Saturday, 18 May 2013

Julie Maroh's thoughts on Blue is the Warmest Colour

I recently watched Blue is the Warmest Colour (aka La Vie d’Adele) and, like many people, I was keen to hear what the author of the original comic book, Julie Maroh, had to say about the film, and its many controversies. As far as I know, she has only publically spoken of it once, and that was in a single blog post on her website, and she now declines all requests to discuss it further.

I found a few articles that took a few choice quotes out of this blog post and made stories out of them, but I wanted to read all of the author's comments in context. Unfortunately it appeared that only one English translation existed, and while it was occasionally excellent, and even linked to from Maroh's blog, it was also largely terrible. (I don't know if Maroh wrote it herself, but it seems likely that friends of hers may have done it for her, either way, it wasn't very easy to decipher.)

So I decided to go back to Maroh's original blog post and translate it myself (with a little help from the original English translation -- it was very helpful at times).

If you can suggest any improvements, let me know. This is the first time I've ever attempted a translation, but I do believe that, despite the bits of weirdness that still exist in this version, you get a much better idea of what she was trying to say. (Please comment if you disagree. Thanks.)

Adele's Blue 

by Julie Maroh (27 May, 2013)

The Original Color

For nearly two weeks I've shied away from speaking about La Vie d’Adele (Blue is the Warmest Colour). And for good reason; as the author of the adapted book, I've gone through a process too huge and intense to easily put into words.

This is not just about what [writer-director] Kechiche has created.

It's about processing the impact of our actions -- about writing a silly story one summer as a 19 year old and arriving at... "this," today.

It's about processing the desire to communicate feelings about Life, Love and Humanity as an artist, in general. It's about processing me and the choices I made.

So, yes... I'm dealing with indescribable emotions to do with repercussion. About standing up and speaking, and where it can lead.

What interests me is the normalization of homosexuality.

I did not write a book to preach to the choir, nor was it only for lesbians. My wish from the beginning was to attract the attention of those who:
  • had no idea
  • had misconceptions due to ignorance
  • hated me/us
I know that some are engaged in an entirely different fight: to keep this unconventional, subversive. I'm not saying I'm not ready to defend that. I'm just saying that what interests me the most is that, myself, those that I love, and all the others, should no longer be:
  • insulted
  • rejected
  • attacked
  • raped
  • murdered
in the street, at school, at work, with family, on holidays, at home. Because of our differences.

Everyone interprets and identifies with the book in their own way, but I just wanted to clarify what inspired me. The aim was also to tell the story of a romantic encounter, how a tale of love can grow, be destroyed, and what remains of the love that was awakened after a break up, mourning, death. This is what interested Kechiche.

Neither of us had any intention to be activists. However I quickly saw after the publication of Blue in 2010, that the mere mention of a minority makes you a participant in the discussion (either for or against), whether you like it or not.

The Change from Comic to Movie

Kechiche and I met before I agreed to sign away the adaptation of my book, more than two years ago. I've always had a great amount of affection and admiration for his work, but it was mostly this meeting that led me to trust him. I stated from the outset that I did not want to participate in the project, it was his film. Perhaps this is what led him to trust me in return. Never-the-less, we met several times afterwards. I remember the copy of the Blue he carried under his arm: there was not one centimetre of space in the margins; it was filled with his scribbled notes. There was much talk of the characters, love, pain - life basically.

We talked about losing our Great Love. I had lost mine the previous year. When I think back to the last part of La Vie d’Adele, I find the salty taste of this wound.

For me this adaptation is another version/vision/reality of the same story. One does not destroy the other. What came out from Kechiche's film reminded me of falling onto gravel; of the pain of skin scraping against asphalt. The film is purely Kechichian, with characters typical of his work. Consequently his heroine is very remote compared to mine, it's true. But what he created is coherent, justified and fluid. It's a master stroke.

Do not go see and it hoping to feel what you felt when Blue. You will recognize tones, but you will also find something else.

