Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated accordingly.
Cannes has a history of premiering sexually explicit films throughout its history — and with all manner of unsimulated acts — to both shocks and shrugs on the Croisette.
An avant-garde film like Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev’s brilliantly sex-crazed bonanza “Sweet Movie” likely didn’t swallow well with American audiences treated to its insanities, from coprophilia to vomit play, but it’s gone on to attract a cult following.
Most recently, “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” director Abdellatif Kechiche effectively made himself persona non grata among U.S. distributors when, in 2019, he released his nearly four-hour-long sequel “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo,” a graphic and some felt blatantly misogynist epic of young people having all the sex in the world. The film has never been seen stateside and remains the subject of ongoing legal entanglements due to Kechiche’s treatment of lead actress Ophélie Bau, who claimed he denied her permission to see the film’s most graphic scene prior to the premiere. Kechiche had a slightly warmer reception in 2013, when the simulated but realistic acts in “Blue” helped power it, and leads Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, all the way to the Palme.
This year’s festival was heavier on horrors of the body (“Crimes of the Future,” “De Humani Corporis Fabrica’) than its pleasures (though Claire Denis’ “Stars at Noon” brought some steam to the Croisette). But Cannes most years, as you’ll see below, has at least a few sex scandals of its own. Below, we look back at the history of unsimulated sex scenes at Cannes — from the arcane to the more arthouse-accessible like Gaspar Noé and Lars von Trier and, of course, Vincent Gallo’s infamous “Brown Bunny” oral sex scene.
Tambay Obenson contributed to this story.