On movie sex and movie love...

Tag: 4/5 (Page 1 of 2)

Blue is the Warmest Colour

or La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2

  • YEAR: 2013
  • DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche
  • KEY ACTORS: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.7


✔️ It does pass the Bechdel test – the two main characters are women and the main relationship is between the two of them!

✔️ The cast are definitely fuckable. I’m straight but there’s no denying that they are both beautiful and incredibly hot together.

❌ I can’t say that it inspired fantasies though. I’m not that curious about having sex with someone with a vulva so while I admired how hot their sex was, it wasn’t something that I fantasised about afterwards.

✔️ The rewatchable question is a difficult one. It is three hours long. And as an English speaker, it is entirely in subtitles. But, wow, it was engrossing and the time seemed to fly by! And I would definitely watch it again so, yes, rewatchable!

✔️ And it is sex positive. Sex is an important part of their relationship and, while there are some sex negative moments with homophobia and slut shaming, they are clearly positioned as wrong and damaging.

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: YouTube (from £2.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

[Content warning: homophobia, gaslighting]

Poster for Blue is the Warmest Colour

I’ve been putting off watching Blue is the Warmest Colour. It’s just so long! At roughly 3 hours, it is a daunting undertaking on its own without even considering that it has subtitles and, well, I was never quite in the right mood to watch it.

I’ve also been putting off watching it for this blog as I’m worried that I’m not the right person to watch and review it from a sex and relationships perspective. Blue is the Warmest Colour is famously a lesbian love story that contains a frankly notorious extended sex scene, and much of the criticism I’ve read concerned this scene. Is it porny? Does it realistically show sex between two people with vulvas? Is it a good portrayal of a lesbian relationship? Did the cis male director produce a film that simply followed his cis male gaze and his heterosexual fantasises of two women fucking? And as I’m a straight cis woman with no bicuriosity and I don’t watch porn, can I really talk about this movie with any authority?

The answer is probably no, but I really loved Blue is the Warmest Colour so I hope you won’t mind if I do try to write about it anyway! And, obviously, let me know if my cishetero privilege is showing – I’m always happy to learn from my mistakes.

Blue is the Warmest Colour is the story of Adèle (Exarchopoulos) – the French title translates to ‘The Life of Adèle, Chapters 1 and 2’ – who is a young woman in her last year of school. She falls in love with Emma (Seydoux), a slightly older art student and they have a highly charged, intensely emotional and hugely sexual relationship that later falls apart with as much energy and charge and emotion.

Adele and Emma kissing in Blue is the Warmest Colour

And that’s basically the plot. It’s simply the story of a relationship, from beginning to end, and I worry that much of the intrigue around Blue is the Warmest Colour stems from the fact that it was about *whispers* lesbians. While it is undoubtably a beautiful movie, would it be talked about in the same way if it was about a heterosexual relationship? When seen from that perspective, the story itself is almost a cliche – a young woman is shown the joys of sex by an older, wiser man and falls in love with him, only to feel excluded from his creative life. Left to do all the cooking and feeling lost and lonely, she strays. When her cheating is discovered, her lover kicks her out, making her feel guilty for the betrayal without ever acknowledging their own flaws, and the young woman has to start all over again. But while this is a very familiar story, it is not usually told as a queer story.

I feel that this is one of Blue is the Warmest Colour’s huge strengths. It cannot be denied that the promise of lesbian sex would have attracted a lot of curiosity and there is a reason why it played such a big part of the movie’s marketing, but the relationship was otherwise quite, well, normal, for want of a better word, which cannot often be said about homosexual relationships on screen. Ashton Cooper’s article for Jezebel was one of very few critical responses that I read from someone who is actually queer, and they agree: ‘mainstream portrayals of lesbians often feel overdetermined. We’re not watching people fall in love; we’re watching them BE LESBIANS. That is not the case in Blue. I have never seen a portrayal of a lesbian relationship on screen that captures the experience as truthfully as this film has.’

