Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color

This month's movie review took me on quite an adventure! It saw me leave my sofa! It even saw me leave my flat! Upon leaving I did not just head to Tesco. No: I was off to the swanky Curzon Cinema in Mayfair, which shows independent and world cinema. Yes, my friends, I saw a NEW RELEASE. And if you haven't guessed it yet, from all the tantalising hints and more importantly the title, I saw 2013 Palme d'Or-winning Sapphic sensation, 'Blue Is The Warmest Color'.

Disclaimer: I have not read the graphic novel, and all comments are based entirely on the film, with no knowledge of the book as a comparison, other than that the blue-haired girl is infinitely more dynamic-looking in the book. ;)

What the blurb told us...
At 15, Adele doesn't question it: girls go out with boys. Her life is changed forever when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.

Alex says:
I was excited! "For once!" I thought. "For once, my movie review will not be a load of scathing insults and obnoxious Smart Alec remarks, which the movie is nonetheless entirely deserving of! Instead, it shall be an account full of praise and wonder, and some tears of joy shall be shed."

Peeps, this ain't how it went down. I would call 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' a car crash, but that doesn't capture the iiiiinnnnnnnnnccccccrrrrreeeeeddddddiiiiiiibbbbbblllllyyyyy sssslllloooowwww pace of this overrated flick. Factually, this movie is nearing three hours. It feels like ten.

The movie is effectively your bog standard coming out story.
Adèle Exarchopoulos plays seventeen-year-old Adele (you might notice the blurb says she's fifteen. The blurb is wrong). "Hey!" I hear the avid readers amongst you cry. "Adele?! Wasn't she called Clémentine in the book?!" Why, yes, she was. However, the director CHANGED THE CHARACTER'S NAME because he had tons of shots of the actresses backstage and wanted to use them in the film. Standard professional behaviour with respect to the original text.

So anyway, suddenly, out of literally nowhere, Adele decides she's a lesbian, without so much as an intervention run by RuPaul where her awkward parents and sexually frustrated boyfriend tell her how worrying her vegetarianism and love of Georgia O'Keefe and Melissa Etheridge are! Prompting the lesbian idea is that she SAW a girl with badly-dyed blue hair (Léa Seydoux) on the street, walking arm in arm with her female lover (who might I add, just vanishes, despite us being told they've been together two years).
Adele and this blue-haired beauty have never spoken but the former enters a lovesick haze and spirals out of control and the closet (Blue Hair's unbothered at this point).
Adele tags along with her gay boy BFF to a gay bar asap. After ditching that lame establishment as it was full of blokes she finds a bar full of women instead.

The minute youngster Adele walks through the door, the women are dropping to the floor, panting, begging her to let them buy her drinks! Clearly I'm inadequate, as I have never had such an experience in my long history of going to gay bars. Naturally, the lez with blue hair, aka Emma, being a lesbian, is a permanent fixture in this lesbian bar. And you know the drill.

I have to say, I found this depiction of Adele's coming out incredibly sad. As I've mentioned before, I'm rather experienced at, well, everything gay. Adele's journey reminded me of every depiction of realising you're gay I have ever seen. At first I found this irksome. But then it clicked for me. Adele looking wide-eyed around the gay bar, drinking beer with her suave semi-butch love interest, reminded me, for example, of the "field trip to the Cock Sucker" in 'But I'm A Cheerleader'. 'But I'm A Cheerleader' is set in the eighties.

But worse, this bar-induced revelation reminded me of Leslie Feinburg's 'Stone Butch Blues', a book which I absolutely adore and hold so close to my heart that my Instagram name is an allusion to character Butch Al. For those of you who don't know, 'Stone Butch Blues' is a chronicle of living as gay, pre-Stonewall (and what are you waiting for, read it). When protagonist Jess, in her turn, has her eyes opened to the wonders of homosexuality in her local gay bar, IT IS THE EARLY SIXTIES. And 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' is set now. Has nothing changed?
When I realised the chronology of the connections I was making, my heart broke a bit.
I wish I could say Adele's coming out was the only cliché. There's also a painful scene where Emma teaches Adele to eat seafood (excuse me while I vom). Oysters for that matter. Hey, I wonder if they're making an allusion to how cool and androgynous Emma is, just like oysters which are hermaphrodites! Oh and you guys, remember when this exact scene took place between Nan and Kitty in 'Tipping The Velvet', published in 1998!! Yet another strike against 'Blue Is The Warmest Color''s originality.

