In May, as same-sex marriage became legal in France, two radically different films, both dealing with same-sex relationships, both sexually explicit, both daring artistic statements, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Stranger by the Lake seemed to coexist as part of a cultural dialogue. Both films ended up winning not just accolades, but prestigious awards: the Palme d’Or for Blue Is the Warmest Colour and the Cannes Best Director and Queer Palme for Stranger by the Lake.
French actor Pierre Deladonchamps, the dashing leading man who is onscreen, and disrobed, for much of Stranger by the Lake, pondered the significance of the surge of gay and lesbian films from France. “Maybe because the subject [has] been more accepted with time.” He elaborates, “People want to talk about it, as if it was, like, any story you can tell. And maybe it’s fascinating because people do not know much about homosexuality like that, like in Stranger by the Lake or Blue Is the Warmest Colour . . . maybe one day, we won't be careful about the sexuality of characters.”
Perhaps that's true, but both films join several others this year that are very much about the lives of homosexual characters, and homosexual love. The men of Stranger by the Lake have sexual relations with strangers without remorse or regret, and the women of Blue Is the Warmest Colour fall into the emotional and physical abyss of love.
Both films are erotically charged and graphic. The extended love scenes that form their cores — complete with anatomically correct close-ups — are unlike anything depicted in American cinema. These are both “adult” films, yet not pornographic. They are remarkable films for many reasons, and the fact that they are dealing with same-sex relationships, in a frank and honest matter, makes them even more extraordinary.
Stranger by the Lake and Blue Is the Warmest Colour will be screened at Ottawa's LGBT Film Festival this week (see times below).
Stranger by the Lake screens Fri, Oct 18, 9:30pm at the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adele) screens Sun, Oct 20, 8pm at ByTowne Cinema, 325 Rideau St.