Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reader's Diary #1064- Julie Maroh, translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger: Blue is the Warmest Color

When the movie Blue is the Warmest Color premiered at Cannes earlier this year, everyone seemed to love it and it looked like a real boost to graphic novels, especially of the non-superhero variety. It was a love story involving lesbians and looked like it would be a real boost to the LGBTQ community.

Yeah, that positive energy lasted about a day. Since then it's been mired in controversy with the original author Julie Maroh speaking out against it and the lead actors and the director involved in a very public feud.

Despite all of it, I was curious to know if the source book was any good. Thankfully, Canada's own Arsenal Press offered up an English translation by Ivanka Hahnenberger and allowed me to judge for myself.

My impression early into the book was positive. The artwork was beautiful, especially with the watercoloured sketches. I was a bit uncomfortable with the age of the love interest— Clémentine is a high school student who falls for a university student known as Emma. A large part of the story involves Clémentine discovering and coming to terms with her own sexuality, which of course is a very common teenage experience, but with the older woman, it felt somewhat like Emma took advantage. Still, I was able to overcome that and move forward.

(Spoiler alert!) Unfortunately, there's a very stupid moment later on that I can't believe I can't find anyone else complaining about in the other reviews that I've read. One night, when Emma is sleeping over at Clémentine's parents house— parents who not only do not know that Clémentine and Emma are dating, but who would also not be accepting of a lesbian romance— Emma decides to go down to kitchen to get a drink of milk. In the nude.

Who the hell would do that? Of course, the two get caught and it's a whole big scene, but for me it completely ruined the book.

It's too bad. It had so much potential. It's also annoying that no one is calling out the book for that. Everyone seems to be focused on another— in my humble opinion— less than important angle.


The Indiscriminate Critic said...

So funny that we would post reviews for the same book on the same day! I totally get what you're saying with the milk scene. I had much the same reaction, and everything from there to the end did feel a bit contrived. But the way Maroh handled the tangled emotions was more than enough to make up for it in my books. But yeah, you've got a point... :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm pretty sure the milk scene would have been a deal breaker for me too. It's equivalent to women wrapping themselves up in billows of sheets in similar scenes in films. Cliched.

John Mutford said...

Indiscriminate Critic: I enjoyed your review! (You were right about the great title.)

Barbara: Deal breaker is a fine way to put it. For the story at least. It still didn't distract from the fantastic artwork.

Eric P said...

I'd say there are actually quite a number of smart people with skewed filters -- they just assume everyone sleeps in the nude (like themselves) or they forget they are in foreign territory and need to respect other people's rules. Or a more subtle explanation is that they feel guilty and subliminally want to be caught.

Nonetheless, I am with you. When characters (particularly TV characters) that are supposedly intelligent start acting in a stupid way, just to fit the contrivances of the plot, I get frustrated and switch off -- figuratively and often literally.