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Director Abdellatif Kechiche and the cast of the movie attending the photocall of Mektoub My Love Intermezzo during the 72nd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France
Director Abdellatif Kechiche and the cast of the movie attending the photocall of Mektoub My Love Intermezzo during the 72nd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France

'Three hours of jiggling butts': Cannes film sparks scandal over its depiction of women's bodies

The film was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, who directed Blue Is The Warmest Colour.
May 24th 2019, 2:29 PM 49,888 33

A FILM BY by one of France’s top directors was heavily criticised at the Cannes film festival today, with critics focusing on the way it depicts its female stars.

Critics laid into Abdellatif Kechiche for the way his camera focuses and lingers on the bodies of his female cast and for a 13-minute oral sex scene in a nightclub toilet.

The director left his own gala red-carpet premiere after his leading actress, Ophelie Bau, left before the end. Kechiche picked up a microphone as the lights came up and said, “I apologise for having kept you and now I’m off.”

The 58-year-old director later defended Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo at a press conference where he said it was an attempt to “create the most free cinema experience possible”, praising his actors for having “fearlessly crossed boundaries” for him.

Kechiche also railed at an AFP question about the sex assault allegations levelled against him in October by a 29-year-old actress as “sick”.

He said he had a “clear conscience” and that the “new morality of our time disturbs me”.

Hist latest film is competing for Palme d’Or, which the Tunisian-born director won in 2013 for Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

The stars of that lesbian love story, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, later complained about Kechiche’s behaviour towards them on set.

 ’Three hours of jiggling butts’ 

Kechiche said his film was an ode to “love, desire, music and the body” – but critics have been less than kind.

The movie was little more than “three-hours-plus of jiggling female butts”, said critic Boyd van Hoeij writing in The Hollywood Reporter.

David Ehrlich of Indiewire said “literally 60% of the movie is close-ups of butts”:

In Variety, Guy Lodge said that the film is “all but plotless”, with its female star “there primarily to be watched”.

A dismaying creative dead end from an abundantly gifted filmmaker, the new film escalates its predecessor’s cheeky protest to a form of acute auteur trolling. 

Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times proclaimed it a Cannes “disaster”:

Playing out in something close to real time over a single afternoon and evening, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo is a numbingly obtuse experience, a feat of maddeningly indulgent non-storytelling hiding behind a symphony of bared midriffs and jiggling derrières.

New Zealand producer Patricia Hetherington walked out of the film, calling it “the most lascivious leery trash I’ve seen. Eurgh!”

Three other actors from Mektoub, My Love did not attend the Cannes press conference and Kechiche did not comment on their absence.

But a spokeswoman for the film said later that Ophelie Bau could not be there because she was making another movie.

Kyle Buchanan at the New York Times said that the director “leers again”:

A three-and-a-half-hour testament to twerking and oral intercourse, “Intermezzo” plays like the world’s artiest “Girls Gone Wild” video, and as his actresses doff their clothes to cavort on a beach and in a nightclub, Kechiche’s single-minded focus on their fannies proves so obsessive that even Sir Mix-A-Lot might blanch.

But the film also had its fans among French critics. Philippe Rouyer hailed the “actors who gave everything to play out this magisterially filmed trance.”

With reporting from - © AFP, 2019

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Aoife Barry

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