The film, which is a follow-up to 2017's Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno, featured what Indie Wire said appeared to be an "un-simulated oral sex" scene and gratuitous close-ups of women's butts. While IW writes the sex seemed consensual, many critics have warned it drips with the male gaze.
"I just walked out of Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo," producer Patricia Hetherington tweeted. "The most lacivicious [sic] leery trash I've seen. Eurgh! Talk about objectification and voyeurism."
Kechiche defended the film during a press conference on Friday, saying he only intended "to celebrate life, love, desire, breath, music, the body," Yahoo reports.
"I've tried to show what really resonates within me to see bodies, tummies, the buttocks," he continued. "What I have tried to do is to describe things through movement. I may appear facile. But they are quite magical. I wanted to film the magic of the body. It's the metaphysical aspect of the body that I have portrayed."
Kechiche only seems concerned with "metaphysical" bodily aspects as they pertain to women's bodies. One viewer, who called the film "male gazing garbage," and likened the screening to disgraced comedian Louis CK's standup, said Intermezzo featured zero male nudity. Viewers have accused Kechiche of objectifying women through his art in the past, specifically in his film Blue Is the Warmest Color.
"Summary of the 3.5 hour film: 30 minutes of talking (maybe half of which are shots of female butts), 2 and a half hours of dancing (virtually all female butts), and a 20 minute scene of unsimulated cunnilingus that profoundly misunderstands female sexuality," the critic added. "Male nudity? None."
Summary of the 3.5 hour film: 30 mins of talking (maybe half of which are shots of female butts), 2 and a half hours of dancing (virtually all female butts), and a 20 minute scene of unsimulated cunnilingus that profoundly misunderstands female sexuality. Male nudity? None.— Stephen Miller (@sdavidmiller) May 24, 2019
The French director has also been the focus of sexual misconduct allegations. An unnamed actress accused Kechiche of sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious. Parisian prosecutors launched an investigation into the alleged attack in 2018, according to The New York Times. Léa Seydoux, star of BITWC, also accused Kechiche of "horrible" on-set behavior, saying that he often made her feel uncomfortable and pressured her and co-star Adèle Exarchopoulos to unnecessarily reshoot sex scenes. Kechiche denied these allegations and threatened to sue Seydoux for slander, The Guardian reports.
The male gaze has permeated films for decades. While women directors and actors have depicted sex scenes through the female gaze, Hollywood still has a long way to go before it eradicates the objectification of women. If the film and TV industries are serious about fixing the problem, they could start by committing to more diversity on sets and ensuring women have a place as filmmakers.