Graphic sex in applauded lesbian love story gets Cannes buzzing

Thu May 23, 2013 10:54am EDT

* Critics laud Kechiche's film of raw emotion, lesbian sex

* Father-son road trip is Payne's second try for top prize

By Alexandria Sage

CANNES, May 23 (Reuters) - An intimate love story between two young women received rave reviews from critics at the Cannes film festival despite explicit lesbian sex scenes that could limit the film's distribution.

"La Vie d'Adele - Chapitre 1 & 2" ("Blue is the Warmest Colour") is a poignant tale of love and sexuality centred on 15-year-old Adele, in a breakout performance by Adele Exarchopoulos, and her lover Emma (Lea Seydoux), set to premiere on Thursday evening.

The film's explicit sex and three-hour running time have made it one of the most talked-about films of the 20 vying for the top Palme d'Or prize at the festival that wraps up on May 26. It is French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche's first film at Cannes.

The long and explicit sex scenes will create buzz but may hold the film back from wider audiences due to censors and cautious distributors.

Kaya Burgess of the London Times called it "one of the most beautifully and unobtrusively observed love stories I've seen on film."

Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer wrote: "Surely to raise eyebrows with its show-stopping scenes of non-simulated female copulation, the film is actually much more than that: it's a passionate, poignantly handled love story."

Kechiche told journalists it was not his intention to make a film about gay rights, in the context of the debate over same-sex marriage which was legalised in France this month, and said the depictions of sex were aimed at depicting beauty.

"We hope that in the scenes the idea of beauty will emerge. I think sensuality is more difficult to film and capture onscreen," he said.

The film - loosely based on a 2010 graphic novel of the same English title - uses recurring close-ups to linger on the mouth of the lead actress, whether sleeping, eating, or kissing her lover, a sometimes jarring technique that regardless creates an intimate connection between viewer and character.

PRIZE WINNER

A quieter offering also in the main competition is "Nebraska" from U.S. director Alexander Payne, whose "About Schmidt" competed for the top Cannes prize in 2002.

The father-son road trip, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, is shot in black and white with a quirky, homey sensibility. The film about family, old age and dreams follows a curmudgeonly father who believes he has won $1 million after receiving a sweepstakes flyer telling him he's a winner.

Son David (Forte) decides to indulge his father and drive him to Nebraska to ostensibly collect his prize after failing to convince him the flyer is a gimmick. Along the way, David discovers never-revealed secrets from his father's past.

Early reviews were mixed, with some criticizing a formulaic plot and others praising the film's quiet, melancholic tone.

Veteran actor Dern, who began working in films in the 1960s, said it took eight years for the film to see the light of day.

"That gave me melancholy alone," he said. "Waiting for eight years." (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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