Is there something intrinsically different about queer relationships? Of course, society places very different pressures on them and queer people do face systemic discrimimation in ways that heterosexual people do not, but is the love between them and the internal workings of their relationships different from that of straight couples? I didn’t think it was and neither did Julie Morah, who wrote the original graphic novel. She has said that she has always been interested in the ‘banalisation of homosexuality’, hoping that making queer relationships more mainstream and ‘normal’ would stop LGBT+ people become targets of abuse.

And Adèle and Emma do have a ‘normal’ relationship that breaks down just as relationships sometimes do. More, I was fascinated to see what was essentially a patriarchal relationship occurring in a queer partnership between two women. I am sorry if I am incorrectly overlaying my cishetero perspective onto their relationship, but I kind of loved that there was so much about the problems within their relationship that was relatable and familiar. Which is exactly how it should be! Love is love is love and I believe that the wide variety in relationship types and styles extends into queer relationships too, rather than queer love being a category on its own.

And so I felt really sorry for Adèle as I don’t believe her relationship with Emma was healthy. At the beginning, she was the ingénue, innocent to the ways of the world and needing someone to show her the way, and she never recovered any sort of equality with Emma. She meets her for the first time in a lesbian bar and has to be told that she’s accidentally ordered a ‘bulldyke beer.’ Outside of their sexuality, Emma teaches Adèle about philosophy and art, but there was no suggestion that Adèle taught Emma anything in return. Adèle’s desire to be a teacher is secondary, emphasised by Emma’s insistence that Adèle is a writer when, in fact, all Adèle has written is her personal diary. I can only assume Emma has read this, hopefully with consent, but it is clear that she thinks Adèle should be more than just a teacher, even though that is Adèle’s dream job.

Adele as a teacher

Emma simply didn’t listen to Adèle or pay any attention to her desires. As another example, Adèle is admired for her ‘voracious’ appetite but doesn’t eat shellfish – something Emma forgets and just laughs off when Adèle is invited to meet her first girlfriend’s parents for the first time and is confronted by an entirely shellfish-based feast. Adèle eats it anyway rather than be awkward in refusing but I really resented Emma’s dismissal of Adèle’s preferences. It was a huge red flag for me!

And regardless of whether the culprit presents as a woman or not, this *is* patriarchal. Emma considers herself to be more important than Adèle and so Adèle has to fit into a lesser position. Blue is the Warmest Colour emphasises this structure at Emma’s party when the movie jumps forward a few years – Emma works the room, having erudite conversations with her friends, while Adèle does all of the cooking and preparation, serving food and topping up drinks, having turned down an invitation from her own friends – colleagues even, does Adèle have her own friends? Adèle isn’t her own person; she is there to support Emma, be her ‘muse and inspiration.’

I also felt that there was a definite suggestion that Emma was gaslighting Adèle. (I really didn’t like Emma!) Adèle ends up cheating on Emma when she goes out alone as a response to being left home alone while Emma stays out late with Lise, a friend from the art world. Emma and Lise have previously been seen chatting conspiratorially and sitting too close to be just friends, mirroring the accusations Adèle’s school friends throw at her earlier in the movie, but when Emma discovers Adèle’s infidelity, she goes ballistic, calling her a whore and a slut and throwing her out of the house. Did Adèle’s indiscretion touch a nerve? Because, of course, when they meet up years later, Emma is living with Lise. They did get together, just as Adèle feared. Cool, cool, cool, cool…

While Blue is the Warmest Colour is a very long film, it didn’t feel that long when I was watching it as it seemed an appropriate length of time for the story that was trying to be told. The emotional highs and lows wouldn’t have felt so high or so low without having committed the time to the relationship that the movie asks us to. And I believe that the focus on sex was also important to help us understand them as a couple. I really believed that they had incredible sex and I understood perhaps why Adèle stayed when she was otherwise so miserable: ‘the sex mainly served to illustrate the bond between the two women so that their eventual relationship problems carried an element of intensity that viewers could understand in intimate detail.

