A film described by some as a graphic lesbian drama and by others as a moving love story won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival.
Blue is the Warmest Colour by the Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche was the overwhelming favourite to win the award. The film about a lesbian relationship between two French teenagers features an explicit six-minute sex scene between actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
Variety magazine described it as “the most explosively graphic lesbian sex scenes in recent memory” while the The Hollywood Reporter said the “sprawling drama” would “raise eyebrows” as it crossed the barrier “between performance and the real deal”.
The Cannes accolade presents a dilemma for British film censors, and the director, over whether to cut to make the film marketable to a wider UK audience. Kechiche, 52, has indicated he would be willing to remove racier scenes to meet censor approval. “We wouldn’t want the film not to be screened because of one scene,” he said at the weekend. “But, of course, that wouldn’t apply if it were the whole thing.”
Kechiche is the first director born in Africa to win the top prize at Cannes. His is also the first explicitly gay-themed film to take the top honour.
In Blue is the Warmest Colour, freely adapted from the graphic novel by Julie Maroh, 15-year-old Adele’s (Exarchopoulos) life changes when she meets Emma (Seydoux), a young artist, and they start dating. The three-hour film is an intimate study of the highs and lows of a relationship. Apart from some comments by Adele’s friends little is made of the fact that the relationship is same-sex.
The romantic drama, the longest in the competition, was immediately hailed as a “masterpiece” by critics. The jury agreed, despite it being headed by family entertainment maestro Steven Spielberg. Cannes rules state films can only be awarded one prize, but Spielberg announced the jury wanted to take the exceptional step of awarding the Palme d’Or to Kechiche and both actresses.
The Best Actress prize went to The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo for her role in The Past by Asghar Farhadi. The French star plays a morose woman caught between her Iranian husband and her new lover, whose wife is in a coma.
The Best Actor prize was awarded to 76-year-old Bruce Dern for Nebraska, in which he plays an ageing father travelling with his son.
Best Director was awarded to Mexican Amat Escalante, for the violent Heli, while the much-admired Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis had to settle for the Grand Prix.