Casual Talk on Blue is the Warmest Color

Munna initiated this exchange but then conveniently left me and GF to do all the ‘dirty talk’, presumably so that he could watch, and then at the end of it suggested that this be put up in a separate post. So this is truly exhibitionist now but in any case…

Munna:

Saw it yesterday. Acting was good but I think first couple of hour was self indulgent. There were many blank shots (like sleeping with open mouth) without adding to tone or to narrative. Only in last hour movie picked up and showed good drama.
My only question is, would we be giving same attention to the movie if Emma was a guy instead of a girl.

*Possible Spoiler*
ps. – I am not sure what was the intention of ending. Adèle was invited there by Emma and the guy knew Emma.
*End Spoiler*

ps1 – There was some very good music in movie.


Satyam

The movie has a strong soundtrack (in the Wong Kar-Wai ‘eclectic’ fashion). Unfortunately it’s not been released on CD anywhere (or for that matter on iTunes).

To be honest the film did polarize reviewers in some ways. I liked it a lot but I can certainly see the other side here.

The guy is there at one of the earlier parties as well with the whole artsy crowd. He seems a bit out of place even then. My sense of the ending just was that a possibly straight relationship is missed by Adele because she still hasn’t gotten over Emma. Because Emma and the guy know each other there’s perhaps a kind of substitution at work. Except that for Adele her sense of loss is only retriggered at that point. The closing scene is a bit open-ended. Other things might happen with Adele in the future but we don’t know. I actually liked this gesture because one of the things the film does is insist on the integrity of the relationship. In this sense if Emma were a guy it would just be a regular movie. And though there have been lots of movies that try to dignify lesbian relationships (in a polemical sense) this movie is relatively rare in trying to give it the ‘familiar’ resonance of a heterosexual one. So you have situations and moments play out as if this were all happening between a man and a woman. At least I felt more empathy here than I usually do with such (lesbian) subjects (though I can’t claim to have seen everything relevant in this context!) and I think it’s partly because the director presents a lesbian relationship in very straight fashion in terms of many of the iconic situations he creates [the lovers in the park with that whole dreamy feel to the scene, the visceral sex even in a pornographic sense which is all too common in mainstream heterosexual representations (though also so in art-house lesbian films even if it’s not easy to think of a film that is comparable), the loud jealous fights, the soundtrack which involves a number of iconic heterosexual numbers.. key here is Aventura’s huge Latin hit from some years ago], and so on. Again not necessarily saying all of this stuff is unique to this film but I think and for want of a better word the director makes it a somewhat transcendent love story in terms of many of his registers and codes which is different from the usual ‘alternative’ film in this respect. So again it worked for me but I can certainly see the other side.

Also on those many shots which stress the banal ‘bodily’ aspects of the human (sleeping with one’s mouth open, or other such ‘awkward’ things) I think that ties in with the visceral sex. Because even as one might idealize love and all such ‘relationality’ there always remains that which is purely physical. One might say a strong love relationship is also deeply physical. In the sense of satisfying certain bodily needs (or instincts or urges.. whatever language one prefers) but equally in terms of exposing the body to the other. Not just in terms of nakedness but also this other sense whereby one is comfortable enough to be ‘awkward’ before the other (the point I started out with). Freud always felt that the ego was a bodily ego, a point that has not often been stressed in more traditional interpretations. But in any case the strong (if not ideal) love relationship should not seek to sublimate those more bodily instincts but try to satisfy them, retaining of course the that other level of mental companionship or what have you. There have been a few films (all the titles escape me at present) about strangers encountering each other just for sexual purposes but then building up a relationship out of it. Because in sex one sometimes gives oneself over so completely to the other or in such singular ways that a bond is formed. This is not about ‘carnality’ in the vulgar sense. This is the point behind the kamasutra and if you think about it it emerges from the very same culture that also gives us yoga. The latter builds on a very similar principal. In neither case is is about divorcing the body from the ‘self’ if you will but it is certainly about using the body as a pathway. I don’t mean to take this analogy too far though again the disciplinary aspects that are evident in yoga are also there in the kamasutra postures! It’s equally hard to do both!