Before seeing the film in Paris, I had been warned, "It's freely adapted. Really, it's very loosely based." I was already expecting the worst. At the Quat'Sous Films office, all of the rough arrangement of the scenes were pinned up on the wall. I blinked in surprise, observing that the two-thirds of it were clearly following the progression of Blue's scenario. I could even recognize the shots, backgrounds, etc.

As some already know, too many hours of footage had been shot, and before Kechiche made the final cut, he removed part of the middle. Yet, being the writer of Blue, I still recognize my book in it. It was with a pounding heart that I recognized all the North of France, where I come from, that I had tried to transpose into my drawings, finally made ''real''. And given my introduction to this article, you can imagine how I felt seeing these shots, scenes, conversations, by actors whose features resembled my drawings, passing before my eyes.

So, whatever you might hear or read in the media (who too often get caught up with basics and ignore the details) I restate here that indeed, La Vie d‘Adele is the adaptation of my comic book, and that there is nothing wrong with saying so.

As for the sex

As for the sex... Yes, the sex... Since it's been on the lips of everyone who saw the movie... It is first useful to point out that, in a three hour movie, these scenes only fill a few minutes. If we talk about it, it is only because of the director's visual emphasis on it.

I believe that Kechiche and I have opposite ideas of how beauty should presented, perhaps complementary. The way he chose to shoot these scenes is consistent with the rest of his creation. Certainly it seems to me far from my own creative tastes, but it would be very silly of me to reject something simply because it's not how I imagined it.

That was me as a writer. Now, as a lesbian...

It appears to me that this was what was missing on the set: Lesbians.

I don't know where the director and the actresses (who are all straight, unless proven otherwise) got their information, I was never consulted beforehand. Maybe someone gave them rough ideas for possible hand positions, and/or who showed them some so-called "lesbian" porn (which unfortunately is hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience). Because - except for a few instances - this is what it brought to my mind: A brutal and surgical display; a cold demonstration of lesbian sex, which turns into porn, and made me feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theatre, everyone was giggling. 

The heteronormative laughed because they don't understand it and found the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it wasn't convincing at all, and they also found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn't hear laughing were the guys who were too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen.

I understand Kechiche's intention to film pleasure. The way he shot these scenes seemed to me directly related to another scene, in which several characters talk about the myth of the female orgasm, as... mystical and far superior to the male one. But here again we sanctify women in such a way that I find dangerous.

As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I can not endorse the direction Kechiche took on these matters.

But I also want to hear what other women think; this is only my very personal opinion.

Whatever it may be, I don't see the movie as a betrayal. When it comes to adapting something, I believe that the notion of betrayal should be reconsidered. I lost the control of my book as soon as I gave it away to be read. It's an object meant to be handled, felt, interpreted.

Kechiche went through the same process as any other reader, he entered it and identified with it in a unique way. As the author, I have no control over this, and it would have never crossed my mind to expect Kechiche to go in any particular direction with this film, because it is only appropriate that -- humanly, emotionally -- it no longer belonged to me as soon as it appeared on the shelves of a bookstore.

The Palme

This conclusion in Cannes is obviously wonderful and breathtaking.

As mentioned in my introduction, all that I have felt in the past few days have been so insane and enormous that I cannot put into words.

I remain absolutely overwhelmed, amazed, and grateful for these events.

Last night I realized this is the first time in Cinema's history that a comic book has inspired a Palme d'Or winning movie, and this idea leaves me petrified. It's a lot to carry.

I deeply wish to thank all those who appeared surprised, shocked, disgusted with the fact that Kechiche made no mention of me when he received his Palme. I have no doubt he had good reasons for not doing so, just like he certainly had for not making me more visible on the red carpet in Cannes (even though I crossed the country to join them), for not receiving me - at least for an hour - on the set, for not having someone keep me informed about the production between June 2012 and April 2013, or for not answering my emails since 2011. However, to those who reacted strongly, I want to say that I don't carry any bitterness. He hasn't mentioned it in front of the cameras, but the night of the official screening in Cannes, a few witnesses heard him say to me, "Thank you, you were the starting point", while he strongly shook my hand.

To learn more about the film, you can download the press release
and on lesbian porn, a small link

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