The last time we checked in with Blue Is The Warmest Color director Abdellatif Kechiche and his ongoing war of words against leading ladies Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, it seemed like he had made his peace with the latter but accused the former of saying that working with him was horrible because of “people around her that influenced her or even manipulated her.” Now Kechiche has decidedly upped the ante with an extremely long open letter on the French website Rue 89 that extends his enemy list considerably.
French speakers can read the op-ed themselves, but here’s a rundown of the highlights: There’s a sidebar introduction from Rue’s editor Pascal Riché, in which he recounts warning Kechiche that publishing his piece might earn him the label of “paranoid.” His response: “Very well! That’s better than tyrant or despot, which is what I’ve been called recently. At least paranoia is a recognized illness.” And Kechiche does indeed come off paranoid, starting with an opening attack against Aureliano Tonet, cultural editor of Le Monde. The French newspaper published reports about the troubled production when it was selected for Cannes, including crew allegations of being made to work longer than reported and similar workplace abuses. Kechiche says these articles were only published because of Tonet’s friendship with producer Marin Karmitz, who fell out with the director during production of 2010’s Black Venus.
“An incomprehensible situation and a real press campaign against me, a burden at this point,” is how Kechiche describes the articles, “so violent that today I can say with certainty, as the film industry knows very well, that if my film had not won the Palme d’Or, I would be destroyed as a director.” As for Seydoux, her statements are allegedly part of a plan to “fine-tune her image as a ‘rebellious’ and mysterious star, an image she intends to continue building thanks to all the newspaper and magazine covers and her provocative declarations in endless calculated interviews.” Additionally, “the young Léa is opportunistic and is the (self-)proclaimed star of the moment, and surely thinks she belongs to some untouchable caste, she doesn’t feel obligated to explain herself. Because she is the star. Not the film. Not even Adèle.” He also threatens to make her “explain herself before a judge.”
After all that, Kechiche says the complaints levied against him are part of a much more sinister campaign. “It’s also the content and the reach of Blue Is the Warmest Color that are targeted: a film which only purports to be a hymn to today’s youth and liberty. Because in France, where officially the censorship is not in practice… bias is instrumental in preventing a speech, a voice, or a work of art from being audible.” For its part, Le Monde has already published a rebuttal, essentially saying that their articles about Kechiche’s production methods are one thing and their support for the film another, pointing out that they gave it their front page on the day of its French release and have been consistent in praising it.