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Cannes Report, Day 10: ‘Mektoub, My Love’ Trolls, ‘The Traitor’ Sells Out

Claire Denis-led jury also awards short film ”Mano a Mano“ with top prize from Cinefondation

Just when you thought the Cannes Film Festival was winding down, Abdellatif Kechiche drops a bombshell on the Croisette. Thursday night’s premiere inspired outcry and even walkouts over an explicit scene of apparently unsimulated oral sex.

Critics regarded the French-Tunisian director’s latest film “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo” as something of a massive troll of his critics. “Mektoub,” a sequel in fact to 2017’s “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno,” was a three-and-a-half hour film (cut down from an originally announced four hours) that spends considerable time leering at women, including a 15-minute sequence in which the film’s star performs oral sex on a man in a bathroom. Yes, really.

“It’s the same length as ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ and literally 60% of the movie is close-ups of butts. I had a mild psychotic break at one point,” IndieWire‘s David Ehlrich wrote on Twitter.

“Abdellatif Kechiche spends three-and-a-half hours ogling his actresses’ butts and sticking his thumb up his own,” Justin Chang of the L.A. Times wrote.

“More than anything else, the film feels like a giant troll, a libidinous F-you to every one of the director’s critics. In amplifying everything deemed problematic about his previous work while stripping away all of their saving graces, Kechiche has basically thrown down the gauntlet and made a film that is nearly impossible to critique,” TheWrap’s Ben Croll wrote in his review.

Kechiche has been a polarizing, provocative figure among critics since he won the Palme d’Or in 2013 for his film “Blue Is the Warmest Color.” And in fact much of the outrage over the film may very well be localized to American critics — or at least that’s the perception abroad.

“‘Intermezzo’ is an incredible gesture of cinema, radical, hypnotic, a search for love and sensuality in an almost uninterrupted trance. Less immediately strong than ‘Canto UNO’ but a crazy experience. Kechiche’s going to get crucified,” one French writer tweeted.

“Kechiche revolutionizes the Cannes Film Festival: the guy throws you the night of the movie in the room. Even Gaspar Noé had never thought of it,” another French critic added.

As for what Kechiche himself was thinking, he gave only a quick remark at his press conference before leaving: “I apologize for having kept you…without warning you. And that’s it, I’m leaving.”

Kechiche’s film “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was widely acclaimed when it won the Palme in 2013, but the film’s stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux later criticized Kechiche for their treatment during explicit, hardcore lesbian sex scenes featured throughout the movie.

In 2018, the director was also accused of sexual assault by a 29-year-old woman who says she dined with the director but could not remember the events of the evening after several glasses of alcohol. But she claims she awoke and was lying on a couch with Kechiche fondling her. Lawyers for Kechiche said in a statement that the filmmaker “categorically denies” the accusations, according to the French news network BFMTV.

The Traitor

“The Traitor” Sells Out

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the North American rights to “Il Traditore,” or “The Traitor,” an Italian mob drama from director Marco Bellocchio that also had its world premiere on Thursday, an individual with knowledge told TheWrap.

The film is about a mob boss who is scorned by his associates and finds a moment of redemption by ratting out his confederates. And the film is notable because its star, Pierfrancesco Favino, was himself a former mob figure who turned over evidence that ultimately led to bringing down hundreds of Mafiosi. In a crowded, star-studded field, Favino could be a shoo-in to win Cannes’ Best Actor prize, TheWrap’s Ben Croll write, adding that it wouldn’t be a shock to see him as a Bond villain some day.

“As Tommaso Buscetta, the real-life turncoat who helped put 366 different Mafiosi in jail, actor Pierfrancesco Favino really does bring the goods, delivering an exquisite movie-star turn as a godfather whose cocksure magnetism can’t quite hide the pain in his eyes,” Croll wrote.

Deadline first reported news of the acquisition.

Mano a Mano


Claire Denis Goes “Mano a Mano”

The short film “Mano a Mano,” from French director Louise Courvoisier, won the top prize from the Short Films and Cinéfondation Jury headed by Claire Denis at Cannes.

Cinéfondation recognizes achievements in student films, and the winner even lands a slot for their eventual debut feature at a future Cannes Film Festival. And out of over 2,000 entries and 17 competing films this year, the French film “Mano a Mano” won the top prize, a €15,000 grant.

It’s the story of two circus acrobats traveling from town to town to perform their duet, even as their romantic relationship is falling apart. They’re forced to confront their problems and regain their trust in one another while driving in a small car en route to their next performance.

Second prize went to “Hieu,” directed by Richard Van, and the joint third prize went to both Ambience,” from Wisa Al Jafari in Palestine, and “Duszyczka” (“The Little Soul”) from director Barbara Rupik in Poland.

Quentin Tarantino’s Brandy Wins “Palm Dog”

We’ll await and see if “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” can win the Palme d’Or, but one of the film’s stars already accepted a far more cooler award, the Palm Dog.

Brandy, a pitbull that appears in Tarantino’s film, won the top prize of a showcase of very good boys and girls delivering the best canine performances at Cannes. Tarantino was even on hand to accept on behalf of Brandy.

“I want to thank the jury from the bottom of my black heart,” the director said on behalf of his now award-winning pup.

Screen Media Nabs “Crown Vic”

Screen Media acquired the North American rights to writer-director Joel Souza’s police crime thriller “Crown Vic,” which stars Thomas Jane and is produced by Alec Baldwin, the company announced Friday.

The distributor closed terms during Cannes amid a competitive bidding situation, with seven other distributors chasing after the film made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last month. Screen Media plans to release the film this fall.

“Crown Vic” follows one explosive night in the life of a seasoned LAPD veteran (Jane) as he takes a young cop (Luke Kleintank) out on patrol and shows him the brutal reality of life behind the wheel of a Crown Vic.

The film was produced by Alec Baldwin and his El Dorado Pictures and Anjul Nigam under his Brittany House Pictures, and Gregg Bello. Maxx Tsai also produced under his China-based Wudi Pictures.