Blue is the Warmest Color has been a sensation among cinephiles, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes from a jury headed by Steven Spielberg. It is an amazing film that manages to portray romance and relationships as they are – full of complexity, anxiety, shame, tenderness, sexuality – all of it. Anyone who was once young and in love can see so much of themselves in the passion between Adèle and Emma.
And yet I wonder if much of the film’s commercial and critical success is a reflection of our enduring patriarchy. I wonder if it is because the two lovers are women, and not both men, that male critics and tastemakers feel comfortable backing the film. Yes, we had a Brokeback Mountain moment almost a decade ago, but the sex between Jack and Ennis was brief and implied. This does not discredit the film or its impact, it simply means that audiences are still more comfortable with witnessing gore and murder than passion and sexuality. At a recent Q&A in New York City, Adèle Exarchopoulos said as much. How queer that at her age, she could live in the Unites States and buy a gun but not a beer.
A question that has probably existed for as long as there have been art critics – is sex in art necessary? Is it enough to imply it? Does the way in which a character has sex on top of the sheets say something about them that wouldn’t be conveyed were they under them?
Blue is the Warmest Color features approximately seven minutes of unobscured sex over a handful of scenes. But again, if the leads were men, but the film equally brilliant in structure and performance, would a film industry dominated by men still have championed it? Would female critics have taken up the charge? How wonderful that we have a film on our hands which raises such discussion.