Much ink has been spilled over the feral seven-minute sex scene in the riveting French drama Blue is the Warmest Color.
The sexual bildungsroman, for the uninitiated, centers on Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a 15-year-old high school student in Lille. She is ravenous, and consumes everything from her father’s signature spaghetti to Marivaux with rapacious license. This attitude eventually extends to lovemaking. After crossing paths with Emma (Léa Seydoux), an out art student at a nearby college with an eye-catching blue ‘do, the precocious teen falls for her. The film is directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, and based on the graphic novel of the same name (French translation: Le bleu est une couleur chaude) by author Julie Maroh.
“The story is about what most of queer, trans and questioning teenagers are going through, what we all had to deal with in the inside and afterwards with our environment,” Maroh told The Daily Beast. “Most of us had to go through difficult steps (and some don't survive those steps) and this is what I tried to make a story with. It's also a love story and a reflection on society, on loss, the fact that our time in this world is short, and about the path that the love we awakened keeps following."
After a lengthy flirtation, including some tender petting in the park, all of the nubile young women’s sexual tension is released during their first erotic encounter: a seven-minute tangle of writhing, sweating, slapping, and moaning with ecstasy.
The sex scene—as well as the film as a whole—has, of course, been the subject of great controversy. The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote, “it’s the patriarchal anxieties about sex, female appetite and maternity that leach into its sights and sounds and the way it frames, with scrutinizing closeness, the female body. In the logic of the movie, Adèle’s body is a mystery that needs solving and, for a brief while, it seems as if Emma will help solve it.” And I voiced my own issues with the scene in particular, writing that it felt like male-orchestrated exhibitionism that lacked the “female gaze.”
Maroh has also spoken out against the scene, describing it in an op-ed as “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and made me feel very ill at ease.”
While the scene in the film drags on for seven minutes, the first sexual encounter between Clémentine (she’s renamed Adèle in the movie) and Emma in the graphic novel occurs over four pages (94-97) of the 160-page tome. Here’s what the scene looks like in the book:
Images from Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. Copyright 2013 by Julie Maroh. Published with permission of Arsenal Pulp Press.