"What does that even mean, Blue Is The Warmest Color?" asked my friend as the two of us exited Abdellatif Kechiche's 3-hour-long Palme d'Or winning film last night.
"Was it in reference to her blue hair?"
"I think in France the title is 'the life of Adele'," I haltingly responded, as if that somehow answered her question or justified the Blue title.
"Oh," she said.
The reasoning behind the film's title was only the tip of the iceberg for the two of us. As we walked down the street, we pontificated in voices which grew increasingly loud and incredulous.
"Was that really meant to be a realistic depiction of Adele her losing her virginity to that guy?"
"What ever happened to Emma's initial girlfriend?"
"Why were those sex scenes so long and so excruciatingly polished - as well as extremely out of character for Adele? (Manohla Dargis touches on this in her New York Times review.)"
"Was I supposed to care?"
That last question felt particularly irreconcilable. Blue left me laughing when I think I was meant to be writhing, or at least in a state of perpetual awe at the actresses' "passion." Emma and Adele, not surprisingly, don't end up together, and I found myself trying to squeeze tears out of my eyes as the two of them sobbingly sucked each others fingers over a cup of coffee in one of the film's many reconciliation scenes. Quite simply, I didn't care. However, fellow moviegoers, the Internet, critics, peers, friends, and the mass opinion regarding Blue have insisted that I should. Why is this?
Blue is not my first foray into the perverse, fantastic world of contemporary French films about sex. I love these films because they tear apart Hollywood-enforced rules of what is appropriate to show on camera. I have been challenged morally and physically by directors such as Catherine Breillat, whose film Fat Girl, another coming-of-age tale of sexual awakening, makes Blue pale in comparison, and Betrand Bonello, whose 2011 House of Pleasures so brilliantly defied the trap of cinematized pornography -- another area in which Blue utterly fails. These films have made me weep and cringe. They have rendered me speechless. When I first started hearing Blue buzz I was wildly excited. I couldn't wait to experience another movie which presented me with complicated sexual realities that are always overlooked or censored in American cinema.
I was disappointed.
I thought Blue was clumsy, horribly edited, directorially indulgent, cheaply pornographic, and, above all, a straight man's lesbian fever dream. The lead actresses are extremely talented -- there were moments in their performances which I enjoyed. For those looking to see Léa Seydoux in other, more successful films, I would recommend La belle personne or Les adieux à la reine. The fact remains, however, that this movie comes across as an extended aesthetic masturbation sequence -- an all too appropriate comparison. I'm sure it made Kechiche feel very good. The viewers? Irrelevant.
This begs the questions: why is everyone fawning over this movie? Are we so sexually illiterate in film that we feel the need to jump at any portrayal of deviant sexualities -- in this case homosexuality -- and deem them "brilliant" simply because of the subject matter? Are we afraid of being seen as not cultured, intellectual or accepted enough because we reject Blue on the basis of its being a bad film -- irrespective of its lesbian plot line? Let's critique Blue for what it is: a film, and not the vehicle through which to rectify our collective sexual insecurities.
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