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Why I Regret Watching “Blue is the Warmest Color”

I watched this “Blue is the Warmest Color” because it showed up on so many “Best of 2013” lists, and intended to review it. But then, while reading articles and other critics’ reviews about it, I changed my mind.  I’m not going to review it. I wish I hadn’t watched it. I recommend that you avoid it.

There has been a lot written about the sex scenes. Are they pornographic, or artistic?  Are they too perfect, in a movie that, in all its other scenes, values the real and the raw over the perfectly composed? If people are sexually aroused while watching them, does that make them porn?  What if people watch them for the sole purpose of being aroused? Are they necessary to convey the director’s artistic vision? What about “the male gaze”?  Does it matter that neither of the actresses, or the director, or anybody else significantly involved, are gay?

 

In my mind, all of this misses the point. It’s a debate that can rage on and on, and one I don’t enjoy. Here is what matters to me: the actresses, Adele Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux, have said in various interviews that filming the sex scenes was a humiliating, degrading experience. They have vowed never to work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again. That when they signed the contract to make the film, they knew there would be sex scenes, but they had no idea they would spend ten grueling days filming the sex scenes over and over again. That Kechiche asked them to do things no other director had ever asked them to do.

In response to these allegations, Kechiche has accused them, Seydoux especially, of being disingenuous and careerist, of conspiring with his enemies to destroy him.  In my mind, this is perhaps the worst possible thing he could have said.  It sounds almost exactly like a man accused of rape turning the accusation back on the victim, questioning her character and credibility. It’s one of the oldest, dirtiest tricks in the book, and it’s time that it stopped working.

In response to all of this, the same critics that praised this film have basically shrugged, saying that often directors have to do unsavory things to their actors in order to get the performances necessary for their art. They point to the way Hitchcock treated his actresses, especially Tipi Hedrin in “The Birds,” or the way Kubrick bullied Shelley Duvall while making “The Shining.” They mention how Maria Schneider felt she’d been raped by Brando and Bertolucci during “Last Tango in Paris.”  And because these are all considered great films, that makes it okay.

I disagree. I absolutely, emphatically disagree. Degrading women, or anyone else, for the sake of great art is a heinous practice. It should be considered a contradiction in terms – if someone has to feel degraded, humiliated, or for heaven’s sake raped in order for your artistic vision to be realized, then I am not interested in your artistic vision, or in you as an artist. This kind of thing should not be tolerated, and I won’t tolerate it. I will never again watch a film by Abdellatif Kechiche, not unless he apologizes to these actresses and changes the way he makes films.

Critics and writers can debate all they want about the definition of pornography.  If you ask me, if a woman is humiliated and degraded while making a film, if she regrets ever signing that contract because of the sexual things the director demands that she do, that film is a piece of garbage not worth my time or attention.  I wish I had known better.  I would never have watched “Blue is the Warmest Color” in the first place.

Some of the articles I mentioned:

Manohla Dargis – The Trouble With ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’

Owen Gleiberman – Are the sex scenes in ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ artful? Or are they ‘male gaze’ porn?

Lea Seydoux says she felt like a prostitute during Blue is the Warmest Color’ sex scene

Actresses say they’ll never work with the director again

Kechiche fires back

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Posted in All Reviews.

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