Lame Adventure 391: Blue is the Longest Color

Au revoir 51st New York Film Festival.

Au revoir 51st New York Film Festival.

Milton and I have attended our last screening at the New York Film Festival, the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed 2 hour and 59 minute lesbian opus from France, Blue is the Warmest Color. Adapted from a graphic novel written by Julie Maroh and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, it stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It won the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the jury gaveExarchopoulos and Seydoux an Honorary Palme d’Or of their own. I had originally thought they shared a Best Actress award.

This is a coming of age story about the sexual awakening of a teenage girl named Adèle who experiences love at first sight when she sees Emma, an art student with blue hair, walking arm in arm with her girlfriend on the street. The hype surrounding it is a ten minute graphic sex scene that Kechiche shot with a handheld camera. I had hoped that this film would be on par with Brokeback Mountain in depth and quality, but  now that I have seen it, I declare it a straight guy’s wet dream about pretty girls who are the Energizer Bunnies of the boudoir.

Milton’s two-word review:

Milton: Major disappointment.

Thus far, critics have been praising this film all out of proportion which is baffling. This is certainly not the lesbian Citizen Kane. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln ran 2 hours and 30 minutes, 29 minutes shorter than Blue. Is a slender tear-drenched and snot-soaked ode to first love on the same level as an historic epic about the man who freed the slaves Milton?

Milton: I hated most of the film. It was boring.

There just was not enough story to merit that length. A family dinner sequence showing the character, Adèle, ravenously eating spaghetti with her parents while all three are watching TV seemed shot in real time. I got the point that they were not members of the French aristocracy when Adèle licked her knife, but did I need to watch her scarf seconds to hammer home that she’s a girl with a voracious appetite?

Length aside, Kechiche took many liberties with Maroh’s story. He has used her characters as a springboard for his own version of who lesbians are, and that offended me so much. At a party sequence that made my skin crawl, men, undoubtedly representing Kechiche’s warped viewpoint about gay women, are opining about lesbianism and female orgasm. If only I had a mute button.

Sitting at left moderator Kent Jones with director Abdellatif Kechiche and actress Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Sitting at left moderator Kent Jones with director Abdellatif Kechiche and actress Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Maroh has expressed her dismay that she was excluded from the filmmaking process, but she has not condemned the film. I suspect she was paid well, so she is not going to kick a gift horse in the teeth. If the Koch Brothers want to buy my book for a chunk of change and turn it into a Tea Party manual, sold! Maroh might be anticipating a backlash from lesbians and anyone else that can see through this sham no matter their gender or which way their pendulums swing.

Maroh has spoken out about the notorious sex scene that occurs about halfway into the film. She has called that scene “unrealistic”. It was the Cirque du Soleil of scissoring and ass slapping set on a mattress. The sighs and groans the characters emitted were ear piercing. I emailed Milton:

Me: I enjoyed it voyeuristically while watching it, but at the same time, I have never in my life had sex like that. A lot of what they were doing was in these strange positions that my partners and I never do.

Milton: I’m glad you said that because, although I found the scene steamy, at times I didn’t know what the hell they were doing. That penetration without penetration thing? What the fuck was that?

As for our audience, men, presumably straight, exceeded the number of women in attendance. Milton said never before did he have to wait in a line of 500 guys to use the bathroom. He is going to monitor how this film does at the box office. It enters general release in the US, but not in Idaho where it is already banned, on October 25th. It is being released uncut and rated NC-17. I am sure that by showing it uncut that will guarantee increased box office revenue. Kechiche has announced that he wants to release a director’s cut that is forty minutes longer, presumably that will be the DVD. More go-to viewing for the undeclared target audience: drooling straight guys. Milton wonders if lesbian orgasms merit ten or fifteen million dollars at the box office over here in the land of the free, home of the bored. I anticipate that it will sell even better.

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76 responses to “Lame Adventure 391: Blue is the Longest Color

  1. did it leave a mark?

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  2. Why the gratuitously angry slaps at heterosexual males? We don’t always drool. At least I don’t think I do. Maybe you need to ask my bride. Sorry you were disappointed.