Of course, the sex scenes are also important because they are the source of much of the controversy surrounding Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Most of the criticism surrounds the fact that the film was directed by a straight cis man and both of the actors were straight cis women. They were filming something of which they had no personal experience and, according to Julie Morah, this was obvious: ‘this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.’ She felt that the straight attempt to show lesbian sex ended up looking like ‘a brutal surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn and made everyone feel ill at ease…The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing at all, and find it ridiculous.’ Even Exarchopoulos, who played Adèle, stated that she was ‘not that familiar with lesbian sex.

A close up of Adele and Emma as they are about to kiss from Blue is the Warmest Colour

And I think that’s were the main complaints originate – if Kechiche wasn’t filming real, accurate sex between two people with vulvas, what did he think he was filming and where did he get his inspiration? Lesbian porn? Or his own fantasies? Manohla Dargis from the New York Times felt that the focus on arses and open mouths and splayed bodies was more representative of ‘Kechiche’s desires than anything else,’ commenting that ‘Abdellatif Kechiche, I realized fairly quickly, likes a tight end.

And Kechiche hasn’t tried to allay concerns about his male gaze when filming Blue is the Warmest Colour. In an interview with Flicks and Bits, a film website that now seems to have been deleted but which is quoted in a number of the reviews, Kechiche said that he was filming what he found beautiful: ‘we shot them like paintings, like sculptures. We spent a lot of time lighting them to ensure they would look beautiful.’ Unfortunately, this is the definition of objectification and shows that Kechiche chose to portray the two women in an idealised fashion, exacerbating the sense of voyeurism we feel in watching and focussing a male gaze. Adèle and Emma are seen ‘in decorative, artistic poses [rather] than in the wild, messy jumble of mouths and limbs we expect’ and, as Michelle Juergen wrote for Salon, this ‘artistic rendering effectively creates a perspective reminiscent of Lolita: we are not meant to know the characters; we are meant to watch them, to admire them, and to idealise them.’ To quote art critic John Berger, ‘Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at.’ Again, cool, cool, cool, cool…

The first scene when Adèle was wanking was first time that I believed those critics that felt the sex was too much like porn and like a cis man’s fantasy. Personally, I don’t expose my own breasts when masturbating, gaining the same pleasure from reaching beneath my shirt, and I don’t arch my back as if I’m displaying my body to someone watching. Adèle’s wanking technique really did look like she was wanking for show, as if it were porn, and didn’t match the positions that women actually choose when masturbating.

As for the rest of the sex, I’m less sure. I know it was hot. I know it looked like a lot of fun! And yes, the women were incredibly beautiful and it was incredibly stylish but I’m tempted to conclude that Kechiche didn’t get it all wrong. Perhaps its simply because there isn’t enough vulva-on-vulva sex on screen in general but I was expecting it to be worse! Cooper from Jezebel felt that ‘the sex in Blue is more similar to the sex I have than any other lesbian sex I’ve ever seen on screen’ They did criticise ‘his preoccupation with scissoring…not because some lesbians don’t like scissoring, but because it seems to be the go-to position for people who have no idea how two women might have sex aside from rubbing their junk against one another.

But I think that’s OK. I think any issues that I have with the male gaze and the fact that this lesbian story has been made for a straight audience are diluted by the fact that it is a queer story that has been made for the mainstream. As Manohla Dargis reminded us, ‘feminists have taken issues with old Hollywood representations of women, but at least its star system provided a rich body of work…[Blue is the Warmest Colour] is a three-hour movie about women, a rare object of critical inquiry perhaps especially for American men working in the male-dominated field of movie critics.’ People did start to talk about feminist and queer issues because of this film!

