(Editor’s note: Graphic content in paragrah 8)
By Sarah White
CANNES, France (Reuters) - A three-and-a-half hour, largely plotless movie set in a nightclub, featuring girls twerking from every angle and a 13-minute explicit sex scene in the toilet, claimed the dubious honour as the most universally panned film at Cannes on Friday.
Filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche is no stranger to controversy, with his previous outings - including “Blue Is The Warmest Colour”, which won the cinema festival’s top Palme d’Or prize in 2013 - also featuring long, graphic sex scenes.
But his latest movie, “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo”, left viewers up in arms after its late-night premiere on Thursday.
Critics lambasted its obsession with the jiggling bottoms that appear time and time again as its young, hotpant-clad female stars dance for almost three hours of the running time in a nightclub.
Kechiche shrugged off the criticism on Friday, saying he was not bothered that some people had walked out of the screening. “If you try something new, a new experience, not everyone is going to be open to that,” he told a news conference.
A follow-up to 2017’s “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno”, the new film follows a group of friends in the south of France hanging out and partying. The camera lingers on the bikini-clad women as they frolic on the beach before the action shifts to the nightclub and its thumping ABBA-laden soundtrack.
Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang described the movie as “the work of an embattled, controversy-seeking filmmaker who has decided to troll his audience”.
The twerking is only broken by a few asides as the friends buy each other drinks, before a long cunnilingus scene.
“What happens here is nothing more than gratuitous porn,” the Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij wrote.
Kechiche said his film, which takes place almost in real time, was an attempt to shake up conventions of story-telling in the cinema, as well as a celebration of “life, love, desire, music, the body.”
“There is something mysterious about the body, something fascinating which transports us to another place.”
Actress Ophelie Bau and actor Romeo De Latour, who took part in the explicit toilet scene, were not present at the news conference.
When the rest of the cast was asked what it was like working with Kechiche, the director said:
“I have experienced too many unhealthy things with the question of, ‘What’s working with Kechiche like? Is he nice? Is he nasty?’ So I asked the actors, so they don’t have to say that I am nice, to say nothing at all.”
Other actors have spoken of Kechiche’s controlling, demanding work ethos, including Lea Seydoux, one of the stars of “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” who has since gone on to appear in Bond movies.
Seydoux, in Cannes for another movie, told Reuters on Friday that working with Kechiche had been a special experience as a young actress, but said she would not work with him again.
“It’s too intense,” Seydoux said in an interview. “You have to give yourself, body and soul, when you do an Abdellatif Kechiche film, and today I have a life, I have a kid.”
Additional reporting by Sarah Mills Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Mark Heinrich