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PARIS – The battle of words over Blue Is the Warmest Color is heating up, with director Abdellatif Kechiche now fanning the flames of controversy in an open letter published on the website Rue89 on Wednesday.
In an extensive takedown of several critics, he targets the newspaper Le Monde and journalist Aureliano Tonet as well as his star, Lea Seydoux, whom he believes said “slanderous” things about him and the production in an effort to gain attention following her historic Palme d’Or win.
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While he begins with attacking the negative stories about the production published in Le Monde, star Seydoux is hardest hit in the letter, with Kechiche calling her an “arrogant, spoiled child.” He appears to threaten possible legal action for the actress’ statements in a series of interviews in which she criticized his shooting methods and said she would never work with him again.
“Miss Seydoux, who after having repeatedly thanked me publicly and privately and having wept in my arms at Cannes for allowing her to take on this noble role … has, against all odds and all personal coherence, radically changed her attitude toward me.”
“Thus after having been celebrated and glorified thanks to the Palme d’Or won by Blue Is the Warmest Color, she started to drag me through the mud with lies and exaggerations,” he said, speculating that it was an extended PR effort to secure her image as a “rebel” and keep herself on magazine covers and in newspapers.
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He calls her actions a “perverse fraud and manipulation” and goes on to say that she “knew her words were slanderous.” In a passage that appears to threaten future legal action, he writes: “I will come back. It is for her to explain in court.”
Kechiche has faced much criticism over his shooting methods — from Seydoux as well as from anonymous sources on the crew. To Kechiche, the anonymous accusations from the production sources that were first laid out in Tonet’s article are what sparked the controversy that has continuously dogged the film since Cannes. In Tonet’s article, crewmembers alleged that the hours were long and shooting conditions brutal. Kechiche believes that this article would have ruined his career had the film not won the Palme d’Or.
In interviews that appeared earlier this year, Seydoux agreed with the allegations, calling the production “horrible” and said that she would never work with Kechiche again, citing his need for several retakes and an instance in which he threw his monitor because he was not satisfied with a scene.
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The controversy hasn’t hurt the film at the French box office. It sold 261,000 tickets in its first week of release on 285 screens and is nearing 600,000 in its second, a notably good showing because of its nearly three-hour length. American audiences will have a first look at the film, rated NC-17, on Fri., Oct. 25, when it opens in limited release.
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