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A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon sun. It’s exquisite, the shot as much as the face, and anyone who has seen Kechiche’s last film will wonder how long the director can hold it there. But then there’s movement, and the camera gently drops and twists to close in on a different area, lower, a little lower, and yep, there it is — her toned, unblemished derrière. Welcome to the world of “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo,” where, with apologies to Samuel Beckett, form is content and content is form: the female form, that is, and its lower half in particular.
This opening gambit will prompt either a smile, smirk or sigh of recognition from viewers already acquainted with Kechiche’s bottom-heavy “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno,” a languid coming-of-ager to which “Intermezzo” is a direct sequel. Over the course of three hours, that narratively sparse film detailed a summer of sensual discovery for a group of young, beautiful Franco-Tunisians, via the tactile pleasures common to much of the director’s work: food, dance and flesh, the latter most luxuriantly ogled of all. In its somewhat obsessive cramming of Junoesque female thighs and buttocks into every frame that could conceivably house them, “Canto Uno” felt like a defiant riposte to detractors of Kechiche’s ravishing 2013 Palme d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color,” which weathered much criticism for the purported male gaze dominating its sexually explicit tale of **** first love.
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