Four years after winning the Palme d’Or in a unanimous vote for “Blue is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche has finally returned with his new movie. “Mektoub My Love: Canto Uno” premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier today and, just like Kechiche’s previous feature, it’s already courting controversy over its graphic sex scenes and male gaze. First reactions online slam the film for objectifying its female characters, and even the reviews that somewhat enjoyed the director’s movie single out the camera’s male gaze as a serious problem.
And you thought Blue is the Warmest Color was ruined by male gaze… Mektoub My Love is Male Gaze: The Movie. It’s ridiculous.
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) September 7, 2017
The exact 180 minute duration of ‘Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno’ is a piece of apolitical proof for the masturbatory arrogance of Kechiche
— Another Gaze (@anothergaze) September 7, 2017
“Mektoub My Love” follows a young screenwriter named Amin who heads from Paris to his hometown on the Mediterranean for the summer. He spends his days at beaches and in bars with childhood friends and his sexually-charged older cousin, Tom. Amin eventually meets a producer who offers to finance his first film, which presents the young man with numerous choices that could change his life. The cast includes Shain Boumedine, Ophelie Bau, Salim Kechiouche, and Lou Luttiau.
“Those troubled by what they took to be the male gaze of ‘Blue’ will likely be enraged by ‘Mektoub’ – with good reason,” writes Lee Marshall of ScreenDaily. “If the camera is in love with all the characters, it seems especially aroused by the women, all of them beautiful, who in the film’s frequent party scenes bump, grind, pole dance, and indulge in hot, flirtatious girl-on-girl moves.”
“‘Mektoub’ will likely ignite a thunderstorm of criticism hinging on Kechiche’s unapologetically concupiscent male gaze,” adds The Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij. “It becomes clear that Kechiche and Tony see women only as lust objects. The roving cameras endlessly showcase the ladies letting loose on the dancefloor, engaging in same-sex kissing and rubbing and wriggling their behinds in unapologetically lascivious widescreen closeups.”
The movie apparently wastes no time in presenting its male gaze, as one of the earliest scenes finds Amin watching his cousin Tom have graphic sex with Amin’s friend, Ophelie. The sex scenes have a realism to them where it’s hard to tell whether or not the actors were faking it. Marshall says these scenes are “filmed in graphic detail,” which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the controversy that met “Blue is the Warmest Color” and its prolonged sex scenes.
“Kechiche and cinematographer Marco Graziaplena venture inside to capture all of the huffing and the puffing in detail,” THE says of the first sex scene, “lavishing uninhibited attention on Ophelie’s body, another thing the film will continue to do for the rest of its running time.” The camera even moves up a character’s skirt in one scene “so it becomes clear she’s not wearing anything underneath.”
“Blue is the Warmest Color” divided critics for similar reasons when it premiered at Cannes, though first “Mektoub” reactions all agree Kechiche goes many steps further in his male gaze this time around. The movie currently does not have a U.S. distributor, but art house movie lovers will certainly be interested given the acclaim and popularity of “Blue.”