French actress Lea Seydoux has become quite the sensation after her brilliant acting skills were noticed by the public. A leading name in French cinema, she has also waltzed into Hollywood, appearing in major films directed by filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and others.
While Seydoux has an extensive filmography, the actress once appeared as a lesbian lead in a film that later became exceedingly controversial as Seydoux and the rest of the cast and crew opened up about the mistreatment meted out to them by the filmmaker. Besides talking about harrowing working conditions, Seydoux opened up about the hypersexualisation in the film which made her uncomfortable, leading to public criticism of the filmmaker in question.
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the 2013 film Blue is the Warmest Colour revolves around the life of a French teenager named Adele. When an aspiring painter named Emma saunters into her life, Adele discovers the throes of love, desire and non-conformity.
The film weaves the thread of a beautiful lesbian relationship marred with love and loss while chronicling Adele’s high school years to her adult life and career.
A raw fever dream, the film deals with themes of homosexuality and class difference. From middle-class families worrying about the lack of a future in artistic fields of life to conservatism in various working-class families and the internalised homophobia, the film discusses several social and political problems relevant to society.
Quite powerful, it is laden with emotions and sex and is shouldered forward by incredible performances by the cast members and the omnipresent motifs of food and colour.
However, the Palme d’Or-winning film garnered quite a bit of controversy. Besides being notorious for the graphic and intense sex scenes, the director was called out for depicting such sexualised scenes by implementing the perverse male gaze.
Besides allegations of sexual assault being levied against the filmmaker, the film was also notorious for the brutal and unfair working conditions on the sets. Lead actresses Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos have both expressed disdain for the mistreatment meted out to them.
Known for being a perfectionist, the filmmaker had recorded almost 800 hours of footage for the nearly three-hour-long film, exhausting the entire cast and crew. These allegations led to severe investigations by the French Audiovisual and Cinematographic Union.
The overall claustrophobic atmosphere and Kechiche’s “moral harassment” led to severe anxiety and exhaustion and even compelled some crew members to quit. Kechiche allegedly violated labour laws by underpaying several technicians.
Seydoux described the excruciating filming process. Referring to the scene where the two characters meet for 20 seconds, she said, “We spent 10 hours working on this scene, I’m not joking. We did 100 takes, just of the moment that we crossed paths.”
Seydoux also talked about the graphic and nude sex scenes the actresses had to indulge in. She found it “humiliating” as “he was using three cameras, and when you have to fake your orgasm for six hours.”
Although they used prosthetic vaginas during the scene, the idea of having simulated sex for hours left them exhausted, humiliated and emotionally worn down.
Adele added that the film made her feel “tired”. She later lashed out at him by saying, “Abdell [Abdellatif Kechiche] loves to take his time. He doesn’t like fabrication. he doesn’t want to see you act- he wants to take your soul.”
However, Kechiche’s immature response to Seydoux and public humiliation of the actress was met with further criticism.
Watch this controversial film on Netflix today.