Daily Archives: January 4th, 2014

QotD: “Gazing at Love”

Largely what is wrong with Kechiche’s overdirected ecstatic scenes is artistic; they go on too long and are emotionally uninformative, almost comedically ungainly and dull to watch, as most long sex scenes are. (Did we learn nothing from Vivien Leigh’s little morning-after smile in Gone With the Wind? There are more elegant and succinct ways of communicating coital satiety than perspiring and exhausted flesh.) These scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Color constitute an almost fatal narrative mistake. Cinematic sex (unlike pillow talk, and that includes the pillow talk here, as well as that of Rock Hudson and Doris Day) is not all that fascinating because it is not all that sharable. What is being experienced by the characters is not something that can be felt by viewing. But the other problem is that despite these young women appearing expert in what they are doing in bed, the sex may be inauthentic—no youthful fumbling here. Manohla Dargis has written in The New York Times that their pantomiming is obvious; others have noted that Kechiche’s lesbian sex is laughably constructed with pornographic tropes; Julie Maroh, the author of the book the film is based on, has also complained of the bedroom choreography. For a filmmaker whose strength seems to be a vital naturalism, these are sticking criticisms.

From a narrative perspective the most perplexing problem with these sex scenes is that they mute and obscure the actresses, who otherwise, in many other parts of the film, offer their intelligent faces and voices to the screen in subtle and moving ways. In visual media the body is often deeply inexpressive compared to the heart’s great canvas—the face. The sex between these characters, as is true of most carnality, causes the interesting parts of these women’s personalities to recede. The actresses for long stretches of time become action heroes, and the portrait of them that the film has ostensibly been working on grinds, so to speak, to a halt.

Lorrie Moore on Blue is the Warmest Colour