What sets 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' (how long before my laptop starts predicting this as a phrase?) apart from every other coming out tale you ever saw is the second half, which is effectively a sequel tacked on the end. This could have been a really interesting idea. However, all this really did was highlight how bad the characterisation was. Adele and Emma were still acting as though they'd known each other a week, and they were meant to have been together four years!

The lack of chemistry between these two was quite astonishing. I especially found it strange as the pictures I have seen of the actresses in real life are extremely "Awww!"-inducing. You'd think they'd make an electric couple. But weirdly, none of this translates, and for that I simply have to blame the script and direction. I don't see what else could have so completely drained these vibrant women and made them so bland.

I'm going to say a spoiler now but it made me so angry I can't resist.
Four years on, Emma lost her blue hair and (perhaps with it?) the relationship lost its warmth. So what does Adele do? Only shags a co-worker. I could have got down with this, if she hadn't been taking her tips from Julianne Moore in 'The Kids Are Alright' and did the nasty with a MAN.

Jfnwifnwiuewje, why?! I do not understand films' OBSESSION with lesbians cheating with men! I personally do not know a single lesbian who would turn to a man for comfort as their relationship dwindled. A captivating new woman, perhaps. But a man?? I can only conclude there's been some miscommunication and the people making these movies don't understand what "lesbian" means.

Emma was also unimpressed by the aforementioned sex with men.

And then you guys, there was the sex. I'm very mature about sex scenes in movies. I think they can be incredibly tender and beautiful (the sex scene in 'Wilde' still makes me cry). These were just stupid, however. We supposedly see Adele's first ever sexual experience with a woman, and her second ever sexual experience with another person. Adele has no nerves. She's doesn't think, "Oh awkward. What if I'm a bit crap?" She doesn't think, "What's the socially acceptable sex repertoire for lesbians anyways?" Nah, Adele dives on in there, and she and Emma perform a routine which put me in mind of Cell Block Tango from 'Chicago' when Velma Kelley claps her hands describing her and her sister's acrobatic routine: "20 acrobatic tricks in a row... Splits, spread-eagles, back flips, flip-flops, one right after the other!"

I also found this sex scene offensive. You see EVERYTHING. My mum (who was my cinema buddy) pointed out that the movie is directed by a man which gives the nudity a really unpleasant voyeuristic feel. It's not just that they're naked. You physically see mouth touching vulva. This is a primary sex act for two (or more...) women. A movie would NEVER show a penis in a vagina in such a graphic way! It was like that bit in 'The L Word', when Tina and Jenny meet that shady guy who wants to make 'Lez Girls' and he says they can show real sex because "there's no penetration, there's no fornication" while Tina and Jenny stand looking aghast in suits and sunglasses. Um, no. You can't show lesbian sex. Everyone's determination to turn lesbian sex acts into a spectator sport, in a way heterosexual sex acts would never be, is indicative of a misogynistic patriarchy.

The only thing I admired about this movie was its dedication to have the colour, and sometimes the word, blue appear subtly in most scenes. Not even sure if this was deliberate to be honest though. Also unsure about the significance of blue beyond Emma having blue hair when the pair meet (it's not even blue for the second half). Had it been 'Lavender Is The Warmest Color' or 'Rainbow Is The Warmest Color' I'd have been slightly more on board. As it was I didn't get the obsession with Emma's bad dye job.

But you guys, this movie got five stars in Time Out. It won the Palme d'Or ffs! I'm left wondering if we saw the same film, because the movie I saw stunk. It made me feel deeply disheartened about not only the Cannes judges' opinions but also the general situation we as homosexuals are in worldwide, if this marginalised depiction of us is where we're at in good ol' futuristic 2013.