GF

This and your previous comment are superb. I haven’t read much on it since having seen it just the other day, but these comments to my mind really shed light on the film. To be honest having just seen it, while I really found it moving and well-acted, I couldn’t quite “read” the film, grasp its significance beyond it being an emotionally compelling work. But this might be for the very reasons that you point out – that it takes a lot of very familiar, tried-and-true tropes of heterosexual screen romances and applies them to a lesbian love story. I recall, well before having seen the film, reading that there was a dustup over the sex scenes being approached with a “male gaze” and while I find this term problematic for all sorts of reasons it occurs to me that in light of what you’re talking about here, this specific criticism of the sex scenes might be a sign of the film’s success–a result of the overall design to treat this relationship using codes typically reserved for romantic films centered around men and women. In other words the film really subverts “heteronormativity” and as a result its been criticized for some of the gestures that are entirely necessary to this subversion.

Satyam

thanks much GF..

“In other words the film really subverts “heteronormativity” and as a result its been criticized for some of the gestures that are entirely necessary to this subversion.”

perfectly summed up..

Munna

Agree with “I think it’s partly because the director presents a lesbian relationship in very straight fashion” and I think GF also has similar reading “I really found it moving and well-acted, I couldn’t quite “read” the film, grasp its significance beyond it being an emotionally compelling work.”

If you see the sex was pivotal to relationship before they show them living as couple. But when they start living together, Adele was acting like wife, making food and serving it to guests. She felt jealous when Emma was talking to other lady or when Emma was at night. Even after hard work Adele insisted on sex which was curtly rejected by Emma like long time married couple.

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12 Responses to “Casual Talk on Blue is the Warmest Color”

  1. Suggest u remove my other post in the Bo thread, Satyam..a slightly ‘expanded’ post here which may also address munnas interesting (but hesitant) objections…( I see munna also ‘opening up’ & becoming a bit bolder–seems his better halfs away! Lol).
    on a related note– LS & sanju did u watch blue after all -I’m ‘not pulling your leg’ serious–just curious on a purely academic level…

    Xxxxx

    BLUE TO HIGHWAY– Adele to Alia

    In continuation to my (thesis-like) thoughts on blue which are posted here

    http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/oscar-2013-nominations/#comment-234342

    Have been v busy & trying (unsuccessfully) to shrug off a ‘highway’ viewing few days ago. Hopefully may come to the other major players (Imtiaz, Rahman, Hooda) soon but before that, the surprise dish!

    After the break(make)out teenage performance by Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue, we encounter another worthy act by Indias Alia Bhatt (though would rate the former higher). Both prove that age is no bar for brilliance (or mediocrity) & hit an unsuspecting audience with an unassumingly honest endearing persona. We couldn’t see Alia in some of the ‘physical/sexual scenes’ delivered by Adele competently but the emoting ability & potential is certainly there.

    It’s obvious that both ‘discovered themselves’ while filming the film & found aspects of their own innate personality even they didn’t know themselves. The director(s) Adele Ketische & Imtiaz Ali deserve a lot of credit for teasing out that extra bits out for the audience & the girls to see for themselves!

    Another commonality is the mixed background of both girls. Adele is French of Greek descent. I’ve suspected this earlier but was confirmed to me by an Alia fan that she has German grandparents (besides the Indian background). Also the fact that both don’t have an acting/screen history helps in the raw immature understated performance enhancing it.

    Incidentally (& I couldn’t resist the digression), but those two have already dovetailed into a ‘grown up’ Indopak-Czech Nargis Fakhri in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar who (inspite of being well past being a teenager) retained the ‘innocent rawness’ in performance. To add, she was entering a new territory (& language).

