Alain Guiraudie was named best director in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at last month’s Cannes Film Festival for his roundly-lauded thriller L’Inconnu Du Lac (Stranger By The Lake). During the festival, the sexually explicit gay-themed tale of summer love and murder was picked up by Strand Releasing for a U.S. release later this year. But on the eve of its release in France, where expressions of sexuality are de rigueur and where gay marriage was recently legalized, the film’s advertising (left) proved too much for some. In the Parisian suburbs of Versailles and Saint-Cloud, a series of promotional posters was pulled at the request of the individual town halls, ad agency JC Decaux told AFP. The mayor’s office in Saint-Cloud said it had been “harassed” by phone calls and emails about the poster since it went up last week. Versailles says it did not contact JC Decaux, but a rep told French media it was understandable that the image “could shock people who find themselves disarmed by posters in the street that address sexuality.”

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The film, restricted for those under 16, was released in French theaters today. Distributor and international sales company Les Films du Losange tells me the first Paris showings put it in second place behind Star Trek Into Darkness. Along with the U.S., Stranger By The Lake has sold in 20 territories, including Belgium and Switzerland where I’m told the plan is to use the same poster for advertising.

French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti said she “strongly regrets” that the posters were yanked and called it an “act of censorship.” They “do not present risks to public order that could justify” such restrictive measures, she continued. A protest, which is being referred to as a “Kiss-In” has reportedly been organized for this evening in front of the Saint-Cloud town hall.

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