If you pay attention to lesbian-themed media, you already know that the winner of the 2013 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival was Blue Is The Warmest Color, based on a French bande dessinée Le Bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh. Arsenal Pulp Press has put out an English translation, which is the subject of today’s review. The movie has been the object of much talk and considerable controversy – the actresses have stated that they hated doing it and the director has said it should never be released. Most damning, Maroh has repudiated the movie, claiming it was no more than porn.
Blue Is The Warmest Color is not an easy book, no matter how you view it.
It begins with a setup similar to June Kim’s 12 Days. Clem has passed away and her lover Emma seeks some solace, perhaps closure. Emma visits Clementine’s family to read a diary that was left for her. The diary begins at the beginning of the story with Clementine, 15, as she starts to navigate the thorny path of human sexuality, love and friendship and, as she sees, meets and falls for Emma.
Right from the beginning, theirs is not a good relationship. Emma has a girlfriend, Clem is hiding her relationship from most of her friends. And when they finally seem to put it all together – we skip more than a decade into the future. Emma is distant, Clem is abusing alcohol and drugs and their relationship is a dead and rotting thing. Clem’s illness and death brings the two of them together in a way that her life never had.
Maroh’s art is very good, very moody. Flashback scenes are done in kind of sepia wash, which I appreciated as a nice cinematic touch. Emma’s blue eyes and hair stand out as a stark, vibrant spot of bright color in an otherwise dull world. The glimpses of Parisian student life struck me as very La Bohème or, perhaps, Rent. ^_^
The translation is good in the way that I define good – everything is perfectly understandable, but the rhythms of the words are just ever-so-slightly not American English enough to make me hear accents. Like watching a foreign movie with subtitles. Speaking of subtitles, I absolutely hated the fonts chosen for the English edition. They were both wholly appropriate, but hella hard for me to read – too thin for my taste.
Watching Clem handle her situation and her life so badly, I was reminded very forcefully of my first years with my wife. It could have gone more like this; either one of our families could have made it impossible for us. I am once again mindful of the blessings which we have been given in our years together.
Art – 8
Story – A hard 8
Characters – I found both Clem and Emma hard to like, but they were both real – 8
Lesbian – 10
Service – Tough to score. There is sex, but it’s not mean to be – or be read as – titillating, which is why Maroh hated the movie, which had long, lingering sex scenes for the sake of sex scenes. Let’s say – 5
Overall – 8
Don’t expect a delightful tale of coming out, or emotional redemption – this is an excellently well-crafted, well-executed story of a reality in which there is no happily, much less an ever after.