“Sex Is Comedy”, on France.tv: the intimacy coordinator, a shield against the directors’ abuse of power

Beautiful and/or moving scenes of nudity or sex on screen, we all have vivid memories

“Sex Is Comedy”, on France.tv: the intimacy coordinator, a shield against the directors’ abuse of power

Beautiful and/or moving scenes of nudity or sex on screen, we all have vivid memories. But how are these poignant scenes made? The wave

These professionals accompany performers, directors and technicians in the preparation and filming of these scenes, ensuring that the consent of the performers is free and complete. The profession is now widespread in the United States, but not yet quite in France, where, ten years after the ordeal of Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux on the set of La Vie d'Adèle (directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, Palme d’or 2013 at Cannes), we continue to put “freedom of creation” before the issue of abuse.

The documentary Sex Is Comedy directed by Edith Chapin (Motoball, in 2023, Nadia, from the shadows to the light, to the screenplay, in 2021) and written with Iris Brey shows how these professionals work. She, a critic and journalist, specialist in representations of gender and sexuality on screen, produced the series Split for France.tv Slash.

It’s the story of a stuntwoman, Anna, who falls in love with the star she is overtaking, even though she thought she was happy in her (heterosexual) relationship. For the filming of this series, Iris Brey called on an intimacy coordinator. The documentary follows, also according to the rules of intimacy coordination, the daily work of Paloma Garcia Martens, ex-costume designer, notably on the filming of La Vie d'Adèle, and very recently trained in this new profession.

Extremely rare testimonies

Edith Chapin herself assures: “I felt much freer having discussed and defined in advance what I could film. » The famous creative constraint? In any case, she obtained unpublished testimonies from actresses, extremely rare, because they are risky for the continuation of a career in cinema or audiovisual.

According to the director, who has seen many doors closed, “shut up for the good of the film” remains the norm. There is no “creative freedom” in the experience of these women, but rather a creative laziness precisely, when scenes or characters are not thought out in advance, when the performers are presented with a fait accompli, improvise and attempt to understand, half naked, on a set, what the author or director has not been able to clearly formulate. “I am ready to do lots of things,” says actress Zita Hanrot, co-founder of the Association of Actors, who is tackling the problem. But if we discuss it. »

Then begins a captivating reflection on the power relations that cross a film set, on the search for accuracy in these scenes, on the representation of women's sexuality. And, above all, on what freedom of creation gains, precisely, from taking the time to see in the bodies of actors and actresses much more than an artistic instrument or an aesthetic object.

The success of the series Normal People (2020) or Sex Education (2019-2023) – to which an interpreter and the intimacy coordinator testify in the documentary – is joyfully eloquent. “Playing sex and playing intimacy is still playing comedy,” explains the director, who underlines the extent to which the codes have changed since the eponymous mise en abyme by Catherine Breillat (Sex Is Comedy, 2002).