The Five Best Things About Alex Samuel

I know I’ve gone on and one about how wonderful Alex is and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful partner. Ever wonder why I’m so in love? Here’s a list (in no particular order!) of why Alex is the most amazing person I know.

1. Generous, Genuine and Gigantic Heart: Alex’s heart is huge. I am constantly spoiled by surprise cards, little notes, flowers, and gifts that are “just because.” There is no task that is too small or big as far as Alex is concerned. If I need a magazine called in order to find whom I should address a letter to, Alex is on it with no questions asked. If I overslept and am frantically preparing for my day, Alex enters the room with a fresh cup of coffee complete with two sugars and cream (my favorite). But Alex’s generous heart doesn’t only exist within our relationship. I’ve never seen someone treat his or her families with such care, respect, and love. A stranger drops a dollar on the tube, Alex chases her down in order to return the little green note.

2. Funny, Charming, and Socially Skilled: I know, I know. This one is kind of cheating cause it’s three! But they’re all kind of similar, amiright? Alex is always making me laugh. From silly choreographed dances to hilarious retellings of a conversation at uni, when we’re talking, I can guarantee there is a smile on my face. But beyond that, Alex has charm. It’s an almost indescribable quality that makes my heart skip a beat Car doors are opened for me and champagne bottles are presented as beautiful surprises. Oh, and did I mention that Alex is amazing with people? There is never an awkward moment or uncomfortable silence when Alex is in the room. I always feel honored to introduce Alex as my partner.

3. Talented: From writing amazing articles to putting together entire pieces of IKEA furniture alone, Alex has countless skills. I love that anything Alex decides to do will get done. The essay for uni, earning money for our international travel, finding the perfect gift, decorating beautifully and everything in between. Creative, capable, and strong. *swoon*

4. Intelligent and fascinating: I have never been bored in Alex’s company. From political ideals to fiction novels and feminism to XFactor, Alex is able to articulate and share fascinating opinions and insights about all topics. I am constantly stimulated and find myself thinking in new ways as a result of our conversations.

5. Patient and Stable: Bills paid? Check. Laundry completed? Check. Doors locked at night? Double check. Lunches made? Triple check. I am so appreciative of Alex’s ability to effortlessly tackle everyday tasks. These are perhaps my most hated kind of tasks and are a constant struggle in my day to day life, but Alex steps in, takes control and somehow makes it all look so easy.

In summary, life is infinitely better when Alex is by my side.

The Art of the Butch Halloween Costume

Although Christmas, 30th September (Taylor and my anniversary) and 9th December (my birthday) are all competitors for my favourite internationally recognised and celebrated holiday, the winner is Halloween. Everything becomes creepy but in a cutesy, camp way. Basically a tonne of shit which I'm into 365 days a year becomes popular and celebrated worldwide.
This year, however, my fave festival has reached an even more exciting level. Because I've seen many wonderfully executed examples of a glorious thing: the Butch Halloween Costume.

Especially if you're going out partying on Halloween, as so many do, it's customary to wear a costume. We're all familiar with this famous quote from The Best Movie Ever Made: "In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it." And of course, you all just envisaged Rachel McAdams in her bunny costume wiggling her butt in front of her overenthusiastic mum.

And it's true that so-called "slutty" costumes are popular choices for femininely-inclined ladies on Halloween. Websites such as Take Back Halloween exist because of the scandal surrounding the kind of Halloween costumes that are marketed for women and worse, little girls . As an aside, I personally think people should dress how they want on Halloween and every other night. If that's in a provocative way then fine. If it's not, also fine. I obviously think people shouldn't be pressurised to dress a certain way or be slut-shamed if they want to dress like that.

But when you're butch, you don't have the sexy dress and "I'm A Mouse, Duh!" ears option, even if you wanted it. As a teenage butch, peers with fashion preferences which matched the gender they were assigned at birth incessantly shamed me into thinking I was unfashionable. These comments meant it took me a long time to gain confidence in many aspects of dressing, fancy dress being one of them. I get afraid of being laughed at or looking like a fool.