Adele looking sad in Blue is the Warmest Colour

And Blue is the Warmest Colour was very successful! It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and has a notoriety that means people will be watching it for years to come. And don’t forget that it was given the Palme d’Or ‘just hours after masses of French demonstrators poured into the streets of Paris to protest France’s new law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption.’ Homophobia was still an issue in 2013 and it is still an issue now. We do need more queer represention on screen. So when that mainstream audience sees Blue is the Warmest Colour, they’ll see a film that shows an LGBT+ coming of age and the difficulties that can entail, but they’ll also see a common or garden relationship. They’ll see that this queer relationship ‘isn’t quite so “queer” as they may have thought.’ And I do feel that that is progressive and it’s wonderful.


Oh, I so nearly forgave Kechiche for being such a man behind a camera until I discovered that he was actually just a massive dick, who also had a camera.

Both Exarchopoulos and Seydoux have said that they won’t work with Kechiche again . They described the experience of making the film as abusive. Talk of repetitive takes and endless reshooting reminded me of the worst of Kubrick and when Kechiche described the role of an actor as ‘one of a spoiled child,’ I had flashbacks of the abuse Adrian Lyne inflicted on Kim Basinger in Nine ½ Weeks. I was also more than a little freaked out to discover that Adèle wasn’t originally the name of Exarchopoulos’s character – Kechiche used so much footage taken when Exarchopoulos was relaxing out of character that he had to change her character name to explain why so many people were calling her Adèle. Which is just creepy.

And that’s before we come to how Kechiche chose to film the sex scenes. Since the fall out from #MeToo, it has become much more common to use an ‘intimacy coordinator’ such as Ita O’Brien to make actors more comfortable with intimate scenes. O’Brien emphasises that sex scenes should be choreographed as closely as fight scenes to prevent actors from accidentally crossing boundaries or becoming uncomfortable, but this was not Kechiche’s style. Exarchopoulos told the Daily Beast that he had specifically wanted to shoot without choreography and her words almost make it sound like he’d wanted them to actually have sex, describing how he’d wanted the scenes to be ‘more like special sex scenes…once we were on the shoot, I realized that he really wanted us to give him everything. Most people don’t even dare to ask the things that he did.’ Exarchopoulos and Seydoux had only just met. They had no chance to become comfortable with each other before they were thrown into a 10 day shoot when they were naked and touching each other. Apparently they had prostheses over their actual genitals but, really. Reading their experiences was honestly horrifying and I think they were being quite restrained when they described the shoot as ‘horrible.’

Emma, looking upset, from Blue is the Warmest Colour

And it has ruined Blue is the Warmest Colour for me. I had marvelled at the raw emotion that Seydoux and Exarchopoulos produced, the pain in their final fight and their emotional exhaustion by the end of the movie, but I fear it wasn’t all acting and that adds a layer of discomfort to the viewing that isn’t needed. Did Seydoux need to hit Exarchopoulos so many times to ensure that her slap in their break up packed that powerful emotional punch, or could they have achieved that same effect long before the 100th take? We’ll never know. But I fear that that’s why Spielberg insisted that all three of them – Exarchopoulos, Seydoux and Kechiche – were honoured with the Palme d’Or, rather than just the director as is usual practice.

They’d earned it.


Copyright All stills and photos are sourced from MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, and are the courtesy of their respective production studios and/or distribution companies. Images are intended for educational or editorial use only.

Moulin Rouge

  • YEAR: 2001
  • Director: Baz Luhrmann
  • KEY ACTORS: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.6


✔️ It does pass the Bechdel test…but only just! Satine has a conversation with Marie, her dresser, about being a star. That’s it.

✔️ And, oh my gosh, I want to fuck the cast! It’s difficult to argue whether this is either of McGregor or Kidman’s peak hotness because they have just had so many peaks but, damn, they are beautiful in this movie…

✔️ It’s also incredibly rewatchable. If I come across it on TV, I will always watch it, no matter where in the movie we are.

✔️ And Moulin Rouge did inspire fantasies. Not of sex work but of being that beautiful, that glamorous, that sexually confident…

❌ But it is not sex positive! It’s not sex worker positive, it’s not feminist, and it values virginity much too highly!

