When I watched this film at my local cinema, I had no idea of the controversy embroiled between the director and the main actresses regarding his techniques and apparent grueling schedule. Undoubtedly this is an exquisite piece of cinema, regardless of any external and potentially sullying facts.
Abdellatif had already begun writing a screenplay focussed on his acute interest in school teachers. Discovering Julie Maroh’s graphic novel charting the lesbian love affair between an artist and a school teacher, Abdellatif tapped his screenplay into this new source of blood and out came 2013‘s Cannes Festival darling, winning the coveted Palme d’Or.
Proceeding the films release Maroh criticized the graphic sex scenes between the two leading characters Emma and Adele, which the film was so lauded for. According to an English translation taken from her personal blog the explicit sex scenes were “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn”. The key element that was missing; ‘Lesbians’…
I disagree with hers and a few critics comments who deemed these scenes as merely voyeurism directed by Abdellatif for the male gaze: A saucy lesbian love affair embellished unaturally for the screen. Given the graphic nature of the performances and the subject matter someone is always going to take issue. I felt the two actresses conveyed passion, longing and pure pleasure in an honest yet confronting way. How the Director may have elicited these evocative performances is irrelevant of their effect.
The exploration of Adele’s lesbian awakening contrasted with Emma’s experience was an intriguing angle. The backdrop of Emma’s emergence into the French art-world while Adele worked her way through her first year as a School teacher creates a poignant reality where the dynamics between the two almost, but never quite line up.
The movie is slow paced and the duration is 3 hours and 15 minutes. It feels long. However I was submerged so deep in Adele’s discovery, her naive appreciation of reality, her sorrowful losses and hard learned lessons that I loved its entirety. A masterpiece as it stands, cutting it to fit within bathroom parameters would only lessen its powerful impact.
I have little insight into why the bitter words between the Director and the two main actresses, and although his methods maybe questionable there is no doubting he does achieve something extraordinary…. “Abdell loves to take his time. He doesn’t like fabrication. He doesn’t want to see you act — he wants to take your soul.”~ Exarchopoulos.
http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/timeline-blue-is-the-warmest-color-controversy.html – A summation of what he said she said following the films debut.