Scandal-mired French film warms hearts at Cannes


On-set scandal may have haunted French director Catherine Corsini's new film, but the movie was well-received by critics in Cannes for its strong acting performances.

"The Homecoming," which premiered late Wednesday, lost some funding over an intimate scene featuring a 15-year-old actress that was ultimately cut from the final take.

It was the second movie, after Johnny Depp's comeback as French King Louis XV in "Jeanne du Barry", to cause upset at the world's leading film industry shindig, held on the French Riviera.

The coming-of-age story tells of a black mother who returns to Corsica with her two teenage daughters, years after fleeing the French island in a hurry. The trio explore a mysterious past, sexuality and drugs.

While some critics called out the film for occasional longwindedness and failing to satisfy key questions, it was largely well-received, particularly for the acting.

"Whatever else happened on-set, Corsini has delivered a wonderful film... that ever so elegantly flutters questions of race, class, guilt and opportunity through a seaside summer breeze," wrote The Wrap.

Catherine Corsini, 66, an outspoken gay activist, had a film in the running for the top award, the Palme D'Or, "The Divide," in 2021, featuring Guinean-born actress Aissatou Diallo Sagna, who also appears in this year's feature.

Corsini won the Queer Palme for the film, while Sagna won France's highest Cesar film award for her role.

- 'Intense' -

Drama erupted, however, over Corsini's "The Homecoming" which was initially left out of the official selection at the last minute, only to be added back in.

The controversy centred on a scene involving actress Esther Gohourou, who was 15 at the time, and a love interest.

Corsini told Variety magazine the moment "suggested something of a sexual nature" but remained centred on the actors' faces.

The controversial scene was eventually cut from the film, leaving in just a quick kiss between the actors.

In an interview with Le Monde, Corsini -- one of a record seven women directors in the main competition at Cannes -- slammed the barrage of criticism as "a new form of patriarchy."

Responding to accusations of verbal and physical violence on set, Corsini admitted she was "intense" and "eruptive at times" when working under pressure.

The film depicts moments of intimacy between the older sister, played by 22-year-old Suzy Bemba, and her lesbian love interest.

"Not remotely out for provocation, the film handles its sexual moments, such as they are, with restraint and discretion – with little to scare the horses," wrote Screen Daily.

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