    Coming back to the topic @ hand, the biggest standout was the ‘silent assuredness’ of the performance graph. You don’t have a Meryl Streep-esque or Vidya Balanesque ‘acting workshop’ on from the first shot onwards. C’mon, life’s not a film reel &things move on at their own pace & every damn thing doesn’t have to be dramatic or nuanced. We see Adele doing mundane daily chores or walking normally to catch her daily bus. Similarly Alia isn’t made to /nor does she try to ‘impose herself’ onto the acting record books from the opening reel itself. There are entire stretches where the actor(esses) are not required to act-but just be (exist). Creditably that’s what they do (which isn’t that easy). There’s always this unnecessary temptation or ‘urge’ to take the ‘bull by the horns’ for the actor or director. Silence should be rightfully respected!

    But there are the expected & needed exacerbations or jump to the ‘higher gear’ *where needed* only. The result is that the proceedings don’t jar. One is witness to this interesting entry of the teenaged/ schoolgal leading lady protagonist with all her vulnerability, immaturity awaiting guidance, encouragement & feedback from their daddyfigures /uncle/boyfriend/girlfriend & the audience! I personally don’t find them ‘drop dead gorgeous’ in an attractive sense as such.

    Incidentally in highway, there’s a lovely tender track (amongst many others) wherein Alia shows her surprisingly adept ‘oral’ skills (somewhat differently to Adele’s who clearly had much more to do on that front!)
    Served as a sweet soothing lullaby (for me).

    I personally don’t find them ‘drop dead gorgeous’ in an attractive sense as such.There’s is more of a ‘cute endearing raw’ appeal eliciting ‘protectiveness’ rather than overt feral sexuality. In its wake, leaves behind a lingering beautiful collage of tender Adele & Alia moments. I will leave it to the audience/readers to take their pick of whom they thought did a better ‘job’. Wishing them all the best..

    • What has race to do with acting?

      Would you see if highway is made in any other language ..say South East Asian with same sensibilities?

  2. Highway vol 2 (contd from above)

    It’s difficult to pen down the thoughts on some movies. For eg amongst Indian movies, I remember Rockstar & Gangs of Wasseypur similarly. Highway is another such case. I knew the worth of this flick based on the talent involved and so my select gang of ‘special cinephiles’ met up for this one. And we took over from where the end credits of Rockstar rolled and Manoj Bajpai in GoW1 met his dramatic end!

    I will try punching something even if incoherent & typically random. Imtiaz Ali continues his fascination with journeys, both literal and emotional (like me). There’s an element of renunciation involved on the part of the Oscar winner Rahman to take up this subject with Imtiaz who obviously had cracked the mainstream box office with LAK, JWM culminating onto my personal favorite Rockstar. Not only did he politely refuse Ranbirs kapoors wish here to atleast do a cameo, but seems to have totally done away with the usual temptations of the cr(wh)ore clubs!

    There’s ample use of symbolism be it the ‘highway’ route (to nowhere) taken spanning the Delhi outskirts through the desert landscape, then the green fields, culminating in the snowy Himalayas. The mood of the male lead echoes the changing landscape.

    The first meeting of Alia with Randeep is marked by a gunshot (& so is the last!)

    Both protagonists Alia & Randeep are haunted by deep childhood traumas which intersperse with flashbacks and in the brief conversations. Both ‘interiorize’ the plot into their psyche and it shows effectively . Also it appears that the open scriptless mood-based style and dialogue with the overall improvisational approach by Imtiaz helps the actors and the impact.

    Rahman’s evocative songs function mainly as inner voices conveying the characters’ unspoken voices. The picturesque landscapes serve as psychological topography furnishing postcard backdrops for the Rahman numbers. There’s a welcome relief from colorful choreographed consumed song picturisation. And so even Rahmans sonorous music showed a wanton liberation & just flowed through …

    Another point I personally wished to add was that the name of the male protagonist played by Randeep was “Mahaveer Bhatti”— any resemblance to Mahesh Bhatt–a coincidence?

