Blue is the Warmest Color

Ceci est une critique en anglais que j’ai écrite pour un cours de cinéma lors d’un semestre d’études aux États-Unis. Une manière de voir la critique cinéma sous un autre angle.

The movie is the prestigious “Palme d’Or” winner at Cannes 2013, adapted from the comic Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, written in 2010. From the original text, Abdellatif Kechiche, director of the film, has kept almost nothing.

At the age of 15, Adèle is convinced she has to date boys and dreams of the great love. She meets Thomas and thinks she has it. Emma, a beautiful young blue-haired student she saw the same day, will haunt her dreams and her most intimate desires. Blue is the Warmest Color is the story of the identity quest of a high school girl coming from a modest background trapped between social flaws, her passion for a woman from a comfortable background, Emma, and her more or less desire to live a homosexual life.

First of all, the essence of the story has been changed. Where the comic exposes a universal love story through homosexuality, poisoned by political issues and moral conventions, the film introduces a lesbophobian love story prohibited by social class. The comic was written by an affirmed lesbian. The film was done by a cisperson, played by two non-lesbian main characters, and orchestrated from the shooting to the editing by strictly heterosexual people, without the consultancy of any lesbian women. As a result, the love scene between Adèle and Emma is hetero-standardized, relieving the male gaze of Kechiche instead of traducing the ultimate devotion to sexual identity. The love scenes are scopophiliatic and pornographic, punctuated by inappropriate and inflicted extreme close-up shots of private parts.

These uncomfortable extreme close-up shots usually used as emotional or informational tools here become a tightly-framed convention, forcing us to agree with Kechiche gaze. The overuse annihilates the intrinsic value of a close-up. Emotions are psychologically and physically exhausting by this mise-en-scène. The comic depicts the love story with black and white strong shots, long and close, interspersed by the ubiquitous blue color of Emma, symbol of desire, political and social deviance. The film proclaims itself realistic by the close-up, shaky-cam, badly-focused, improvised, real-life oddities, teenaged-vocabulary style. Problem. An authentic realistic movie would not have shot more than 700 hours of film and edited scenes temporally irrelevant; it would have omitted any inflected sentimental point of view; it would have rejected any clichés or melodrama; it would have proposed a scientific view of causality in this impossible love story, not sociological destiny.

This impossible love story is, according to Kechiche, due to social class. Emma is socially and philosophically educated, Adèle is not. The first eats oysters and white wine, debates on philosophy, the second eats pasta bolognaise. What a great sense of tact, without any stereotypical distinction. Poor people stay with poor people, love or not, passion or not. This is fate, innate. Adèle does not have the philosophy needed, the framework needed, the emancipation toughness needed to carry on her love story with Emma – themes completely missing in the comic. Instead, Julie Maroh explains the break-up due to political engagement and moral problems. In the comic, Adèle’s parents discover their daughter and Emma’s love story by surprise. They strongly refuse it, kicking out Adèle in the middle of the night, almost naked, banishing her for life. It is explained with three pages of visual, without any speech bubbles. Adèle will be bullied by her friends at high school, isolated at first but then truly accomplishing her sexual identity thanks to her homosexual friend, Valentin. She will have to grow up faster than predicted, homeless and rejected, giving up family and most of her friends but still at teenage age. Maroh’s comic depict persistent modern homophobic opinions hard to admit. In addition, Emma and Adèle will distance in consequence of their different political engagement. Emma protests and wants to makes things change; Adèle just wants a love story. Guess what? Both political and moral themes are absent in the film. This proves us Kechiche does not focus on the universality of the subject but on social class hermeticism, where a person willing to change the rules is damned to alienation.

The consequence of such over manipulation in the content and subject matter reflects in the characters. In the comic, Adèle’s diary orchestrates the love story of the two characters. It gives Adèle subjectivity where the film relegates her in a mutism and solitude which provides her a mystic aura. The Adèle from the comic is more confident whereas the Adèle from the comic is more unassuming.

Of course some elements of the comic are reused in the film. The comic fan will be glad to find the erotic dreams, the protests, the blue metaphor or the sex scenes (though irrelevant as said earlier). Of course, this loose adaptation respects the majority of the plot. Nevertheless it changes beginning and end, cornerstone of the story. It also divides the film in two unbalanced and illegitimate parts, altering the narrative length. It also does not adopt the flashback narrative of the comic.

It changes almost everything: the story, the characters, the chronology, the themes, the message, and even the protagonist’s names. As the comic’s author Julie Maroh pointed out in a blog reaction about the film, “the simple fact of talking about a minority, whatever the minority, implicates defending cause”. Abdellatif Kechiche could have delivered the universal love story, filled with political and moral complexity. Instead, he projected the repressed desires of the first half of males and put the other half in a forced awkwardness, falsely realistic, falsely political.

Knowing that each adaptation is by essence a rape of the original, Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the crudest undressing I have ever seen. “Palme d’Or”? Really?

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