche didn’t say a thing about me while accepting the Palme d’Or. I have no doubts that he had good reasons for not having done so, much like he surely had his reasons for not making me visible on the red carpet at Cannes, even though I had crossed France to join them; for not meeting with me – even for a single hour – while shooting the film; for not appointing someone to keep me informed during the production process from June 2012 to April 2013; and for having never replied to any of my messages since 2011.

But to those who lively reacted [to Kechiche’s Palme d’Or acceptance speech], I’d like to say that I don’t feel any bitterness. He didn’t make a declaration in front of the cameras, but on the evening of the official screening at Cannes, there were a few witnesses who heard him say to me, “Thank you, you were the starting point,” while holding my hand very tight.

Blue Is the Warmest Color cast

Besides Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, the Blue Is the Warmest Color cast features Jeremie Laheurte, Catherine Salée, Aurélien Recoing, and Sandor Funtek. Abdellatif Kechiche co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with Ghalia Lacroix (also the film’s co-editor).

The 2013 Cannes Film Festival Official Competition jury consisted of the following: Jury president Steven Spielberg (War Horse, Lincoln), Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Grace of Monaco), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi), Cristian Mungiu (4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Beyond the Hills), Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest, Hanezu), Christoph Waltz (Water for Elephants, Django Unchained), Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ratcatcher), Vidya Balan (The Dirty Picture, No One Killed Jessica), and Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette, The Eighth Day).

An American remake for Blue Is the Warmest Color?

Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color is one of the rare “gay movies” to have won the top award at a major international film festival. A predecessor was Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal – and which didn’t feature any hot-and-heavy gay sex scenes, something that probably made it easier for the “gay cowboy” love story to take home the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion back in 2005.

I mean, would Abdellatif Kechiche’s sexually explicit – or at least sexually charged – La Vie d’Adèle (the original French title translates as “The Life of Adèle”) have won the Palme d’Or had it been called La Vie d’Adel? Would Kechiche have even considered making such a movie? The Blue Is the Warmest Color director stated that “during the shoot, I rarely thought of the fact that it was about two women. I saw two characters who loved each other, and the thought that they were of the same sex didn’t cross my mind.” But would Kechiche have remained as oblivious to the same-sex issue had he filmed sex scenes with two guys giving their all? Maybe yes. Quite possibly not.

Anyhow, don’t expect 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, or Columbia / Sony Pictures to get into a bidding war for the American remake rights of Abdellatif Kechiche’s well-received French drama.


Léa Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Color a.k.a. Blue Is the Warmest Colour photo: Wild Bunch.

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