I never thought I’d utter this phrase: I loved Blue is the Warmest Color despite its seven-minute sex scene.
If you’re not up on la controverse de Cannes, the movie won the Palme d’Or at this year’s festival but was immediately dogged by negative publicity. The two young actresses at the heart of the love story said they felt bullied and exploited by director Abdellatif Kechiche and that he forced them into graphic sexual intimacy they weren’t comfortable with. What’s more, some female viewers, lesbians in particular, felt that Kechiche’s film was more about the male gaze than real intimacy between two women.
Defending a film against accusations of the “male gaze” is a bit tricky. Aren’t all films essentially the “gaze” of the director? Yes, Kechiche’s film is abundantly sensual—fleshy, you might even say. But he doesn’t only apply this gaze to the sex scenes. He eroticizes a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese as much as a naked breast. The whole film is an orgy of human desire.
And it’s a remarkable achievement: A three-hour film about a subject no less well-trodden than a young girl’s first love that is absolutely mesmerizing from beginning to end. When we first meet...