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Home Film Censorship ‘Behind the Candelabra’: Liberace Movie Near-Record Ratings + Tunisia Islamic Government Congratulates ‘Blue’ Filmmaker

‘Behind the Candelabra’: Liberace Movie Near-Record Ratings + Tunisia Islamic Government Congratulates ‘Blue’ Filmmaker

5 minutes read

Behind the Candelabra Michael Douglas Liberace Matt Damon
Behind the Candelabra with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.

‘Behind the Candelabra’ HBO Hit: Liberace movie starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon nearly breaks record

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Behind the Candelabra, the Steven Soderbergh-directed Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover-chauffeur Scott Thorson, was first aired Sunday evening on HBO. The result: 2.4 million television viewers, the largest audience for an HBO original film in nearly a decade. Another 1.1 million viewers watched a repeat broadcast later in the evening.

Curiously, the flamboyantly gay Behind the Candelabra trailed only another (much more sedate) HBO biopic about the relationship between two disparate men: Joseph Sargent’s Something the Lord Made, about heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and Vivien Thomas (Mos Def). According to Nielsen, Something the Lord Made was watched by 2.6 million people in late May 2004.

‘Behind the Candelabra’: HBO hit was Cannes Film Festival (awards) disappointment

Behind the Candelabra‘s ratings success should work as a sort of consolation prize for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s Official Competition entry. After all, Behind the Candelabra went home empty-handed, even though Michael Douglas and Matt Damon were favorites for the Best Actor award. (Check out: “Lesbian Love Story Tops Cannes Film Festival After Anti-Gay Marriage French Protests.”)

In fact, Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace movie – which is supposed to be the director’s last feature film – didn’t even manage to win the Queer Palm, handed out to movies about gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. characters. The 2013 Queer Palm went instead to Alain Guiraudie’s erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake.

Oscar winners Michael Douglas and Matt Damon topline Behind the Candelabra cast

Behind the Candelabra stars two Academy Award winners: Michael Douglas won a Best Actor Oscar for Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987) and was one of the producers of Milos Forman’s Best Picture Oscar winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Matt Damon, for his part, shared the 1997 Best Original Screenplay Oscar with Ben Affleck for the Gus Van Sant-directed drama Good Will Hunting. Damon was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the same film, in addition to a Best Supporting Actor nod for Clint Eastwood’s Invictus (2009).

Besides Douglas and Damon, the Behind the Candelabra cast includes Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Tom Papa, Paul Reiser, Caroline Jaden Stussi, Max Napolitano, Boyd Holbrook, Cheyenne Jackson, Nicky Katt, and veteran Debbie Reynolds (Best Actress nominee for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1964).

Richard LaGravenese wrote the Behind the Candelabra screenplay, based on the book by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson.

Liberace died of AIDS in Palm Springs in February 1987.

Blue Is the Warmest Color Léa Seydoux Adèle ExarchopoulosLéa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Color.

‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ director Abdellatif Kechiche congratulated by Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture

Yesterday, Blue Is the Warmest Color / La Vie d’Adèle received the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s closing ceremony. Official Competition jury president Steven Spielberg specifically stated that the top Cannes prize was to go to director Abdellatif Kechiche and to the film’s two leading ladies, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Today, the Parisian daily Libération / Agence France Presse reported that Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture has reached out to the Tunisian-born French director. Posted on Facebook, a note from the Ministry declared that “The minister of Culture (Mehdi Mabrouk) has congratulated director Abdellatif Kechiche for this international recognition, wishing him much success in the film world.” The Ministry made no mention of the subject matter of Kechiche’s film: the graphic portrayal of the sexual-romantic relationship between a 15-year-old high school student (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and a blue-haired woman in her 20s (Léa Seydoux).

In fact, the Ministry’s note mentions the film’s title only once, focusing instead on the contributions of Tunisian technicians and the possibility of international filmmakers shooting more movies in that country.

‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’: No release date in Tunisia

Needless to say, the Ministry made no indication as to when Blue Is the Warmest Color would open in Tunisia. Admittedly, although Tunisia is ruled by the Islamic party Ennahda, and, as pointed out by Libération, there have been nasty, violent protests against movies, festivals, and exhibits that have offended Muslim fanatics – e.g., the broadcast of Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s Persepolis – in itself the lack of a Tunisian release date for Blue Is the Warmest Color means nothing.

To the best of my knowledge, so far only one country has a scheduled release date for Kechiche’s lesbian love story: France (October 9). Additionally, IFC Films’ Sundance Selects has bought North American rights to Blue Is the Warmest Color, which will likely open some time during awards season later this year.

Homosexuality not a crime in Tunisia, but sodomy is

According to Libération, homosexuality isn’t criminalized in Tunisia. However, much like in a number of American states until fairly recently, sodomy is a crime. In Tunisia, at least on paper, it can lead to up to three years in jail.


Michael Douglas as Liberace, Matt Damon as Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra photo: HBO.

Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos in Abdellatif Kechiche’s lesbian love story Blue Is the Warmest Color / Blue Is the Warmest Colour photo: Wild Bunch.

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