Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo
There’s a danger that talking about Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film somehow encourages it, similar to the fears that speaking the names of serial killers glorifies them. If any film at Cannes this year truly verged on the sociopathic, it was Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, an egregious, galling bit nonsense that’s as assaultive as it is asinine.
Originally submitted with a near 4-hour running time, the director cut the movie down to a mere 3 hr. 28 min., but he neglected to do things like properly sound mix, color-time, or other such quotidian concerns of modern filmmaking. The opening shot is 20 minutes of women oiling their bodies on the beach, followed by a descent into an infernal European dance club where we’re subjected to three hours of watching poorly executed twerking interspersed infrequently with inane dialogue.
Oh, and there’s a 15-minute cunnilingus sequence, shot “for real,” on the set of a filthy club bathroom. What else to expect from the Palme d’Or winner of Blue Is the Warmest Color but some titillation to arouse the French critics.
All of this would almost be forgivable if the elements were actually any good. Imagine if these actors could actually dance, or knew anything else to do while pole dancing and shaking their ass the same way, over and over… and over…. and over. Even the oral sex seems poorly aimed and executed, with awkward spanking added, making it feel even creepier as one can easily imagine the director calling out this carnality as stage direction for his own twisted perversion. Plus, this is the worst club DJ in onscreen history, playing a shitty house mix of Abba’s “Voulez Vous” three times. Decent dancing, adequate club music and better aim while performing the sex, and we might have had something here. Instead, the film is so bad it’s almost a crime against humanity demanding investigation by the Hague.
Controversy continues to swirl around the film. One actress left the premiere and didn’t show up for the press screening, and reportedly the director, already accused of sexual assault in another context, got the performers drunk on set and filmed the results. It’s appalling, especially for a festival that made such a big deal that it would only pick the best of the best for competition consideration. There are hundreds of films more deserving than this mess that even the director feels is unfinished. (He wants to add back the stuff that he cut to make the slot.) Its inclusion is shameful for Cannes as much as for those that support this kind of madness.
Cinema is powerful stuff that can shape our culture in ways profound and moving. Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo will surely go down as a footnote as one of the worst films to ever play in competition at Cannes. What it represents is something far more insidious, a kind of cinephilic indulgence that’s frankly horrifying. However, getting angry about the film feeds its import. This is the middle part of a trilogy, so there’s certainly more discourse to come. But if there ever was a film that felt like it was unredeemable, this is it. The movie actually makes cinema worse by its very existence.