Award-winning film director Catherine Breillat is no fan of the #MeToo movement. On a recent podcast (which has since been taken down), Breillat denounced the efforts to address sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. She said Jessica Chastain shouldn’t have spoken out against the movie, “Last Tango in Paris,” which features a rape that the actress says she wasn’t told would happen.
Indiewire reports that Breillat also defended Harvey Weinstein. “Despite everything, I think that Europeans have lost a lot with the loss of Harvey Weinstein,” she said, hinting that there were other French producers who have not been named. “I won’t mention names, although I know three who are extremely respected — I don’t know why they weren’t denounced as well. They absolutely had their place.”
Despite sounding like she would like something done about more perpetrators, she attacked one of Weinstein’s first victims to come forward, Asia Argento. “To be very honest, I don’t believe Asia,” she said in the podcast, insisting that Argento became involved with Weinstein as a form of “semi-prostitution” and named him only because she was “bitter” that her career didn’t take off. Breillat and Argento previously worked together on the movie, “The Last Mistress.”
“If there’s anyone capable of defending herself, who’s not timid about sex, who does it a lot, and has lots and lots of desire for both men and women, it’s her,” said Breillat.
Asia Argento defended herself on Twitter, responding to Breillat’s attacks by sharing her experience on “The Last Mistress.” Argento accused Breillat of verbally abusing the cast and even went so far as to go to the hospital where the actress was recovering from surgery to tell Argento that she would never work again for holding up the film.
Older actresses and directors in France have been less receptive to the #MeToo movement. Earlier this year, Catherine DeNeuve and 99 other prominent French women spoke out in defense of the men felled by accusations in an op-ed. “Rape is a crime, but hitting on someone, even awkwardly, is not, and neither is gallantry a masculine aggression,” it said. “We defend the right to annoy, indispensable for sexual liberty.”
Perhaps there’s a cultural difference, but there’s a generational one at play, as well. Deneuve and Breillat are of a different generation who likely scandalized their parents’ generation with their movies. Now they’re scandalized that younger women don’t want to be pestered, cajoled, groped or pressured into sex – an overreaching from their generation’s move towards sexual liberation. Other French women have embraced #MeToo with their own version of the hashtag, #BalanceTonPorc [“denounce your pig”].