Explicit Scene in Abdellatif Kechiche’s Latest Film Leads to Outcry and Walk-Outs at Cannes

Six years after "Blue Is the Warmest Colour" generated controversy at the festival, the filmmaker is under fire for "Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo."
Abdellatif Kechiche arrives for the screening of 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 23 May 2019. The movie is presented in the Official Competition of the festival which runs from 14 to 25 May.Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo Premiere - 72nd Cannes Film Festival, France - 23 May 2019
Julien Warnand/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Abdellatif Kechiche is once again under the Cannes microscope for prolonged sexual content in his films. The director’s latest competition title, “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo” premiered at the festival, inspiring largely negative responses from critics, journalists, and audience members alike.

“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.

One scene in question from “Intermezzo” occurs roughly two-thirds of the way through the nearly four-hour film and involves a lengthy, consensual encounter in a bathroom between Ophélie and a man. The scene, which features what appears to be un-simulated oral sex, lasts much longer than the most extensive sex scene in Kechiche’s 2013 film “Blue Is the Warmest Colour.”

That film, which won the festival’s Palme d’Or, featured multiple intimate on-screen moments between characters played Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Both actresses later detailed inhospitable filming conditions on 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.”

Social media reactions have been predominantly negative, with some viewers saying they walked out and one posting a photo of the theatre with plenty of empty seats. IndieWire Senior Film Critic David Ehrlich detailed many of the problems in his review, calling it a “cinematic lap dance of a sequel”: “While the explicit sexual content in ‘Canto Uno’ is less frequent and hostile than that in ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color,’ the leering nature of its camerawork is more pronounced; the male gaze was practically the only lens Kechiche used.”

See more reactions below.

“Intermezzo” premiered in competition at the festival and is eligible for jury awards. Screenplay, acting, and directing prizes will be awarded at the close of the festival on Saturday evening.

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