The director of a highly charged lesbian love story that dazzled Cannes said Monday he felt "great regret" at a controversy that has threatened to overshadow the film's rapturous critical reception.
Abdellatif Kechiche, director of Blue is the Warmest Colour, said he did not understand remarks by his leading actresses in a series of interviews, in which Lea Seydoux said that making the film was "horrible" and co-star Adele Exarchopoulos complained that the director's working methods made her "psychologically ill at times".
"I find it difficult to explain it to myself, because she (Seydoux) talked about facts that never happened, and impressions that she supposedly experienced but never told me about... each time I talk about this controversy, I feel like I'm facing a court," Kechiche told reporters at the annual Hong Kong French Film Festival.
"I hoped that those who were interested, to my great regret, in this controversy could form their own opinions," he said.
The three-hour film about a blue-haired art student who forges an intense erotic relationship with an inexperienced younger girl has received generally glowing reviews worldwide, after causing a sensation at the Cannes film festival.
Its two female stars shared the Palme d'Or award following an unusual move by Steven Spielberg's jury.
Despite the actresses' smiles on collecting the award, Seydoux, 28, has since said she would never work with Kechiche again and that she felt like "a prostitute" when filming the movie's lengthy, divisively explicit sex scenes.
The French-Tunisian director said he believed the actress had been "manipulated" into making her comments by "various people in the press" who had sought to generate negative publicity in an attempt to harm the film.
Kechiche also on Monday attacked the author of the graphic novel on which the film is loosely based, describing her remarks that the film's portrayal of lesbian sex was akin to pornography as "stupid".
He said he believed the author was attempting to boost her own public profile.
Julie Maroh wrote on her blog that she viewed the film's sex scenes as "a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and me feel very ill at ease".
"I found her comments grotesque, senseless, not very worthy on her part," Kechiche told reporters.
"I feel she did it as a free publicity campaign for herself to get more attention surrounding her graphic novel. This was not needed, because inevitably following the release of the film (it) had become more popular in comparison to the little sales it was making before the movie."
The controversy shows little sign of dying down, with the film expected to be a frontrunner at France's César awards, the French Oscars, in 2014.
Its US distributor is reportedly planning Oscar campaigns for Exarchopoulos and Seydoux in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories, respectively.