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    • I’m not slapping straight guys. It’s a fact that watching lesbian sex acts is a big turn-on for many straight guys. Therefore there’s plenty of it in the porn industry geared at guys. I would not classify this film as porn but I do agree with what Amy Taubin, the critic Milton loathes, has said about this film, “If you take the sex out, no one would be interested in this movie.”

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  3. How disappointing. Sorry dudette. It will be interesting to see how it is accepted across theaters once it is released. Shame on Idaho.

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  4. What’s that penetration without penetration thing? A whole lotta work.

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  5. Excellent expository prose.

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  6. Snoring Dog Studio

    What do you expect from a red state like mine? “The Flicks Theatre, which is Boise’s arthouse staple, won’t be showing the film because of its NC-17 rating.

    “It isn’t because we’re prudes,” Carole Skinner, owner of the theater, tells The Hollywood Reporter. She tells THR that the theater’s liquor license is tied to Idaho Code 23-614, which prohibits films featuring “acts or simulated acts of sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation or any sexual acts which are prohibited by law” and “any person being touched, caressed or fondled on the breast, buttocks, anus or genitals.”

    So, lose the liquor license and let the “porn” flow!

    Yes, it is so strange living here.

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  7. Brilliant. I haven’t seen the film, nor will I run to it when it is released, but I somehow had the feeling, from reading all the advance press, that it was just as stupid as you describe it. I reminds me of Julio Medem, an insufferable Spanish director and another straight guy who has wet dreams directing actresses doing lesbian scenes. His advance-press “operation” for “Sex and Lucia” (“My actors are so brave! They took such chances! The scenes were so difficult!”) was similar to the hype surrounding this movie.

    Just make the audience drool in anticipation with the promise of steamy sex, and it won’t matter that the movie is actually a dud. Box office success will be guaranteed. Thank you for saving me a trip to the theater!

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    • You’re welcome MMP. It’s not my intention to suggest that people don’t see it, but all this hype that it’s such a masterpiece and I even read somewhere that it was compared to Last Tango in Paris, a film packed with sex that to me, is comparable to literature it is so emotionally powerful, is absurd. This is a slender story about first love, first heartbreak with a sensationalist display of idealized girl on girl humping shot by a guy hovering offscreen hand holding a camera. I’m sure Kechiche loves his line of work. It is a lot better than labeling tile samples, that’s for sure.

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  8. I don’t think I’ll be watching this one, LA, although I did watch the trailer. I couldn’t work out from the trailer if it was in English or French (with subtitles), but I’m presuming the latter… which is another reason why I don’t think I’ll be watching it.

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  9. Anticipation + Time on Task + Financial Investment = Major Disappointment + Ouch!

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  10. Here are 3 tweets from Mark Cousins, filmmaker, film historian, film critic @markcousinsfilm :
    “In tears after seeing blue is the warmest colour. In sadness and anger.”
    “What made me angry in Blue is the warmest Colour were the panning
    shots up Adele’s body – the grammar of exploitative cinema.”
    “The film felt more demanded than directed.”
    Looks like there are much more serious issues than just length.

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    • It’s pretty sensationalist. I would probably reduce the rating from NC-17 to R, but no one fought the rating. The prudes on the ratings board have interesting standards. Filmmakers can blow people to bits violently and get an R, but nudity and simulated sex merits NC-17.

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  11. Too bad. Trailer looks pretty good.

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    • If you think you’d like to see it, by all means, go, or stream it on Netflix when it gets released there. It is going to do well at the box office. That’s as guaranteed as death, taxes and middle age weight gain.

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  12. Oh Milton! Welcome to our world!
    “Milton said never before did he have to wait in a line of 500 guys to use the bathroom.”

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  13. Sounds like Blue gave you the blues.

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  14. Gee, those people had some long names. Some of them took 2/3 of the alphabet and used all the never-heard-from-again consonants.
    I contemplated making a film about blue-hairs here in Arkansas, but my geriatric actresses kept forgetting their lines and their walkers got entangled during the love scene. It was so horrible I scrapped my plans to submit it to the Toad Suck film festival north of Conway. That’s what happens when you have to count on a reverse mortgage to fund your film.

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  15. The trailer for the flick has more screens of critical praise than it seems to have shots from the movie. That ALWAYS makes me suspicious (although probably more so with domestic films). It’s like they’re trying to convince you that people like this movie, and so should you.

