CANNES, France - The Cannes Film Festival got its first taste of full-blown controversy on Thursday after a late-night session with director Gaspar Noe's hyper-sexual 3D tale, "Love".
The movie leaves nothing to the imagination as it tells the story of a young couple's tempestuous love affair, featuring over a dozen extremely graphic sex scenes, including close-up ejaculations, orgies, a threesome and a transvestite prostitute.
The posters had already given "Love" plenty of notoriety ahead of its premiere on the French Riviera, with one featuring a post-climax penis.
Such large crowds showed up for the midnight screening that dozens of ticket-holders had to be turned away and arguments broke out outside the Grand Palais theatre.
"For years, I have dreamed of making a film that would fully reproduce the passion of a young couple in love, in all its physical and emotional excesses," Noe said in a statement ahead of the screening.
The audience gave a long standing ovation at the end of the film, but many critics seemed unconvinced by Noe's "blood, sperm and tears" vision.
"Like bad sex, (it) seems to go on forever with no climax or ending in sight," tweeted Sophie Kaufman, of Little White Lies magazine.
The Argentinian director, who lives and works in France, said he wanted to transcend "the ridiculous division that dictates no normal film can contain overtly erotic scenes, even though everyone loves to make love".
The story follows a young man, Murphy, looking back on his lost love, Electra, and their time together.
Noe puts himself at the centre of the story -- the lead character is a budding filmmaker who talks about wanting to make an explicit film about love and sex. Two of the side characters in the film are even called Gaspar and Noe.
The director has said he was keen to embrace three dimensions in the film.
"I felt that 3D would allow the viewer a greater sense of identification with the lead character and his nostalgic state," he said.
'Sex scenes get boring'
Noe is no stranger to controversy. In 2002, a screening of his film "Irreversible" at Cannes led to several ambulances being called for audience members who could not cope with its extremely graphic rape scene.
Around 250 people walked out of the midnight showing, starring Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, which features a 10-minute depiction of sodomy and graphic murder and rape scenes.
"More than in my previous films I owe the result to the daring and trust of the actors... who joyfully agreed to play the three main roles," Noe said in the statement.
Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux introduced the screening and the three unknown stars, saying the audience "will know them very, very well in two hours".
"Love" got a largely negative response from critics on Twitter.
"Just Gaspar Noe badly sketching a souring relationship. And the sex scenes get boring after a while," wrote Isabel Stevens, of Sight and Sound magazine, on Twitter.
BBC film critic Jason Solomons said it "was definitely not a porn film -- the dialogue's not up to that level".
It is not yet clear if the film will remain uncensored abroad.
"Love" sold distribution rights in the United States on the sidelines of the festival on Friday, but could yet fall foul of censors.
"We will do everything we can to protect this masterful film," Brooke Forde, of US distributor Alchemy, told The Hollywood Reporter.