So, my recent cultural outlets are Blue is the Warmest Colour, the film directed by Kechiche, and Wrecked, a semi-autobiographical novel by Charlotte Roche.
Why is Blue is the Warmest Colour? because Adele falls in love with Emma who has blue hair when they meet. Simply put. I only realise now that this shot:
is of Adele literally bathing in blue, the essence of Emma, after they have broken up and she’s lost Emma completely. I didn’t pick up on that watching it, I was like, more long shots of Adele doing something boring in a stylised way. No more shots of Adele eating spaghetti I beg you.
I made a point of going to see it even though I wasn’t looking forward to it after all the ‘we felt like prostitutes’ controversy over the sex scenes. I thought they would be cringy and I was actually slightly scared that I would hate the sex scenes to the point I’d have to walk out. But I didn’t, they made me laugh, the ass slapping just struck me as hilarious. I’m not saying ass slapping is funny in itself, but in their sex scenes it was extremely funny. Maybe laughing at it relieved the weird tension of the scenes for me also. It wasn’t a sexy tension, more a tension at the obvious fakeness of it. It was observed so closely that you were like, ah great, orgasm face in detail. The whole point of orgasm is it’s an out of body experience surely, whereas these scenes were so fully in the body that it was just a bit gross/ridiculous.
To summarise this aspect let me quote from the copious internet machine, I love this reviewer:
‘ I was hoping things might improve when we got to the sex scenes, but although they are, as the press has excitedly reported, long and relentless, they are also muted and unsweaty. No deranged cries of “Bouffe ma chatte, putain!” No damp, desperate skin. Léa Seydoux, who plays art student Emma, has complained that Kechiche made her wear a prosthetic vagina for hours, so maybe that’s why the sex feels so vanilla.’
‘Kechiche’s cold and calculating approach to the now-notorious sex scene, in which the actresses contort themselves mechanically and with great solemnity into a variety of sexual positions. ‘ Bitch magazine.
Apparently the seven minute sex scene took them ten days to film. I don’t know what I think about the film overall. I am still disappointed at how obviously straight both the lead actresses are, although that is to be expected. I just always think it’d be cool to have lesbians acting lesbians, like Alice in the L word, coming from a bi place. I’m not sure why this is an issue for me, something to do with under-representation probably. However it is a really immersive film and makes you re-visit your first love feelings. I found it was shot a bit like Frances Ha, some of the narrative you have to infer, clear snap shots are given of family and home and then that’s your lot. There’s none of that Hollywood here’s your epiphany with a moral of the story thrown in. As a Hollywood viewer I tried to find a moral to the story, all I got was Adele is careless and so she loses her love. Do not be careless with your lives or you will lose what gives it meaning. Emma is careless with Adele, also, I like this reviewer who mentions how she uses Adele as a muse but neglects her emotionally. I could rave for hours about the complexity to it all, but there’s where I am at with it-friends, do not be careless.
Wrecked by Charlotte Roche, German author. Central happening of the novel, a car crash in which she loses her three brothers (true from her life) and her mother is injured. Details are revealed slowly, but you know it is coming, which is my favourite way in novels of dealing with tragedy. I love how the tragedy is embedded in the novel so that you get that horrible feeling of yes, this happened and here it is, this awful thing in the middle of the breakfast table with the half empty orange juice glasses. It’s the technique in Atwood’s Alias Grace to even more extreme effect, one of my favourite novels.
The opening scene is a sex scene, graphically described, yes here we are again. Sara kept reading it over my shoulder on the plane (four hour journey ergh) and going, gross. It’s clinically described, as many close ups as Kechiche would like. There are some interesting reviews of the feminist angle on it. As both a mocking of feminism, and also a sex positive feminism. The mocking comes from Elizabeth’s rebellion against her feminist mother. While giving a blow job her mother sits on her shoulder, like a mini-devil (angel?) telling her this is not an enjoyable experience and why is she doing it. Elizabeth (protagonist) also refers to major German feminist Alice Schwarzer. In ‘real life’ Alice has responded to the novel, criticising it:
‘for upholding a patriarchal view of sex, accusing her of using it as a marketing tool. By patriarchal view, we can assume she means that of a subservient wife, denying herself her own sexuality at the expense of her husband’s. Schwarzer notes the lack of sexual material in the book, despite this being a theme Roche claims to address. This is reason for Schwarzer to call it a “gimmick”, a marketing technique. She also suggests that the book portrays “desperate women” going to great lengths to keep a husband, referring, for example, to Elizabeth’s visit to a brothel with her husband despite suffering a digestive problem.’ Laura Way reviews.
I said the car crash was a central happening of the story, but you could say the brothel visit is the present central happening, the car crash occupies a weird vacuum where it is both of the past and in the present, and tomorrow also, it happens forever. Whereas the brothel visit is the novel’s happening in the moment, the action of the now. You only have three days of her life, Tuesday to Thursday. Thursday is the brothel visit so most of Tuesday and Wednesday are spent negotiating life, going to therapy, eating cabbage. Catching worms off your child and treating them (the digestive problem mentioned earlier). I was looking forward to the brothel visit if only to vary the pace, in fact you do come to identify with the narrator in that sense. She uses sex to distract herself from the inner turmoil of grief and loss, sex absolves her of responsibility, guilt, even survival. By the time the sex comes around you are yourself desperate for a break from all the pain and trouble. It’s a novel about the trouble of surviving, from the character’s overwhelming concerns with driving safely, to her concerns for the environment. These concerns meet when she sees a huge car in traffic, she has to get out of her car, walk up to the window of the driver and tick them off for using up the world’s resources in this gas guzzling way. Funny and sad.
I found the overall tone of the novel really reassuring. Kind of, I thought I was f**ked up, I got no worries. The sex positive feminism stuff confused me, it just re-confirmed to me that sex is a culmination of so many weird pressures and past history that it’s amazing we ever do have fun with it. My favourite scene which summed this up, her husband pre-brothel visit shaved his genitals then wore a golden thong. Hilarious. Elizabeth’s doubt of it’s appropriateness, hilarious:
‘Georg is finished with the tai chi he does for his back. I see him pass by the door in his brothel undies. It’s a G-string in the back, running up his ass crack. In the front is a gold pouch for his cock and balls. Embarrassing. But he seems to be in a great mood and is whistling a tune with a beat as fast as a racing heart.’ (p.248).
And I’ll leave with a celebratory quote from Alice O’Keeffe:
‘I find Roche’s brand of bloody-minded emotional openness inspiring. If women’s liberation means freeing us to be more truly ourselves, we should celebrate a writer like Roche, whose voice is defiantly, shamelessly her own.’ The Guardian reviews.