By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 23, 2013 at 4:50PM
The controversy surrounding lesbian romance "Blue is the Warmest Color" (October 25) just won't let up. It's devolved from the young actresses' candid appraisal of the difficulties of a long and demanding shoot to counterattacks from director Abdellatif Kechiche. If you read and listen to the various interviews from Telluride and the New York Film Festival from Léa Seydoux and newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, the first to share the Palme d'Or with their writer-director, they describe how difficult the film was to make. (See my flipcam video below.) But they speak respectfully of their director. But Kechiche does not return the favor, as he now badmouths especially Seydoux.
Let's get back to the film itself. The reason that "Blue is the Warmest Color" works as well as it does is that you believe the intellectual and physical infatuation between the two young lovers played by Seydoux and Exarchopoulos. At the Telluride Film Festival, Agnieszka Holland told me that these two actresses were "very brave, and deserve applause."
Yes, they agree, they were braver than they thought they could be, even if the lengthy never-before-seen sex scenes were finally "still a fiction," says Seydoux. "There are secrets and fabrications everywhere. It's a movie, it's fake: we had fake pussies."
Finally, what they went through was much more than appears on screen. The script that they first saw was based on the graphically sexy comic book, which they soon abandoned. Before they started shooting the film, Seydoux put in one year taking meetings with writer-director Kechiche as many as three times a week. "I had to go ask him to go out for the weekend," she admits.
During the five-month-long process of shooting over 800 hours of footage, Kechiche demanded total trust and obedience from his actresses, who had initially committed to about three months of time. They felt like they were held hostage by a demanding master. "We could not see the end," says Seydoux.
"It's a blind trust," adds Exarchopoulos. "You have no choice, you have to do this... I will never do this with another director. I will never be naked so many times with so many contact with you and so many emotions, because I know this man wanted us to give justice to the work."
They had no idea their film would be accepted into the main competition at Cannes, nor that it would win. They first saw it the day before it screened for the press and public--and then walked up the red carpet steps to watch it with their families. "We laughed, we cried," says Seydoux of seeing the film. "We made so many intense scenes of love, sex, breakup. It was hard."
On winning the Palme d'Or: "We were so proud and in a way we deserved it," says Exarchopoulos, "because we worked so hard. It was like a dream."
Next up, Exarchopoulos plays a stutterer in new movie by Sarah Forestier, who comes from the same art school she attended and starred in Abelatif's first movie.
And Seydoux has three films: "Beauty and the Beast" with Vincent Cassel, a film with Tahrir Rahim ("A Prophet"), and a small part in Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel." Fair to day they will not be working with Kechiche again.