Palme d’Or winner Kechiche pens scathing op-ed


Two days ahead of the US release of Palme d’Or-winning lesbian romance "Blue is the Warmest Colour", the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche, has written an op-ed accusing star Léa Seydoux and French daily Le Monde of plotting against him.


Two days before the hotly awaited US release of controversial Cannes winner “Blue is the Warmest Colour”, an intense three-hour lesbian romance, the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche, has reignited a tortured saga that finally seemed to be dying down.

In a long, scathing opinion piece published Wednesday on popular French news site Rue89, Kechiche alleges that both a top French journalist and his leading lady, Léa Seydoux, slandered him for personal reasons.

“If my film had not been rewarded at Cannes,” Kechiche writes, “I would be a destroyed director today – a dead man, as they say.”

Conspiracy theories

Kechiche first takes aim at Le Monde’s culture editor, Aureliano Tonet, whom he accuses of mounting a smear campaign through a series of articles published during and after the Cannes Film Festival.

The articles Kechiche discusses in his op-ed concerned his notoriously meticulous approach to editing, complaints by crew members that Kechiche subjected them to miserable working conditions, and comments Seydoux made to the press about Kechiche’s on-set behaviour and methods.

According to Kechiche, Tonet wrote the articles as a favour to his friend, prominent producer Marin Karmitz, who famously fell out with Kechiche while the two were collaborating on the director’s film “Black Venus” in 2010.

Accusing Tonet of helping Karmitz take revenge on him, Kechiche calls on Le Monde’s culture editor “to explain his personal and cynical conception of the journalistic profession”.

But the French-Tunisian director saves his harshest words for Seydoux, who was awarded the Palme d’Or, along with Kechiche and co-star Adèle Exarchopoulos, for her performance as a blue-haired art student who steals, and then breaks, the young protagonist’s heart.

Kechiche suggests that the 28-year-old actress’s remarks to US and French journalists that she would never work with Kechiche again -- and that she felt like a prostitute when filming the movie’s lengthy sex scenes -- were part of a media strategy intended to boost her already rising profile.

“One can assume that she is trying fine-tune her image as a ‘rebellious’ and mysterious star, an image she intends to continue building thanks to all the newspaper and magazine covers and her provocative declarations in endless calculated interviews,” Kechiche writes.

‘Léa is opportunistic’

Seydoux is one of the most sought-after actresses in France, and has played small roles in movies directed by Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, and Brad Bird. She will also appear in the next film from Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

According to Kechiche, one possible explanation for Seydoux’s “180-degree pivot, one year after the shoot and after so many demonstrations of admiration, love and gratitude” is that people who are “openly hostile” to Kechiche put her up to it.

“Since the young Léa is opportunistic and is the (self-)proclaimed star of the moment, and surely thinks she belongs to some untouchable caste,” Kechiche writes, “she doesn’t feel obligated to explain herself. Because she is the star. Not the film. Not even Adèle.”

In what seems to be a vague threat of legal action, Kechiche adds: “She’ll have to explain herself before a judge, since she’s a major and is accountable for her actions.”

Published along with Kechiche’s op-ed is a statement from Rue89’s editor-in-chief, Pascal Riché, in which he recounts: “We warned [Kechiche] that there was a risk of his being called ‘paranoid’ [following the publication of his op-ed]. His answer: ‘Very well! That’s better than tyrant or despot, which is what I’ve been called recently. At least paranoia is a recognised illness’”.

Despite a generally rapturous reception by critics, “Blue is the Warmest Colour” has been plagued by scandal since its screening at Cannes. Aside from the storm surrounding the statements by Seydoux and the film’s crew members, there were also suggestions from a few critics that the film’s sex scenes were motivated by the desires of a lecherous male director rather than the needs of the story.

Moreover, Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, labelled the scenes as inauthentic, writing on her blog: “It appears to me this was what was missing on the set: lesbians.”

Still, critical support for the film should make it a frontrunner for France’s César awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars), held in early 2014. And the film’s US distributor is reportedly planning Oscar campaigns for Exarchopoulos and Seydoux in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories, respectively.

In other words, it could be a very awkward awards season for “Blue is the Warmest Colour”.

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