The 69th Cannes Film Festival kicked off in controversial style, with Woody Allen becoming the subject of a rape joke.

It gets worse. French comedian Laurent Lafitte made the bold comment while opening the ceremony for the premiere of Allen's new film, Café Society.

The zinger, made in front of a star-studded audience just minutes after the director received a standing ovation for the film, quickly put Allen's alleged history of sexual assault in the spotlight.

"You've shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the US you haven't even been convicted of rape," Lafitte told a stunned crowd.


The shocking remark was an apparent comparison to director Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl but then fled to Europe in 1978 to avoid imprisonment and deportation.

The 80-year-old filmmaker has since spoken out about the controversial rape joke. "I am completely in favour of comedians making any jokes they want," Allen told Variety during a lunch with reporters on Thursday. "I am a non-judgmental or [non]-censorship person on jokes. I'm a comic myself and I feel they should be free to make whatever jokes they want."

Despite Laurent Lafitte's off-colour joke, which drew gasps from the audience, Allen insisted he wasn't offended. "It would take a lot to offend me," he said.

A reporter then asked about the blistering attack launched by his estranged son, Ronan Farrow, earlier this week, who defended his sister Dylan's claims that her father molestered her when they were young.

"I never read anything about me, these interviews I do, anything," Allen responded. "I said everything I had to say about that whole issue in The New York Times. I have moved so far past it. I never think about it. I work. I said I was never going to comment on it again. I said everything I have to say about it.

"I never read what you say about me or the reviews of my film. I made the decision I think five years ago never to read a review of my movie. Never read an interview. Never read anything, because you can easily become obsessed with yourself," he added.

Less forgiving of the joke made at Allen's expense was Blake Lively, who stars in Cafe Society alongside Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg.

"I think any jokes about rape, homophobia or Hitler is not a joke," the Shallows actress said. "I think that was a hard thing [to] swallow in 30 seconds. Film festivals are such a beautiful, respectful festivals of film and artists and to have that, it felt like it wouldn't have happened if it was in the 1940s.

"I can't imagine Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby going out and doing that. It was more disappointing for the artists in the room that someone was going up there making jokes about something that wasn't funny."