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Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Colour hits French screens after six-months of controversy

Happy Days - Abdellatif Kechiche, Léa Seydoux et Adèle Exarchopoulos receive the golden palm at Cannes
Happy Days - Abdellatif Kechiche, Léa Seydoux et Adèle Exarchopoulos receive the golden palm at Cannes Reuters/Yves Herman

Cannes Palme d'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour opened in France and Belgium on Wednesday to an ecstatic critical reception despite being dogged by controversy in the six months since its triumph on the Riviera.

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A "cinematic gem", according to Le Monde, "masterful", according to l'Humanité, "a masterpiece", according to Metro, le Nouvel Observateur and many others, the French critics can't find enough superlatives to describe Franco-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche

Cannes 2013

's film, called La Vie d'Adèle in French, tale of a lesbian love affair between a schoolgirl and an art student with striking blue eyes.

In May the Cannes jury, chaired by Stephen Spielberg, took scarcely five minutes to award the film the Palme d'Or, for the first time ever naming the film's stars, 19-year-old Adèle Exarchopoulos and 28-year-old Léa Seydoux, in the award and Kechiche and his actresses celebrated the prize together.

But the film has been dogged by controversy:

  • 23 May: Just before the Cannes projection a technicians' union protests in Cannes to at working conditions on set during the filming, which was supposed to take 75 days but eventually took five months;
  • 27 May: Julie Maroh, the author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, describes the sex scenes as "a surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex", while right-wing politician and same-sex marriage opponent Christine Bouton declares "We've been invaded by gays";
  • 27 June: Kechiche, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux meet President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace but are never to be seen together afterwards;
  • 1 September: Seydoux tells the Daily Beast that shooting the film was "horrible" and swears never to work with Kechiche again, while Exarchopoulos as " a genius but ... tortured";
  • 25 September: Kechiche tells Télérama magazine that the film should not be distributed because it has been "too soiled".

The film will soon be showing in the UK, the US, Germany and Spain and the producer hopes to distribute in Russia, despite its recently passed law against "homosexual propaganda".

Chechiche has taken the unusual step of inviting his fellow Tunisians to download pirate copies because he fears that screenings might "provoke disorder or hatred" there.

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