As always, this contains spoilers so watch the film before you read on…

STREAMING: Amazon Prime (rent £2.49, buy £6.99), YouTube (from £3.99). For a full list of streaming options, check out JustWatch.com

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  • YEAR: 1995
  • DIRECTOR: Amy Heckerling
  • KEY ACTORS: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Stacey Dash
  • IMDB SCORE: 6.8


✔️ Of course this is rewatchable! It may be 25 years old but I could still watch it again and again.

✔️ It’s incredibly sex positive. Even back in 1995, the women didn’t judge each other for their sexual experience or lack of experience. There is no slut shaming and virgin shaming is clearly shown to be wrong, and it’s awesome!

✔️ And it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. The three main characters are women and they talk about school, driving tests, make overs…

✔️ I will give it a mark for wanting to fuck the cast. I prefer older Paul Rudd, because he does look different, but he’s cute here and Alicia Silverstone is hot!

❌ But it didn’t inspire fantasies. It’s not really a sexual film and I don’t really think I can attribute crushes on older unobtainable people on Clueless!

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  • YEAR: 2004
  • DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
  • KEY ACTORS: Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law, Julia Roberts
  • IMDB SCORE: 7.2


✔️ Yes. The cast are fuckable. All of them. Every single character. They’re awful but I would fuck them all without hesitation!

✔️And it definitely inspired fantasies – fantasies of love at first sight, fantasies of being wanted so intensely and destructively

✔️ Closer passes the Bechdel Test when Alice and Anna talk about photography at the beginning of the film.

✔️ I also think it’s rewatchable. It’s a stunning, enthralling and breathtaking film!

❌ But is it sex positive? Sadly, I can’t give Closer the mark. Sex is used as a weapon too many times…

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YEAR: 2013
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
KEY ACTORS: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson

❌ Sadly, this film fails the Bechdel Test. Even without asking if the OS have a gender, none of the named female presenting characters talk about anything but men.
✔️ It did inspire fantasies of what our sexual future could be and how technology could influence the sexual relationships we might have. Also fantasies of super hot phone sex!
✔️ And I do think it is sex positive. The science fiction setting allows stigma, personhood, sexual agency and consent to be examined and it does a pretty good job of it. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good!
✔️ It raises so many questions in my mind that I do think it is rewatchable.
✔️ And I would fuck the cast. Not Joaquin Phoenix so much but I’d love to have phone sex with Samantha. Scarlett Johansson has such a deeply sexy voice after all!

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10 Things I Hate About You

YEAR: 1999
DIRECTOR: Gil Junger
KEY ACTORS: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik

✔️ First off, this film is incredibly rewatchable. And it seems to be on the TV all the time. Yay!
✔️ And it is sex positive. I particularly liked how sex was accurately discussed as something teenagers do, rather than being shocking in itself. Bianca’s surprise that Kat had had sex with Joey sprung from her shock at not being told, rather than the act itself, and Kat’s regret was based on how Joey acted afterwards. She had consented to having sex but changed her mind about doing it again; for once, it wasn’t assault as a plot point.
✔️ It does pass the Bechdel Test, although it did take some thought to remember conversations that weren’t about dating!
✔️ And I definitely, definitely want to fuck the cast. It’s Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles!
❌ But it didn’t inspire fantasies. It’s not really that kind of movie and I didn’t want to have their ‘outsiders together’ relationship.