    So Idaho banned the flick? Oh, Idaho. When will people learn that banning things will only make a certain type of person (like me) want to see it. I had never heard of Salman Rushdie before the fatwa, and I am so much better for the exposure. “The Last Temptation of Christ” was a beautiful film that I probably wouldn’t have seen if the Catholic Church told me I couldn’t. I read “Brokeback Mountain” and “American Psycho” because of the controversies (the former was surprisingly touching, the latter a blood-drenched love-letter ((if a satirical one) to the late 80s.)).

    And that title–“Blue Is The Warmest Color,” just screams that this flick takes itself too seriously.

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    • You nailed it Smak, it does take itself too seriously. To me the greatest gay film thus far is Brokeback Mountain. It’s a terrific story, well acted, well directed and beautifully shot. It was robbed of the Best Picture Academy Award even though Ang Lee did win Best Director. Heath Ledger should have won Best Actor, but that year it went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, an excellent performance but I thought Heath was better.

      I happened to see Capote at the New York Film Festival in 2005. This was PM (Pre-Milton). Milton and I were acquainted with each other, but we had yet to become buddies because I was hanging out was a guy named Felix Unger. Felix preferred seeing all the mainstream films at the NYFF and he wanted to be first in line to see Capote. I was making better money back then so I was cool with it. After the screening, during the q&a, Phlip Seymour Hoffman was sitting with the director and writer fielding questions from the moderator, Lisa Schwarzbaum, a respected film critic who worked for over 20 years at Entertainment Weekly (she resigned earlier this year). Schwarzbaum loved the film and in her exuberance, she said to PSH, who is a big guy in person, that she thought he was so terrific as Truman Capote and she was amazed at how he managed to make himself seem shorter onscreen, “How did you do that?” PSH responded in a dry as dust tone, “Before filming started, I had my feet cut off and stored in ice. I stood on stumps.” I cannot recall any of the remainder of the q&a Felix and I were laughing so hard from that point on.

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  16. Lame, I wonder often about “lesbian” movies. I think there are so many movies that have lesbians or the undercurrent in them that make better film art than movies like this. I totally agree with you that this is for straight men. What are good lesbian movies? Did you like “The Kids Are Alright”?

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    • Kids was okay. I find most films featuring lesbian characters disappointing. I was so hoping that this one would be The Great One. Unfortunately, it’s not. During the q&a Kechiche remarked that he is so in love with the Adele character he is already considering doing a sequel with her. Over the weekend I told a friend that I envision this character being the 21st Century’s Emmanuelle.

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      • I didn’t care much for Kids. I thought the acclaim was much ado and the couple was stereotypical. It was too aware of itself. Do lesbian women ever make lesbian movies?

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        • Sure, Mag, a lot of lesbians make movies. Lisa Cholodenko who wrote and directed The Kids are Alright is gay. The problem is that lesbians make okay movies at best, nothing mind blowing great, and yeah, a lot of them just suck out loud. I thought that Kimberly Peirce did a good job co-writing and directing Boys Don’t Cry, but in fourteen years, she’s only recently helmed her third feature, a re-make of Carrie opening Friday. Why the hell do we need a remake of a Brian de Palma classic? I think she’s talented but one of the problems is the film industry being too skittish to invest in original work. It’s a very tough business even for many veteran filmmakers with a proven track record.

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  17. Too bad Blue was such a disappointment. A film of gratuity (awe, curiosity, steamy pandering) for an audience of wankers. Sigh. Maybe the q&a was more enlightening?

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    • No, it wasn’t and I was really looking forward to it because I was expecting the fur to fly. But in September, Kechiche, the director, had a falling out with Léa Seydoux, who played Emma, the blue-haired character. It got very ugly at a screening at the Toronto Film Festival. They’ve been feuding with each other off and on in the press ever since. Trying to avoid things going in a Jerry Springer direction, the NYFF started the screening late and after the film ended, Kent Jones, the moderator, only asked a few softball questions. Then he claimed that it was too late and they had to stop. I thought that was just a ruse to avoid opening it up to an audience q&a. It was the last screening of the evening and the NYFF was the only event happening in Alice Tully Hall.

