CANNES, France (AFP) - Director Gaspar Noe rejected the idea on Thursday that his ultra-graphic 3D sex film Love was controversial at the Cannes Film Festival, saying it was ridiculous to ignore a subject that "everyone loves".
"I have friends who love money, some who love coke, some who love cinema, but the common point is that everyone loves having sex," the Paris-based director said at a press conference.
"So why is it so poorly represented in cinema? It's to do with commercial and legal pressures," he added.
Noe's latest film was the hot ticket on the French Riviera, with hundreds trying to squeeze their way into the midnight screening on Wednesday night.
Love leaves nothing to the imagination as it tells the story of a young couple's tempestuous love affair, featuring over a dozen extremely graphic unsimulated sex scenes, including close-up ejaculations, swingers' clubs, a threesome and a transvestite prostitute.
Asked why he felt the need to show such explicit scenes, the Argentine-born Noe said, "I was making a film about love, not about Swiss banks or Scientology."
Lead actor Karl Gusman, a newcomer from the United States, said there were certainly doubts when he started work on the film.
"On the first day of shooting, Gaspar decided to start us off with a close-up of my genitals," Gusman said.
"I was in the bathroom beforehand, looking in the mirror thinking I should escape to the airport... and that this was the end of a very short career.
"But pretty soon, it felt normal."
Asked how his parents had reacted, Gusman said: "My mother was not a virgin when I met her. She's very proud, especially because the film is playing in such a prestigious festival."
'LIKE BAD SEX'
The story follows a young American man in Paris, Murphy, looking back on his lost love, Electra (Aomi Muyock), and their time together.
3D has been used for hardcore pornography before but this is thought to be the first time it has been used for sex scenes in an arthouse film.
"It's a toy I hadn't used before," said Noe, adding that he liked the irony of using 3D and English-speaking actors to give the film a Hollywood feel.
Although the producers secured a deal last week to distribute Love in the US, Noe said he expected trouble from censors.
"It's easier to show scenes of sensuality in European cinema because people are more open-minded. The Americans, when it comes to a film's distribution, can be very square," he said.
Noe is no stranger to controversy. In 2002, a screening of his film Irreversible at Cannes led to several ambulances being called for audience members who could not cope with its in-your-face rape scene.
Some of the audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the screening on Thursday morning, but many critics seemed unconvinced by Noe's "blood, sperm and tears" vision.
"Like bad sex, (it) seems to go on forever with no climax or ending in sight," tweeted Sophie Kaufman, of Little White Lies movie magazine.
BBC film critic Jason Solomons said it "was definitely not a porn film - the dialogue's not up to that level".
Variety gave a more nuanced critique, saying "you've gotta hand it to Noe for leaving no taboo unturned, and for putting so much of himself into a film that's bound to leave titillation seekers resenting its creator during the long stretches of wallowing introspection between climaxes."
Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux jumped to Noe's defence at an earlier press conference, saying "the last thing to do at Cannes is read the critics".
"Gaspar Noe has made a film that some love and some hate. Literature and painting visit the question of the representation of the body, of sex, of physical love, but very few filmmakers have done so in 120 years of the history of cinema," said Fremaux.