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Abdellatif Kechiche Reacts to Cannes Outrage Over ‘Mektoub’ Sex Scenes: ‘I Want to Celebrate the Body’

An extended oral sex scene in the director's Palme d'Or contender caused the first and only major walkouts at Cannes.

Abdellatif Kechiche attends the press conference for 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 24 May 2019. The movie is presented in the Official Competition of the festival which runs from 14 to 25 May.Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo Press Conference - 72nd Cannes Film Festival, France - 24 May 2019

Abdellatif Kechiche

JACOPO RAULE/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Abdellatif Kechiche is back at the center of Cannes outrage following the world premiere of his latest Palme d’Or contender, “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo.” The filmmaker last stirred controversy with his extended sex scenes in “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” which took home Cannes’ top honor in 2013. Kechiche’s latest film reportedly includes one prolonged and graphic oral sex scene that is apparently not simulated. The scene lasts for at least 10 minutes, if not closer to 15 minutes. The moment led to outcry from film critics and the first major walkouts at a Cannes 2019 screening.

“The most important thing for me and this is what I want to say right away, was to celebrate life, love, desire, breath, music, the body,” Kechiche said at the Cannes press conference for the movie on Friday morning. “I wanted to try a cinematographic experience that would be as free as possible.”

Kechiche denied that “Mektoub” was “a film to answer the critics” of “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” meaning he did not craft a longer and more graphic sex scene in response to those upset at the love scenes in his previous Palme winner.

“I’ve tried to show what really resonates within me to see bodies, tummies, the buttocks,” Keciche said. “What I have tried to do is to describe things through movement. I may appear facile. But they are quite magical. I wanted to film the magic of the body. It’s the metaphysical aspect of the body that I have portrayed.”

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Earlier in the press conference, Kechiche said he is aware his filmmaking is not for everyone. The director said he aspired to “try something different” in “Mektoub” and that “not everyone is open to that new experience.”

“Not everyone shares the way I look at others,” the director said of the backlash. “Not everyone likes this or that kind of film for example so, no, it doesn’t bother me in the least. If what I see is what I want to see and if that doesn’t appel to everyone, well, that is very fortunate, it would be a disaster if everyone watched a film in exactly the same way.”

“If you set aside your preconceived notions, you can really get into the film,” Kechiche continued. “I have great pleasure watching these bodies and talent you see in the film. … I had this gut feeling that I really wanted to show on the screen how magnetic, how attractive, how vibrate all of these people are.”

Kechiche said his approach to filming bodies is similar to “sculptures you see walking around Paris.” “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo” is the director’s sequel to “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno,” which premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. The follow-up is currently seeking distribution.

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