This discussion note is written by Brian (who blogs at Foreign Influence).
Blue is the Warmest Color drew a nice group of twelve folks together and provoked all of us to make comparisons, even when we tried to avoid them. We compared the book and the film. We compared the book (a graphic novel) to an imaginary “traditional” novel (without images). We compared the English version to the original French. And, we compared images of female nudity with images of male nudity. All-in-all, it seemed a good way to go about discussing Julie Maroh’s book.
Opinions were split on this book—as were opinions on the film—and the fact that not all of us completely liked it, let alone were completely satisfied with it, might have been what inspired the three-hour conversation.
In some ways, the tone was set early on by Vicki, who summed it up as, “…like a European/Art House version of a Korean drama…. I hate to love Korean Dramas.”
Cowen asked what the director (Abdellatif Kechiche) saw in the book to make him want to adapt it, and this led us further into our comparisons.
We discussed the title, which, as Ken noted stressed the warmth rather than coolness of blue and Vishakah pointed out might be a reference to the idealization of a lover that runs through the book. We went on to talk about the use of color and b/w throughout the book—with Andrea and Vishakah lending some expertise in the genre, and we all pointed to our favorite images. Brian stressed that the last page was his favorite page of the book.
Looking into the characters a bit more, Sara asked if we thought Clementine was lesbian, bisexual, or curious and how that affected our reaction to her. Raj said that Emma definitely is a lesbian. Yi-Sheng and Ken also drew out points about the youth of the writer and the charm of the teenage drama in the book. They both focused on the theme of “innocence” at different points in the discussion. Cowen found parts corny and melodramatic. Sharad compared the book overall to a young adult novel.
Several folks questioned the balance of the timeline and the narrative gaps. We wondered if the book had originally been serialized. We also wondered if the unbalance might be a sign of an inexperienced writer.
We also wondered about a couple of particular scenes in the book. Why would anyone walk around a clandestine lover’s parents house in the nude? What exactly were those pills Clementine was taking? How did we respond to the portrayal of Emma and Clementine’s “mature” relationship? Raj raised the comparison to queer couples where one is completely out and the other is completely private. Vicki asked about the slut shaming in the book and film. Several people asked if Valentine was a good friend or not? We kept wondering if Blue truly is the warmest color?
In the end, some folks liked the pages without images quite a bit. Andrea thought it was a good message for young readers. And even some who did not like the book as much still thought it was worth considering if it is a work of art, if it is compelling, and if alters some ways we might tell stories about gay, lesbian, and queer lives.