Award winning director’s methods contentious, “horrible”

The making of critically acclaimed film Blue is the Warmest Colour is as controversial as it’s content.

December 10, 2013
by Monica Karpinski
Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Colour
Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Colour

Award-winning director Abdellatif Kechiche has come under fire for both his directing methods and portrayal of lesbian romance in his film Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Leads Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos have spoken out against the director in their infamous interview with The Daily Beast, with Seydoux calling the experience, “horrible.” Exarchopoulus goes on to describe a fight scene in which the blows were real, and another in which she was instructed to “Kiss [Seydoux]! Kiss her snot!”

“She [Seydoux] was really hitting me. There were people there screaming, ‘Hit her!’ and she didn’t want to hit me, so she’d say sorry with her eyes and then hit me really hard,” she said.

Kechiche has been openly admitted his intent to portray the girls’ bodies idealistically, telling film website Flicks and Bits that he wanted to shoot his leads “…like paintings, like sculptures…They had to be made aesthetically beautiful while keeping the sexual dimension.”

The film’s critical reception has been mixed, varying from praise of the film’s raw, intense tenacity to disgust at Kechiche’s uncompromising exposition of teen love, identity and sexuality. “Whatever their divides,” writes Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times, “what we see on-screen is a near-perfect film, love at its finest and it’s most fraught.” The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collins similarly gave the film five out of five stars.

Conversely, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis has condemned the cinematography as objectifying, calling the sex scenes “unrealistic” and Exarchopoulous’ sexual appetite “contained, prettified, aestheticized.”

The director has defended his work in an open letter published on French website Rue89, calling Seydoux an “arrogant, spoiled child” who “after having repeatedly thanked me publicly and privately and having wept in my arms at Cannes for allowing her to take on this noble role…has, against all odds and all personal coherence, radically changed her attitude toward me.”

Despite all the controversy, the film sold 261,000 tickets at the French box office in its first week of release, and won the coveted Palme D’Or in the same week that France legalized same-sex marriage. It was the first same-sex feature to claim the award.

Blue is the Warmest Colour opened on general release to UK audiences on November 22.