Cannes: Director's Hollywood Reporter Interview Creates 'Prostitution' Backlash in France

Francois Ozon Cannes Photo Call - P 2013
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Francois Ozon Cannes Photo Call - P 2013

French filmmaker Francois Ozon has been blasted by local politicians for telling THR, "it’s a fantasy of many women to do prostitution" and “there is kind of a passivity that women are looking for.”

Sitting down last week to discuss his Cannes competition entry, Young & Beautiful, French director Francois Ozon told The Hollywood Reporter "it’s a fantasy of many women to do prostitution."

Instead, it turns out it’s an imperative of many French women to condemn exactly that kind of statement. In the aftermath of Ozon’s Q&A with THR, numerous French media outlets have picked up on the story, and local politicians have weighed in to denounce the director’s view of female sexuality.

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French newspaper Metro News France, was the first to pick up the interview, running a story detailing the director's statements and the local controversy they have caused, under the headline: "Says Francois Ozon, 'Many Women Fantasize About Being a Prostitute'" ("Pour François Ozon," 'beaucoup de femmes fantasment de se prostituer'").

From there, news outlets across France ran with it, leading Ozon to write on Twitter Wednesday that his remarks were “awkward and misunderstood,” and: "Obviously I wasn’t talking about women in general, just the characters in my film.“

Ozon made his first official appearance at Cannes in 2003 with his breakthrough film Swimming Pool; he's been one of the country’s more prolific filmmakers since, putting out a new project nearly every year. His 2013 Cannes competition entry, Young & Beautiful, is a sensuous and provocative exploration of a disaffected Parisian teen who turns to prostitution. Actress Marine Vacth has won glowing notices for her performance as the troubled young girl and has been touted as one of the new stars to emerge from this year's festival. But the film as a whole has divided critics -- often along gender lines.

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Pressed by THR during the original interview to explain his views on female sexuality, Ozon later said, “I think to be an object in sexuality is something very obvious you know, to be desired, to be used. There is kind of a passivity that women are looking for.”

The French branch of the feminist group FEMEN tweeted in response on Tuesday that it would like to present Ozon with the "2013 Golden palm of assholes" and the association Dare Feminism called his statements the "spew of the day" on its Facebook page.

The situation then took on an added seriousness as French female politicians started weighing in.

Senator Laurence Rossignol, spokesperson of the Socialist Party, wrote on Twitter: "'All whores -- at least in their minds.’ Mr. Ozon, could you keep your fantasies to yourself and avoid assigning them to us? Thank you.”

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister for Women's Rights and spokesperson for the government of President Francois Hollande, addressed the controversy during an interview with French news network BFM TV, saying: "The movie presents us with his view of the world. François Ozon's look at women seems reductive or too generalized."

She went on to call it "clumsy."

"It's terrifying to trivialize, to give the impression that there is a casualness in prostitution. This is not true. Casualness and prostitution are contradictory," she added. "This shows that it is also important that we hear the voices of women directors because women's views of women are not at all the same as those of men."