‘Blue Is The Warmest Color’ Crew Bring Allegations Of “Bullying” & “Anarchic” Over-Budget Production

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by Charlie Schmidlin
May 29, 2013 9:17 AM
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The cinematic world may slowly shift back to something resembling normal after the onslaught of Cannes, but one film destined for continued debate is Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Color.” The three-hour romance ended up taking home the Palme d’Or – shared amongst the director and the film’s stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux – but after the source material’s author labeled the adaptation “porn” due to it's graphic sex scenes, another fierce criticism has come from within, this time via the film’s crew.

A statement released to the press by the French film union Spiac-CGT -- fifteen of whom worked on Kechiche’s production -- has brought a number of allegations against the director and his team over five months of filming: complaints of “workdays of 16 hours reported as 8,” and other violations of the Labor Code.

The smudging of work hours is nothing new on independent productions, of course, but with Kechiche garnering a €4 million Euro budget for 'Blue,' there is noticeably less sympathy. Among the crew members that chose to stay anonymous in the union’s statement, the list continues: an “anarchic” schedule that left many “not knowing if they would work or not on Saturday or Sunday,” lost paycheck hours, and a “bullying” atmosphere that led some to abandon the already over-budget project.

The controversy over Kechiche’s film is just the latest point in an already-tense debate over France’s collective labor agreement, which was signed in January 2012 by most trade unions (including Spiac-CGT), but was firmly rejected by independent producers. Detractors say the majority of indie films made in France would be impossible with the new regulations, which favors higher minimum wages and hourly overtime payment.

Because of its recent adulation, 'Blue' stands to be one of the prime examples pointed to by both sides as a work of either justifiable sacrifice or exploitation. But just as our glowing review from Cannes called it “transportative, truthful, and sublime,” this new aftermath may just send the film crashing down into the behind-the-scenes reality. [Le Monde]

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8 Comments

  • Maddfresh | October 27, 2013 11:13 AMReply

    Let me clear something up about the french 35hr workweek. Just because you are getting paid for 35hrs doesnt mean you arent working 45. I work in the restaurant industry, I get paid for 43hrs but work at least 51hrs a week... So what theyre saying about declared hrs makes sense.

  • owaign | May 29, 2013 8:28 PMReply

    Well this is nothing new in any independent production. Indpendent nowadays can spew up to 5 mil in production values so it's more of a politically correct term to call anything independent anymore. As far as shit going wrong on set...I've worked on several film sets and the highest budgeted one had the most problems. Lots of yelling, lots of quitting, lots of drugs, and lots of mismanagement. It usually comes with the territory. So, if anyone's causing a stir in the background, then it's probably due to the overwhelming accolades this movie's receiving and doing anything short than to take advantage of that money coming in is a good move. Also In the Mood for Love went almost a year over the time it was supposed to take and well...yeah. There you go.

  • Just a question | May 29, 2013 11:16 AMReply

    I saw the movie and... what the frack is this picture ? I don't remember any scene with Adele and this guy.

  • Macgregor | October 23, 2013 2:56 PM

    I totally had the same thought. Must be from footage to be used in the 40 (!!) minutes longer director's cut. Also, I saw the Q&A at NYFF after the press screening and Abdellatif and Adele seemed to be very friendly with each other, FYI.

  • az | May 29, 2013 10:35 AMReply

    Great interview (in French) by Wild Bunch's Brahim Chioua on Allocine.fr.

    He basically says he's willing to listen to these people if they have real proofs (and names). But an official investigation is opened, and people are interviewed to see if there was really some kind of lawlessness.

  • WorkHarder | May 29, 2013 10:25 AMReply

    I find it hard to sympathize with people complaining anonymously about working too hard in a country where a legal work week is 35 hours.

  • No | May 29, 2013 9:26 AMReply

    Since I was not on the set I can't judge what happened, but the complaints -- typical of any film production -- are hardly an indictment, especially since the complainants chose to remain anonymous.

  • D. | May 29, 2013 10:00 AM

    You have a point here somehow.
    In any case it's safe to say that it actually is the point that the producer (Wild Bunch's Brahim Chioua) wants to make when he basically says you can't work with the actual "work convention" (do you have these oversea ?) and that a director like Guediguian wouldn't have been able to make any of his movies if he had to play by the rules (namely by the laws).

    On the other hand the article from LeMonde (note to ThePlaylist: link isn't working) is a completely different story and sounds more like an "attitude issue".
    And personally I haven't heard about an "indie" movie where the director suddenly decides to enjoy a bottle of champagne and oysters on set ... while the whole crew is waiting.

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