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      • Coincidence, or conspiracy? I guess when there is Springer-esque tendencies in the line-up you can never be too sure what will happen next. Furniture and fur may fly. There’s always next year, or the next movie, or Netflix.

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        • I think it was intentional on the NYFF’s part. They’re very supportive of Kechiche and he returns the favor by appearing at the festival. A few years ago he directed a film called Black Venus and that q&a set a lot of women off. It almost devolved into a feminist race riot. That film was brilliant and the ending was so poignant.

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          • Hmm. I’ll have to add that to my “to watch” list of movies.
            On a completely unrelated note … how do you get hyperlinks to show up in your comments? Do you reply to comments through your dashboard? I never seem to be able to make this function visible.

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            • I reply to my comments from my comments page. In the ‘reply to comment’ tool board, third box in there’s a box called link with an underscore. I’ll email you a screen shot shortly so you can see what I’m referring to. Give me a moment because I’m doing about 127 things at once over here in my never ending quest to suffer a stroke and a coronary simultaneously.

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  18. Damn. Sorry to hear this film was a disappointment. Suppose I could read the graphic novel-if I could find it in English and on Kindle. Somehow I doubt it’s available in that format and in my language. Then again–language may not be necessary to appreciate it.

    Hope you had a good weekend, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    • It’s available on Kindle. Click here. I’m sure you’ll be able to stream it on Netflix early next year or after the Academy Awards should it get nominated for anything. Possibly if there’s a category called Best Elongation of a Slender Story. My weekend was okay. I’ve been fighting a sore throat for days.

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  19. Great review, V. I ask this in all seriousness: did you learn to write reviews while completing your film degree? Because you’re really good at it.

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    • That’s very kind of you Cathy, but no, I have never made any effort to learn how to write reviews. I’m just a common rabidly opinionated cinemaniac. In film school I played a lot with cameras and drank far too much warm Moosehead lager that my posse and I kept in my locker.

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      • Oh, I love Moosehead! It was a favorite when I lived in Boston! But isn’t that a prerequisite for being a successful film reviewer – rabidly opinionated cinemaiac?

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        • It is very true that it is important to love movies to write about them effectively, but it also helps to have an almost photographic memory and that is something I sorely lack. Pauline Kael only needed to see a film once and it was there, stored in her head. I don’t have that gift. To put it in perspective, I suppose the hole in my head the size of Texas is exactly what qualifies me to occasionally blather about a film on this site and why PK was a a film reviewing legend at the New Yorker for decades.

          Ah, a fellow Moosehead lover!

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          • Yes, Moosehead is a lovely light lager.

            I suppose a photographic memory helps in reviewing films, but I was most impressed with your commentary here. You gave a good history of the development of the film, a brief synopsis of it and your well considered opinion. I got the impression you wanted to like it, but just couldn’t. And you did a good job of articulating why you were disappointed.

            Many times, I agree with the “qualified” critics, but sometimes I find myself leaving the theater feeling like: “What were they thinking?!”

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            • Thanks Cathy. I had expected a film with style (it has that) but much more substance, not what we saw, a slight story about first love and first heartbreak wrapped around a marathon sex scene that I have since learned took ten days to shoot. I’m sure Kechiche must feel like he won Powerball (pun intended) getting paid to shoot pretty girls coupling for hours on end. This film will likely be most remembered for its eroticism because the overall story is scant. All of this critical praise strikes me as much ado about a lot of nothing with steamy sex seems and a running time that seems about ten minutes shy of a hundred hours.

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              • It sounds like it came down to editing. A shorter film could have communicated the same story but more eloquently. I’m reminded of the popular Peter Jackson. I think he gets too enamored (pun intended) with his footage and can’t cut any of it! I mean, really – three movies for The Hobbit? I’m a big Tolkein fan, but after the first one (enough with the running and fighting in the goblin cave, already!), I doubt I’ll go back for the other two. I realize that Jackson and Kechiche are worlds apart on so many levels, but maybe they both need good, stalwart editors who will stand up to them?

