You've probably heard of the French film "Blue Is the Warmest Color" if the Cannes Film Festival was on your radar or if you've heard buzz about the film's graphic 10 minute sex scene. But just in case you haven't, we're here to bring you up to speed on the critically acclaimed lesbian-centered drama that got itself an NC-17 rating in the U.S.
What It's About: From Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche, "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is based on the 2010 French graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh. The film follows the love story that blossoms between two women, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux, "Ghost Protocol").
Why It's So Controversial: "Blue" first hit the film world's radar when it won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at Cannes, earlier this year. However, the film provoked such fiery attention for its incredibly erotic and extended sex scenes. While some prosthetics were used, the actresses' bare bodies are shown and not just briefly, but for a full 10-minute scene and then in two shorter ones that follow. After winning at Cannes, the film stirred up more heat when Exarchopoulos and Seydoux spoke out against Kechiche and his directing methods, claiming they felt like prostitutes and were forced to do things they never agreed upon. Critics have taken multiple stances on the use of nudity and depiction of lesbian sex in the film, including Manohla Dargis who derided the scenes as exploitative, and Indiewire who proclaimed them sexy and accurate, but boring.
What Sets It Apart: In the LGBT genre, and especially in mainstream movies, there is a pronounced lack of well-made films that realistically portray lesbian relationships. The few films that do center on a female couple's story, which are usually indie or foreign, are either campy ("But I'm a Cheerleader"), stereotypical male fantasies ("Room in Rome"), or a little too cute to be believable ("Imagine Me & You"). "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is one of the few, if only, that treats a lesbian relationship like that of any couple -- the fights, the lustful honeymoon phase, the heartbreak, the jealousy are all portrayed without attention to the fact that it's experienced between two women. Although Stacie Passon's "Concussion" is said to be a similarly commendable depiction of sexuality, "Blue" is one of the best lesbian dramas to ever come to the big screen.
Why You Should See It: While "Blue" puts into question appropriate filmmaking methods, it also pushes the boundaries of the representation of sex -- specifically lesbian sex -- in movies. Would the scenes have been different from a female or a lesbian director? Should they be dismissed for their length and graphic content, or praised for their more accurate portrayal of lesbian sex than in previous films? These questions make up the whole of why "Blue" is such an important movie, and not just for a niche audience, but for everyone.
"Blue Is the Warmest Color" opens in limited release this weekend.