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'Blue Is the Warmest Color' gets NC-17 rating; book due in September

It's not just the French who have a better handle on sexy material than Americans -- Canadians do, too.

The film "Blue Is the Warmest Color," notorious for its sexy scenes between two young women, took the top prize at Cannes this year. But it's had a hard time finding its way into American theaters.

This week it was announced that it will be released this fall with an NC-17 rating, the first NC-17 film of 2013. Sundance Selects/IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring said in a statement that the company "refused to compromise [director Abdellatif] Kechiche's vision by trimming the film for an R rating." Whether or not theaters will embrace an NC-17 film is another matter.

The movie is based on a graphic novel by French artist and author Julie Maroh, originally published by Glénat, a Belgian graphic novel publisher. In 2012 it was picked up for English translation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and it's finally coming to shelves in September.

Who's publishing it? Not an American publishing house.

"Blue Is the Warmest Color" will be published in early September by Arsenal Pulp Press, a Canadian independent with, its website notes, a staff of five. It specializes in LBGT fiction and nonfiction, gender studies, and alternative culture books such as vegan cookbooks and alternative crafts. Graphic novels aren't one of its specialties, but same-sex relationships are.

After the film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Maroh wrote on her blog that she was dissatisfied with the film's notorious -- and now, we know, NC-17 -- sex scenes. Maroh called them “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn.”

Arsenal Pulp hasn't yet taken sides. "The fact that the author’s vision of the film differs from not only the filmmakers but many of the reviewers who have heaped praise upon it has itself generated a great deal of attention," the publisher wrote on its blog. "Not having seen the film yet, we can’t offer an opinion of our own. But we certainly respect Julie’s comments about it, which raise some provocative points about male depictions of female sexuality both onscreen and in the culture at large."

The graphic novel is where Maroh's original vision can be found. It will be published Sept. 3. Originally slated to be titled "Blue Angel" in English, the title has since been revised to "Blue Is the Warmest Color" so its connection to the film is clear.

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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