Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo: a pointlessly pornographic, bottom-obsessed bore-athon

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Abdellatif Kechiche's Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo 
Abdellatif Kechiche's Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo 

Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche; Starring: Shaïn Boumedine, Ophélie Bau, Salim Kechiouche, Alexia Chardard, Lou Luttiau, Hafsia Herzi. Cert tbc, 203 mins

Audiences at Cannes in 2003 were scandalised by a seven-minute sequence in The Brown Bunny in which the actress Chloë Sevigny was shown performing unsimulated oral sex on her co-star and director Vincent Gallo. Well, 16 years later, gender equality has come to the Palais des Festivals, with an unfeignably graphic 11-minute scene of a man, ahem, returning the favour.

It appears in Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo – the second of a series of hazy, hormone-addled coming-of-age films from Abdellatif Kechiche, whose Blue is the Warmest Colour won the Palme d’Or here in 2013. It could be argued that the centrepiece sequence in his latest is a valid provocation, since cinema has always been squeamish about this particular sexual act. (In the United States, even a breath of suspicion that it might be taking place can be enough to bring down a commercially ruinous NC-17 certificate.) But good luck with getting through the film around it.

The majority of Intermezzo’s absurdly overextended three and a half hours encompasses a single evening at a nightclub in the Languedoc harbour town of Sète in 1994, where various characters from the first instalment, 2017’s deeply lovely Canto Uno, come together to sink shots and grind hips.

Amin (Shaïn Boumedine), the young photographer-stroke- transparent director surrogate, is home from Paris, and reunited with the Callipygian farmer’s daughter Ophélie (Ophélie Bau), whose fiancé is still on active service in Iraq. Town tomcats Tony and Aimé (Salim Kechiouche and Roméo De Lacour) are still on the prowl, and have found a new quarry: an 18-year-old Parisian holidaymaker called Marie (Marie Bernard), whom bisexual dance student Céline (Lou Luttiau) approvingly notes is “barely legal”.

After 50 minutes of gossip and gusset shots at the beach, the gang head to the club, where the film remains until its negligible morning-after epilogue. Kechiche’s signature flair for complex group dynamics is missing in action, with no discernible dramatic shape to the hotchpotch of half-drowned-out chat.

In short, it’s a bum trip and then some. Kechiche has always been an admirer of the female posterior, but here he shifts styles into what could be called gluteus maximalism, filling the screen with frantically gyrating hindquarters for literal hours on end.

There is a brief respite from women’s bottoms when Amin’s aunt Camélia (Hafsia Herzi) retreats to a sofa with another female reveller, where they have an intense conversation about… women’s bottoms. As such, Bau and De Lacour’s bathroom-stall quickie – as grubby and urgent as Blue's sex scenes were euphoric – earns its stand-out-moment status by default.

“Live your life instead of staring!” one girl snaps at Amin, when she spots him gazing at the dance floor, stupefied by rumps. It’s the closest this dismayingly redundant project comes to self-critique.