A rumbling row over censorship between the Cannes film festival and Iran flared anew Thursday as Tehran banned celebrated director Abbas Kiarostami's new movie due to star Juliet Binoche's "attire."
The Oscar-winner picked up Cannes' best actress award last weekend for her role in "Certified Copy," a tortuous tete-a-tete about love and marriage in which she remains determinedly fully clothed throughout.
"If Juliette Binoche were better clad it could have been screened but due to her attire there will not be a general screening," Deputy Culture Minister Javad Shamaqdari was quoted as saying by local newspapers, without describing the offensive clothes.
Kiarostami's first film shot outside Iran, where his work is rarely seen, features Binoche in western dress, at one point with plunging neckline and at another slapping on make-up and ear-rings.
She recounts how she took off her bra in a church because she felt uncomfortable, but that scene is not on screen.
Binoche and Kiarostami heaped criticism however against Tehran throughout the festival, for the way it treats its film-makers and for its tough censorship stance.
On picking up her prize, the 46-year-old French star brandished a sign with the name of Jafar Panahi, the Iranian film-maker jailed in Tehran in March for planning a film against the Islamic regime who was released on bail on Tuesday.
"I hope he will be here next year," Binoche told the crowd.
After years of friction between the Cannes film festival and Tehran, organizers may have added insult to injury this year by inviting jailed Panahi to join the festival jury that decides on the winners of its awards.
At the festival's gala opening, the jury headed by "Alice in Wonderland" director Tim Burton called for his release and left a seat symbolically empty for him on stage.
And in a letter read out on the red carpet by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, Panahi said: "Let us not forget that thousands of defenseless prisoners here have no one to relay their distress."
It was not the first time that Iran's harried film-makers grabbed center stage at Cannes.
Last year's edition premiered Bahman Ghobadi's underground movie from Tehran, "No One Know About Persian Cats," a no-holds-barred denunciation of film and music censorship in Iran that was shot in secret in 17 days.
Director of auteur award-winners such as "Turtles Can Fly" and "A Time for Drunken Horses," Ghobadi said he lived in fear of police during the shooting.
"If I go back now they know how I did this, they will follow me," he told reporter.
And in 2007 Cannes waved aside bitter protests from Tehran to premiere a biting animation about a young girl's life under Iran's ayatollahs titled "Persepolis," based on the eponymous graphic novel by Iranian Marjane Satrapi.
Iran had slammed it as "an unreal picture of the outcomes and achievements of the Islamic revolution" and protested to France that the festival's decision to select it highlighted "the biased policies of domineering powers."
On Thursday, deputy culture minister Shamaqdari described Kiarostami's movie as "not a bad film" and said it could be shown "in some private circles and universities,"
Shamaqdari said he believed "this film will not have a big Iranian audience, except among those in Iran who have Western lifestyles."