French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche is in hot water after his new film Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo prompted walkouts from critics at Cannes Film Festival.
According to various reports, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo features a graphic 13-minute unsimulated oral sex scene and regularly objectifies and sexualises women throughout its 3.5 hour runtime.
"I've witnessed the worst film in competition by miles, and its name is MEKTOUB," wrote film writer Stephen Miller on Twitter, branding it "contemptible, male gazing garbage".
"Summary of the 3.5 hour film: 30 mins of talking (maybe half of which are shots of female butts), 2 and a half hours of dancing (virtually all female butts), and a 20 minute scene of unsimulated cunnilingus that profoundly misunderstands female sexuality. Male nudity? None."
Film producer Patricia Hetherington said the film amounted to "voyeurism".
According to Vulture, Intermezzo is a sequel to Kechiche's 2017's film Mektoub, My Love: Canto I. It takes place over the course of one night in a club, with extended shots of the young cast dancing.
"They're so ruthlessly framed — their bodies fragmented, the shots often static, usually focused on close-ups of butts — that one gets no sense of real movement or liberation," wrote Vulture's Bilge Ebiri.
The director - who won the Palme d'Or in 2013 with lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Colour - reportedly apologised to what remained of the audience at the end of the screening (some of his cast had already reportedly left).
"I apologise for having detained you without warning you … I am going away," he said.
Later, at the press conference for the film, Kechiche explained that "it so happens that my education taught me to apologise for taking up a lot of people's time," Vulture reports.
When another journalist asked about sexual assault allegations against the director that were reported by the New York Times last year, he said: "I'm not aware of an investigation. My mind is at rest in terms of the law."
Kechiche also defended his film-making style. "I tried to do something different, and not everyone is open to that," he said. "Not everyone is open to the way I look at others."
He said the film is a celebration of "life, love, desire, music, the body. I wanted to try a cinematographic experience that would be free as possible."
He also reportedly refused to answer a question about his method on-set with actors, saying: "I'd rather they kept quiet."
His response alludes to controversy surrounding Blue is the Warmest Colour, which became a controversial release after lead actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos told The Daily Beast that working with Kechiche was "horrible".
"Most people don't even dare to ask the things that he did, and they're more respectful — you get reassured during sex scenes, and they're choreographed, which desexualises the act," said Exarchopoulos. Months later, in an interview with The Independent, Seydoux said the experience left her "feeling like a prostitute".
According to IndieWire, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo debuted on Rotten Tomatoes with a 0% score, from eight reviews.