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                • All of Kechiche’s films are long, but his film before Blue, Black Venus, which ran 159 minutes, worked for us. There was tons of story, but that was a biopic about Sarah Baartman, and it had a lot to say about racism, sex abuse, exploitation, and it merited that length. I wrote about it here. This one definitely needed tighter editing. I’ve never seen any of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, and I only saw one from the Lord of the Rings series. I cannot wrap my brain around Tolkien’s middle earth stories.

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                  • I like Tolkein, but to appreciate the movies, it helps to have read the books. Blue, Black Venus sounds fascinating! I’ll put it on my Netflix list. As always, I enjoy our conversations here, but my eyelids are drooping and it’s much earlier for me than you! Goodnight, V. Talk soon!

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  20. Shame on Idaho, but then, do they even have movie theaters there?
    Sex on movies is always too much, specially gay sex. Remember Black Swam? Well, I’ve never seen lesbians having sex, but I doubt they grow feathers lol
    A 2h30 movie is too much for me (unless is an epic battle), director must be crazy wanting to add 40 minutes.

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    • That is very true Leo. I’ve never grown feathers, but I’ve reached the age where I’m now growing hair in places that make me relate more and more to Tarzan’s monkey Cheeta. How’s that for wildly romantic?

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  21. V, I’m late to your party but this film, in terms of its torrential love-making scenes you’ve described, whether they be gay or straight — never looks like the real thing. We don’t have the lighting, the aching music and what always appears to be hours and hours of this going on. Probably Buffet’s Let’s Get Drunk and Screw (a song which for some reason always makes me smile) more aptly describes most love-making, don’t ya think? 🙂 And for the record, I enjoyed that movie, The Kids are Alright. And as far as anyone remaking Carrie, why? And would you consider Gia a “lesbian movie?” I think the scenes in that movie weren’t overdone and it explored the downside of being a model. The really bad downside.

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    • Yes, Brig, my entire love life could best be described as Let’s Get Drunk and Screw. As for lighting, I’m at the age where I much prefer to do it in the dark and as for music, my tastes are so eclectic, the hum of my refrigerator in my postage stamp sized abode is usually the compromise solution.

      I’ve never seen Gia. It’s one of those films I’ve missed like Chariots of Fire, Terms of Endearment or more recently, Argo.

      Good to hear from you!

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  22. Can you let me know when the DVD is released please? 🙂

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  23. Oh I love Milton and his reviews. Sounds a lot like my partner. Short and to the point. But this was my favorite comment: Energizer Bunnies of the boudoir. Haven’t heard of this film, but will keep an eye out and lots of energy drinks and crosswords puzzles for when I do watch it. Maybe i can read Grapes of Wrath and finish it in that amount of time. I only have 300 pages left.

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    • Since I happen to be a borderline illiterate, the film of Grapes starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad was pretty good. I’m glad “they’re” not remaking that one … yet. Milton is a man who can cut to the chase quick on just about anything. For example, he is very fond of the actor Hugh Dancy. We saw him on Broadway a few years back in a play called Venus in Fur. He played the writer-director character, but Milton was so excited to see him on the boards he said, “I’d watch him play a tree.”

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  24. Looks great from the trailer,but I guess most things do. Might just mosey along and see this when it makes it to our shores. Thanks for all the film write-ups- good to have another perspective

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  25. No, I don’t think I’ll see this one, but I do like your blog title, V. On French cinema, I generally like it because they tell the story in pictures so you don’t need much in subtitles. But, “A Very Long Engagement” I found Very Long and Boring, long on film and short on plot, I thought. “Amour,” though, I thought superb — I suppose because it portrayed, telescoped, the experience I lived with my mother, and Emmanuelle Riva’s eye expressions and mannerisms were right on.

    The few films I’ve seen portraying lesbian sex all seem geared toward straight men, even in the current British drama, “Last Tango in Halifax,” recently shown on PBS; I could be wrong about this latter, though: it was delicately handled.

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    • I thought Amour was excellent! Milton and I saw it last year at the New York Film Festival. Michael Haneke, who is Austrian but I think he lives in Paris, is a brilliant filmmaker. I have not seen either A Very Long Engagement or Last Tango in Halifax, but you’re probably right if you had impression that the lesbian sex was more to turn on men than women. I often have that impression, too.

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  26. Pingback: Headlines: Is There A Moose Under There? | Promethean Times

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