    Note that he Imtiaz Ali heroine has always been ‘unattainable’-be it the ‘in love with somebody else’ in JWM, or married briefly to someone else in LAK, to dying in ‘Rockstar’. Here the tradition is carried forward-
    with the male protagonist ‘dying on spot’…

    In a remarkable sequence, Alia runs away from her abductors, the camera following her in alternating extreme closeup and long shots in the midst of the salty desert terrain under the vast starry sky. In a sudden dramatic turn of events, she turns back and returns to the arms of her abductor/tormentor. My friends-That In a nutshell formed the crux of the nucleus of the brilliant Highway…

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EPF_iSvpOHo

  3. Satyam thanks for putting this up. Still think your comments here are simply the most interesting passages I’ve come across on this film. Its emotional power was always perfectly potent but its resonance beyond this only became apparent to me after having read your thoughts here.

    • Sadly this film hasn’t made its way to the Indian theaters so will have to wait for the DVD release :(

      • @ munna–some good points –seems I have ‘liberated’ munna also (like alia) lol-it’s good to see a freer munna now.
        Yes-‘race(s)’ don’t matter & yes I probably won’t have watched the subtitled version..

        @ q-think blue is now on youtube-check it out (alone)-some ‘educational’ stuff ..

        Also unsure but maybe it was Ann –she was comparing imtiaz all with kjo & mani. Actually the latter two haven’t had a critical/commercial success for nearly a decade!
        Imtiaz Ali with Rahman is an entity of his own & has created a new genre –I call it –
        Sufi-emo-rock noir..

        Brilliance doesn’t need pigeon-holing or classification..
        Res ipsa loquitor

  4. Highway -‘quiz’-contd 2

    I mentioned it briefly earlier & just read a few write ups here n elsewhere but haven’t come across another important point–not even an utkal uncle picked this up (forget others!)

    Seems like a ‘body language consutant’ has been employed, perhaps rare for a Bollywood film. In a way taking a ‘leaf out of the book’ of French flicks like ‘blue’.
    Munna mentionedin blue ‘sleeping with mouth open’ and ‘of no connection to the plot’. That’s a different distinct film tradition of pacing & grammar …(common in French films)

    So when Randeep & Alia finally ‘sleep together’–
    The former sleeps in the latters lap and
    Alia lies down like a baby on randeeps bodyframe (like a kid)
    There’s no conventional ‘kissing’ (forget boning!)
    It’s as if both double up as the others’ ‘parent’..
    Alia somewhat finds the ‘dad’ she never had & Randeep finds the ‘mom’ he had left behind..And sleeps like a baby in her lap…
    This ‘blurring of margins’ was done imperceptibly & subtly (many missed it seems!)
    ‘Flexi’love..wow

    Also Ali has the services of the greatest music director (& background score specialist) Bollywood has ever seen -but most of the non dialogue portions are well…
    Silent with minimal background music !

    But when rahman does get a chance, he makes his presence felt (& seen!)

    Imtiaz Ali obviously is deeply influenced by the euro flick & sensibility. He manages to come as close to the Bollywood /European noir in an Indian setting as one can (within the prevalent parameters & ‘norms’)
    He nearly pulls it off–But well, I’m always asking for too much ..
    he could’ve done something more imo–if only –on that later…maybe..

    Some nice still images there …(esp of Himachal & Kashmir )

  5. ‘Cuteness’ Alert

    Was about to enlist some issues/problems with Highway(maybe another day now), but was stopped in my tracks –by Alias cuteness attack (Just checked the stills above)
    @ 1:10 -somewhat guilty to say-is the baby goat(?) cuter or the person holding it ?

    By 1:30 –Imtiaz Ali can have it no more !
    In a ‘brazen’ misuse of privilege, he kicks out poor Hooda & ‘inserts’ himself onto the scene –“rockstar” style
    And in the male version above–check out rahman himself going all ‘yo rockstar’ mode..

    Ok lemme spare my Sufi brethren & join her myself… :-)

    Kaanch kanwaari, sharm utaari
    Chaar pe bhaari lage
    Jaaye bhaad mein duniya daari
    Woh toh chali chali chali….

