The initial outcry about Abdellatif Kechiche’s film “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo” had mainly addressed its artistic merits (or lack thereof) for including a nearly 15-minute scene of unsimulated oral sex and and a seemingly never-ending parade of butts. But a report from a French paper is alleging that Kechiche had to employ unorthodox methods to convince his unwilling actors to perform the oral sex scene.
“Intermezzo” is the sequel to “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno,” which premiered at Venice back in 2017. Both films, based on François Bégaudeau’s novel “La Blessure, la vraie,” feature Ophélie (Ophélie Bau) and Amin (Shaïn Boumédine) at the center of a complicated web of attraction and affairs.
In the scene in question, a man performs consensual oral sex on the character Ophélie. The Midi Libre posted an account Saturday morning from a person close to production who says that Kechiche had to push his actors to create that scene. A tweet translating part of the publication reads: ”Kechiche absolutely wanted a non-simulated sex scene, something the actors didn’t want to do. But by the way of insistence, and over time and with alcohol being regularly consumed, he managed to get what he wanted.”
"Kechiche absolutely wanted a non-simulated sex scene, something the actors didn't want to do. But by the way of insistence, and over time and with alcohol being regularly consumed, he managed to get what he wanted." pic.twitter.com/UFQAWRPzMm
— C.J. Prince (@cj_prin) May 25, 2019
Le Figaro also delved deeper into the Midi Libre report. According to the longer account, “The director had the scenes of the disco replay for hours and hours, exhausting all the actors and the filming was prolonged very late at night, begins the informant of the local newspaper. He absolutely wanted to get to have a sex scene not simulated, which the actors were not willing. But as he insisted over the hours and while alcohol was regularly consumed on the spot, he managed to get what he wanted. “
It’s a disturbing report on many levels that would call into question the ethics of how the scene was shot and whether or not the actors were in any condition to consent to what was being asked. Furthermore, anyone on set could be seen as complicit if the account is true.
In a review by IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, he notes, “[Ophélie] has roughly 389 alcoholic drinks over the course of the night that follows, and every one of them makes it feel as though she’s trying to force her own hand.” Although this exaggerated observation is a commentary on a perceived storytelling choice, it may actually reflect the conditions under which Bau had to be coerced into shooting the scene.
Already there’s speculation that shady treatment may have alienated the film’s actors. Bau was conspicuously absent from Cannes on Friday for a press conference and photo call for the film.
This would not be the first time that Kechiche’s treatment of actors have been called into question. Actresses Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos later detailed inhospitable filming conditions on the “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” set, decrying Kechiche’s behavior in overseeing a number of their scenes together. Last fall, Kechiche was accused of sexual assault, charges which his lawyers said the director “categorically denies.”