When the Cannes 2012 Palme d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” premieres this October, its Swedish predecessor “Kiss Me” (Kyss Mig) will be at a festival in Taiwan.
Both movies, about a relationship between two women, couldn’t be more different or alike.
While “Blue” is a three-hour depiction of a two female lovers noted for its explicit sexuality (though reviewers agree sex here underscores rather than exploits), ”Kiss Me” puts the “emotion” of falling in love, unexpectedly and suddenly, into a gorgeous production. The actresses are mesmerizing in their portrayal of stable women in their 30s.
What has consistently overwhelmed viewers about “Kiss Me” is its candid depiction of falling in love in a way that has never been done before. Here gender is a mere footnote.
And had it not been for a difficult road to production, “Kiss Me” might have been the first female love affair to win at Cannes. Instead it won Audience Awards at the AFI and Grenoble Film Festivals as well as the Lorens Award at Göteborg.
“We weren’t finished,” said producer Josefine Tengblad about the 2011 Cannes deadline. “We did hurry up. The Swedish film Institute believed in “Kiss Me” and submitted it as it was.”
And while “Blue” conquered Cannes one short year later, Tengblad said she isn’t surprised her film missed the earlier cut.
“Cannes likes darker films,” she said. “Ours has a happy ending.”
After a few frames (from enormously talented writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining) audiences are intoxicated by the intelligent screenplay, cinematography, music and actresses who inspire the most jaded to root for their characters.
And while the combination of exhilaration and terror connected with falling in love is universal, rarely has it been served back so vividly and poignantly.
“What I hear the most often from audience members is they have experienced the same thing but have never seen a movie that showed it,” she said. “We wanted to make a beautiful movie and I think we accomplished that. And we wanted a story that would end up happy. That was so important to us that it is more about love.
“It was actually a movie that shouldn’t have been because it was such a hard struggle to get it made.” Especially pre-“Blue” winning the Palme d’Or.
The struggle was more about financing and getting the right actors according to the producer. The crew, by a stroke of luck, is largely from the Swedish Wallander television series.
“The first time Liv (Mjones who plays Frida) was in the room we knew,” Tengblad said. “It was harder to find Mia. We found Ruth (Vega Fernandez) three weeks before we started shooting.
“That was probably my fault,” she mused. “This is my story.
“I left him and the woman that I had fallen in love with, well we weren’t really together yet when I was doing the film. She was shocked when she saw the first cut. She couldn’t believe I got it so right. She just cried. But she loved it saying it was amazing how the feelings between the two girls are exactly (how we were and) how we talked to each other.”
Imagine as an independent producer or director that a year later the same theme wins at Cannes.
“When “Blue” won my first thought was it was fantastic because it was the same time as the riots in France because gay people could marry,” she said. “People were screaming on the streets because people didn’t want this law.”
Though in the year before, Tengblad said traveling the world’s film festivals she found audiences enthusiastically embraced “Kiss Me.”
Gentle and smart with outstanding production values (thanks to Keining, composer Marc Collins, cinematographer Ragna Jorming and production designer Elle Furudahl) “Kiss Me” posts a 71% rating on major movie sites and has nearly the same industry rating as “Blue.” It has flourished internationally with little publicity and primarily by word of mouth.
“It’s been a huge success outside of Sweden,” said Tengblad. “Mainstream and gay circles. No one believed that it would happen. It’s been screened around the world at festivals for a year and a half now.”
So as the “Blue” premiere rapidly approaches and the buzz focuses on its three hour playing time and 10-minute sex scene – audiences may find “Kiss Me” a “warmer” prelude.
I haven’t seen “Blue is the Warmest Color,” Tengblad said. Adding she will be in Taiwan showing “Kiss Me” when it “Blue” opens (though she expects to when she returns). And that is fine with the producer.
“In the end, I have a film I am proud of,” she said. “And the woman who inspired the story, I am with her still.”
Available on DVD. Look for a second collaboration between Tengblad and Keining. It will be about two women looking at the life they hoped for and the reality by contrast.