The Daily Beast‘s Richard Porton has today posted a fascinating analysis of the disdain that some feminist critics have expressed towards Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, which won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or last Sunday night.
It all boils down to reactions to the film’s notorious ten-minutes-or-longer sex scene — tongues and fingers and “impressive scissoring,” etc. Porton quotes Manohla Dargis‘s view in her 5.23 N.Y. Times piece that this and similar scenes aren’t cool because they’re basically about Kechiche indulging in male-horndog panting. Here are some of the hot-button points that follow:
(1) “Should men, or for that matter women, [who are] aroused by these scenes be moralistically dissed as the arthouse equivalents of the raincoat brigade?” Porton asks. Some critics, he feels, were wearing “ideological blinders…[believing] that this homage to youthful l’amour fou should be stigmatized as no more than a salacious ‘exercise in voyeurism.'”
Wells note: A lot of people in the screening that I attended were definitely getting off on the opening scene. You knew that when all of a sudden people started clapping and laughing — standard tension-release responses. I’m fairly certain that if the sex scenes were shorter and more chaste and not so arousing, nobody would be complaining much.
(2) “When I suggested to an erudite female critic during the festival that I wasn’t sure that Kechiche’s agenda should be caricatured as male prurience, she shot back that ‘his dick was up there on the screen.’
(3) It’s a puzzlement “why Dargis and her cohorts seem unable to process what is actually depicted on screen in Kechiche’s film,” Porton writes. He states that “implicit in the arguments of the anti-Kechiche contingent” is a view “that his sex scenes are unacceptable because they’re the handiwork of a male director, not a pro-sex feminist auteur. Unlike antiporn activists like the late Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon, most of the critics harrumphing about Kechiche’s ‘male gaze’ are more than willing to embrace sexually graphic films as long as they’re made by women directors such as Catherine Breillat and Chantal Akerman.”
(4) When Blue Is The Warmest Color “eventually reaches a wider public, it will be fascinating to see if its reception remains skewed according to gender,” Porton concludes. “It will also be instructive to learn if the lesbian community embraces the movie or agrees with its detractors, who scorn it as exploitative and, to employ the requisite academic jargon, ‘masculinist.'”