French lesbian love story set to open amid feud

A controversial lesbian love story that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in May, opens next week amid a bitter feud between its two female leads and the director, who is accused of having "disrespected" them in 10 days of filming for a graphic 10-minute sex scene.

French lesbian love story set to open amid feud
15-year-old Adèle, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos (L), falls in love with art student Emma, played by Léa Seydox (R) in 'Blue is the Warmest Colour.' Photo: Paul Alex/Youtube

The three-hour-long "Blue is the Warmest Colour" (La Vie d'Adèle) caused a sensation at this year's Cannes film festival, making stars out of its two lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

The pair were all smiles on the French Riviera as they posed for photographs with the film's French-Tunisian director, Abdellatif Kechiche.

Chair of the jury Steven Spielberg hailed it as a "profound love story", adding that the judges had been "absolutely spellbound" by the brilliance of the women's performances and "the way the director… let the characters breathe".

Another reviewer hinted at possible future controversy, claiming it contains “the most explosively graphic lesbian sex scenes in recent memory.”

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"He was screaming, 'hit her again!'"

But fast forward several months and the mood surrounding the film has soured, with bitter complaints from both actresses about Kechiche's working methods.

In an interview published on September 1st by US website The Daily Beast, Exarchopoulos said that she had been unprepared for the extent to which Kechiche required her to immerse herself in the role.

"Once we were on the shoot, I realized that he really wanted us to give him everything. Most people don't even dare to ask the things that he did, and they're more respectful," she said.

Seydoux complained that a 10-minute sex scene in the film took a full "10 days to shoot".

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Both women also complained about a fight scene.

"It was horrible. She (Seydoux) was hitting me so many times and (Kechiche) was screaming 'Hit her! Hit her again!'," Exarchopoulos said.

With the film due for release in France next week, the pair again aired their complaints, with Seydoux telling TV magazine Telerama that filming was "horrible" and that she did not think the film should be released.

'I felt humiliated and dishonoured'

"For me, this film should not come out, it has been sullied too much. The Palme d'Or was only a brief moment of happiness, afterward I felt humiliated and dishonoured, I felt a rejection of my person, (and) that I live like a curse," Seydoux said.

Exarchopoulos, meanwhile, told French television that Kechiche was a "tortured genius" but that his demands had harmed both of them.

"He made us ill psychologically at times because he loves his actresses to let go and it's hard to do," she said.

For his part, Kechiche has responded by saying he believes the comments show "a lack of respect for a metier that I regard as sacred".

SEE ALSO: How Léa Seydoux went from lesbian icon to 'homophobic villain'

'Much less beautiful – a bit of a lesbian'

Seydoux caused a separate controversy in August when remarks she made about lesbians and beauty led some commentators to label her a "homophobe."

Speaking to French Grazia, the women’s fashion and gossip magazine, about her own self-image, the 28-year-old said the following.

“There have been moments where I’ve found myself pretty and sexy, but there are times when I find myself much less beautiful – a bit of a lesbian, you could say."

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"Blue is the Warmest Colour" opens in France and Belgium on October 9th, followed by other European countries between October 10th and 25th.

It will have a limited release in the United States from October 25th, as well as slots at four film festivals this month, including Chicago and New York.

Here is an official trailer for the controversial film, with English subtitles, by Movie Clips Trailers.

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French students’ union guilty of drinking death

A French court on Tuesday found a students' union guilty of manslaughter for organizing a party at which a student drank himself to death, and which highlighted the heavy binge-drinking culture at French universities.

French students' union guilty of drinking death
A French court on Tuesday found a students' union guilty of manslaughter for organizing a party which led a student to drink himself to death. Archive photo: Winnie Liu

A court in Nanterre, near Paris, on Tuesday found a students' association guilty of manslaughter for allowing hard alcohol to be served at a student party in 2005, during which a 19-year-old man drank 15 shots in half an hour, before dying of an alcohol-induced coma.

The then-president of the students' union, however, was acquitted of manslaughter.

On the night of September 22nd, 2005, newly-enrolled Alexander Thomas attended a special Roma-themed “student night” on the Châtenay-Malbry campus of the prestigious Ecole Centrale engineering school, near the French capital.

There, he drank no fewer than 15 shots of a so-called ‘Roma cocktail’ – vodka, Cointreau and lemon juice – in less than half an hour, according to French daily Le Monde.

The 19-year-old was carried back to his room by friends, who checked in on him the next day, only to find he had died during the night.

An autopsy found he had a staggering four grammes of alcohol in his system at the time of his death, which was caused by an alcohol-induced coma, a pathologist concluded.

Eight years on, the main defendant in the case stood accused of criminal negligence in his capacity as president of the university’s Residents’ Association, which organized the fateful “student night.”

During a hearing at the court in Nanterre, near Paris, the prosecutor accused the suspect of “a deliberate failure in [his] obligation to prudence and safety.”

The students’ association itself, convicted of manslaughter on Tuesday afternoon, only had a Level 2 alcohol license at the time, meaning it was allowed to serve beer, wine and cider, but not hard spirits.

The former president of the union acknowledged this fact, but claimed that the practice of serving and drinking liquor was tolerated on rare occasions.

Prosecutors had called for a six-month suspended prison sentence against the defendant, who is now a neuroscience researcher based in the United States.

In the end, the association was on Tuesday handed a symbolic €7,500 fine.

The tragedy brought to light what had become a rampant culture of heavy drinking on the campuses of French universities, in particular the most elite among them – the “Grandes Ecoles.”

Just weeks after the death of Thomas, French magazine L’Express published a scathing opinion column, condemning the “orgies of alcohol” that had permeated French third-level education.

“The exceptional nature of this drama [the death of Thomas] shouldn’t hide a daily reality that is as normalized as it is disturbing,” wrote Henri Haget.

“Based on the image of the American college campus, student parties – especially in the grandes écoles – are more and more often just an excuse for orgies of alcohol,” said Haget.

Ultimately, the episode helped contribute to the 2009 Bachelot Law on public health, which – among other measures – banned free "open bar" nights at pubs and clubs, targeted at university students.

While the events at the centre of Tuesday's ruling took place in 2005, binge drinking among France's youth more generally, doesn't seem to have abated since then.

Back in March, The Local reported a study which found that alcohol abuse had become the number one cause of hospitalisation in the country, with short emergency room stays for injuries related to drunken trips and falls skyrocketing by 80 percent in just three years.

“Getting plastered on a night out has become a real badge of honour for many of our young people, especially young women, which is particularly disturbing,” gastroenterologist Dr. Damien Labarrière said at the time.

Those revelations came just two weeks after a report which found that, among the general population, 134 people died in France every day, from alcohol-related illnesses and incidents.