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YEAR: 2018
DIRECTOR: Wash Westmoreland
KEY ACTORS: Keira Knightley, Dominic West

✔️ This movie is rewatchable. It’s beautiful and funny and interesting, and I definitely want to watch it again!
✔️ It’s easily sex positive. There are feminist issues, certainly, but all the characters have a level of sexual freedom and acceptance of each other’s needs that is admirable and not always present in relationships, even today.
✔️ It also has no problem passing the Bechdel Test. Colette and Missy talk a lot about subjects that don’t involve men, as do Colette and the other women she meets in the Paris salon scene, who are handily introduced to her when she meets them!
✔️ I would also fuck the cast without much hesitation. I have carried a torch for Dominic West since The Wire, which even a dodgy goatee and a dodgier personality can’t entirely extinguish, but Keira Knightley is the star. Colette is witty and intelligent, and Knightley gives her a spark that is frankly irresistible!
❌ But narrowly missing a 5/5 score, it didn’t inspire fantasies. Hot as they may look, I’m not gay so the lesbian love scenes didn’t inspire me beyond wanting hot sex in general, and the dress up scenes with Dominic West were definitely on the creepy end of the hot-or-not scale…

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Jennifer’s Body

YEAR: 2009
DIRECTOR: Karyn Kusama
KEY ACTORS: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried

✔️ Are the cast fuckable? It’s Megan Fox as a hot cheerleader. Of course, the cast is fuckable! She’s deliberately sexy but it works!
✔️ And it passes the Bechdel Test – Needy and Jennifer talk about a demonic ritual if nothing else!
✔️ I’ve only watched it once but I really enjoyed it and would watch it again so, yes, rewatchable!
❌ But it didn’t inspire fantasies. The sex is, well, inexperienced and I have no desire to literally eat men…
✔️ It is sex positive, however. Both main characters have sex – the hot one and the nerdy one – and nothing bad happens to them because they’ve had sex! It also showed realistic first/early sexual experiences with obvious condom use that wasn’t really played for laughs, beyond the simple intrinsic hilarity of comfortable, consenting sex!

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Practical Magic

YEAR: 1998
DIRECTOR: Griffin Dunne
KEY ACTORS: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman

✔️ It is indeed rewatchable, but it took me a long time to get there!
✔️ With so few significant male roles, I’d worry if this failed the Bechdel Test but luckily it passes with ease!
✔️ Considering this film has a predominantly female cast, and I’m quite underwhelmed by the men on screen, and I’m straight, this perhaps shouldn’t get a mark from me but even I can’t deny that the cast are fuckable. 1990s were a successful time for them both and arguably their hotness peak so yes, fuckable!
✔️ I almost didn’t give it a mark for inspiring fantasies but I couldn’t ignore that kiss. Sally and her husband’s kiss to Faith Hill’s famous song, This Kiss, is everything.
❌ But despite much soul searching as I love the feminism of this film, I can’t give it a mark for sex positivity. ‘Since when is being a slut a crime in this family?’ Gillian asks but she does suffer. She is the more promiscuous sister who is shown to party with millions of friends and makes jokes about locking up husbands on her return, and she ends up in an abusive relationship. She suffers for her sexuality, and it saddens me that this is the case because it is otherwise a hugely positive and feminist movie.

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Up in the Air

YEAR: 2009
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
KEY ACTORS: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

✔️ Rewatchable – it’s soft and gentle and sweet and funny and thought provoking and easy watching, and I could watch it every week!
✔️ And yes, I do want to fuck the cast. I’d even argue that this film is George Clooney’s hotness peak!
✔️ Hotel sex with a handsome stranger was certainly a fantasy before this film, but it added the idea of luxury and exclusivity to this fantasy; a frisson of transience and possibility on expensive sheets.
✔️ Although it is another movie that has a possible cheating plot, I do think it’s sex positive as the main focus is on being OK with who you are. Whether you’re frequent flier Ryan or his home girl sister, it’s OK to have the life (and the love and sex) that you want and in the absence of significant sex negative themes, I’m going to give it the mark.
❌ But does it pass the Bechdel test? Can it be only the second 5/5 movie?? In the end, this comes down to accepting nuance in a binary question. There is one conversation between two named female characters that isn’t about men or dating – Natalie fires Karen Barnes, the women who later takes their own life. It’s an important plot point, but it is only one conversation and the women’s name is only revealed later. She is also not listed in the credits. Is that enough to scrape over this lowest of bars? I don’t think it is…

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