Add into the mix that when it comes to fancy dress, masculine women are totally ignored. I actually googled "Masculine Women Halloween Costumes" for links for this article, and for some reason all I got was links to straight couples' Halloween outfits. As a butch, the easy solution is to wear a comedy costume, but comedy isn't usually what you're going for when you hit a club! As shown by the thousands of women who choose to wear the continually controversial "Sexy Cat/Devil/Witch/Pizza/Ja Ja Binks" get-up, Halloween isn't just a time to wear fancy dress, but also a time to feel attractive in your outfit.

Despite my struggles with dressing up, this Halloween I pushed the boat out and made a real effort. I got together an Eddie Munster outfit and I felt really proud of myself! Dressing as Eddie leant itself perfectly to my being a butch. Eddie is a little boy, so what I call my "Peter Pan appearance", and what others call my "Justin Bieber appearance", was totally appropriate. I put together my outfit from my own butch wardrobe and gelled back my short hair, wolfman-style. Once I had blacked out my eyebrows to Frida Kahlo proportions, I was good to go. And I felt good. All night.

Perusing Instagram from the depths of hangover hell the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see many similarly Butch Halloween Costumes (or BHCs). I follow a lot of women on the butchy end of the spectrum and seeing them dressed up for Halloween gave me a confidence boost. It's so nice to know I'm not the only person navigating situations like this while remaining true to my butch identity. This is a good example of what I discussed in my article on masculine women's visibility: seeing them, I finally felt legitimised that you can have a look that's both stylish and fun on Halloween when you're a butch.
For the first time it occurred to me that in Butch World, and if you do it right, Halloween could be the one night a year when you can have an extreme masculine look and be celebrated for it.

I assembled a few extra memorable BHCs that I wanted to make a shout out to:

Vero Sanchez
The former bassist of rock band Hunter Valentine looked totally debonair as Prince. Wearing a blue velvet suit with shoulder pads, huge visor sunglasses and even huger facial hair, she looked slick and ever so slightly shady, just like the man who sang Gett Off himself. Like with my Eddie outfit, Vero's slender frame suited the Prince persona perfectly. This was definitely my favourite BHC I saw!

Laura Petracca
Current Hunter Valentine drummer also rocked the glitzy suit, facial hair and even chest hair for her get-up to be Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. Extra kudos for the intense binding ritual which she also documented having gone down for this outfit.

Kacy Boccumini
The Real L Word's Kacy went as Clark Kent and looked very charming too, with black-rimmed glasses, slicked back hair, a suit and an open shirt to reveal a Superman t-shirt. My favourite thing about this costume is how simple but effective it is! This idea provides butch costumes for years, starting with Peter Parker and just going on and on and on...

And I'm sorry, but I had to throw in a couple of BHC Don'ts...

Ellen DeGeneres
I know Ellen is a comedian but her Nicki Minaj costume reminded me unpleasantly of the millions of times people have gratingly suggested I go as a "girly girl" for Halloween parties. It also bugged me that Minaj shared a pic of this outfit on her Instagram with the caption, "I didn't know Ellen could get any sexier", implication being my most hated stereotype that butches are unattractive. I hope Ellen enjoyed her outfit but I think butches can look wicked on Halloween without having to look like jokes. This having been said, I was somewhat comforted when I read Hollywood Life's verdict: "we have to say we prefer Ellen in a suit and sneakers any day."

Lucy Spraggan
This was last year, but I will never forget British singer/songwriter Lucy in that shapeless giant pumpkin outfit. It looked way too much like the opening scene of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, in which the main character has a "cringey" experience when she gets laughed out the room for dressing as a giant olive rather than the standard Mean Girls-style looks adopted by her friends. Again, being butch doesn't just mean you have to look funny, you can look fashionable if you prefer. Spraggan's look is exactly what the Butch Halloween Costume does not need to be.