  6. Contd — I personally feel that Alia’s ‘backstory’ need not be elaborated (atleast) in detail (..in true euro tradition)
    Besides hints, it couldve been kept open
    As an example –‘Jeune et jolie’
    The director /plot made no effort to dig out the cause why the lead actress turned from a high schooler to a hooker in three seasons!
    There was no obvious reason but why should it always be spelt out.
    Other than this tendency to over explain , don’t have many issues.

    (& btw rahmans done it again—The soundtrack is addictive ..)

  7. Not getting a chance to try anything new–still stuck with the same viewing…sorry
    Today someone (who doesn’t even understand the language!) ‘gifted’ me the soundtrack cd of highway. Heard it while driving (apt for this album)–more for that kind person than myself –but now I’m like a kid in a Candy store…

    Dreamy vocals dreamy tunes
    Dreamy percussion max music max mood
    In a ‘conglomeration’ of tunes

    This is (typically rahman) not an album one can gulp in one go esp if one is a rahman afficianado….one needs to drink down the ‘haunted eclectic grandness’ slowly

    To tell u the truth–It’s not that I didn’t have a copy earlier but I stayed off it! What if u fiddle with the end receptor itself and start ‘enjoying’ pain.

    Have sort of learnt to resist my urges and enjoy my own ‘deprivation’. .(& watch myself from a distance)

    eh jeena bhi, na jeena bhi
    Hai dono ka tumse hi vaasta
    O.. main hi to hoon tera pataa
    Hai doosra naa koi raasta
    Aaye mujh tak woh tumko jo ho dhoondhta

    And then the killer…
    Meri khaamoshiyon mein hai tu bolta :-)

  8. @ Satyam– I thought its a passing phase but u seem to be really shaken up.
    I’m really amused, and amused at your continuing ‘need’ to constantly ‘moderate’ me.
    Relax mate –get better things to do in life than scan my every comment!
    You’ve become a ‘pale shadow’ of your original self doing this wierd ‘policing’
    May u get some peace and solve your insecurity …

    Dhoop paani pe baras jaaye..
    Yeh.. saaye banaaye, mitaaye….

  9. Continuing to unravel the musical mysteries of highway & rahman

    From wiki about implosive silence —
    “Rahman described as the track Implosive Silence as a “a state of mind-soothing yet enigmatic”. It is a musical piece trying to capture the sounds in character Veera’s mind as she travels along the highway.[7]Later, singer of the song Jonita Gandhi stated, “The song ‘Implosive silence’ isn’t a song that requires lyrics — it is very expressive in itself, and portrays the emotions felt by the characters in the film.”[10]Further in yet another interview, Rahman disclosed that in the film, for him the most important sound (track) was “Implosive Silence”. The song being the voice of the main protagonist Veera was compared to which is not definitive and goes through many layers like brain functions with several different questions coming, settling somewhere, not settling somewhere.”

    Spotted this on the net think it was msn.com-couldn’t have put it better..”It’s tough if not impossible to make a politically correct film about a rich girl falling in love with her kidnapper. To a very large extent, ‘Highway’ manages to travel a credible road, letting the sleeping dogs lie by simply believing in Veera’s truth (for whatever it may be worth).

    Admirably, Imtiaz Ali is not afraid of silences. The sound design by Resul Pookutty is rich in the sounds of nature. The bubble of the brook, the chirp of a bird, the groan of a tired soul and breaking of a heart….are all tangible. A special mention must be made of the texture of incidental noises on the soundtrack and the quality of the folk songs that play in the background as Veera and her kidnapper traverse a spectrum of cultures in search of…what??? We really don’t know!

    At the end, we are left with a deeply dissatisfying film whose very incompleteness lends a sense of beauty to the narrative. ‘Highway’ is a sprawling stretch of splendour, created by a director who shoots every frame in a painter’s vein. Layered, luminous and evocative, this is a world that M.F. Hussain would have created if he were a filmmaker.

    Is this really a film? Or is it a poem that spills out metres of magnificence in a road journey where you measure life’s worth not in years, but in kilometers…

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