There is nothing easy about being an easy girl in Rebecca Zlotowski’s An Easy Girl (Une Fille Facile), co-written with Teddy Lussi-Modeste, shot by Georges Lechaptois (Savages with Sabri Louatah, Planetarium, Grand Central, Dear Prudence, Alice Winocour’s Proxima, Disorder, Augustine, Mathieu Demy’s Americano), which is a highlight of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
Naïma (Mina Farid), Sofia (Zahia Dehar), Philippe (Benoît Magimel), and Andres (Nuno Lopes) in An Easy Girl (Une Fille Facile)
Naïma (Mina Farid) has just turned 16. She lives in Cannes with her mother who works as a maid in one of the fancy hotels. When her older bombshell cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar) visits for the summer, a new chapter begins in her life. Naima is in awe and bewildered as she tags along when Sofia befriends two rich art dealers and joins them on their yacht (Benoît Magimel and Nuno Lopes).
The moment Rebecca and I sat down at the Indie Food & Wine café at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and after a welcoming elbow bump, Rebecca looked at her phone to put it away and read that the French Minister of Culture Franck Riester “has the virus”.
Anne-Katrin Titze: Wow.
Rebecca Zlotowski: Wow.
AKT: Any more information?
RZ: I don’t know. I’m just looking at where it comes from. [We didn’t know at that point if the website could be trusted – but it turned out to be true that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.]
Rebecca Zlotowski on easy girl Sofia (Zahia Dehar) with Naïma (Mina Farid): “I really literally wanted to be very frontal with the subject. This character is this actress with this body.”
AKT: You are one of the few who actually came to New York!
RZ: I know! I came and I was like, I came but maybe they don’t want to see me.
AKT: I came.
RZ: Thank you very much, you’re brave. I came because my scriptwriter [Sabri Louatah] lives here and we had to write season 2 of the TV series [Les Sauvages] that we did last year. Actually this film [An Easy Girl] was just like a short process in-between a huge TV series that I shot for France.
AKT: So just on the side you make a film like that?! There is so much in it, I was very impressed. This morning I looked at our interview for Grand Central. I want to quote some lines to you - because it’s so interesting in the context of this film:
“I love the characters that give a lot, that are generous with their meanings.” “I am very very fond of making an opening appealing and sexy. I really wanted to have the first 15 minutes, 20 minutes of the film to put the subject on the table.” And “sexuality wasn’t the subject of the film.”
Well, I thought …
RZ: … there’s a coherent person! Like, she is the same!
Une Fille Facile poster
AKT: Are you?
RZ: Yeah, thank you very much for mentioning this. Because in France sometimes critics are like “This is amazing, this is never the same film that you do.” And I’m like “This is always the same film that I do.” I think that I’m pretty obsessive with the things I do and I think that I have the same pattern.
So definitely with An Easy Girl I really literally wanted to be very frontal with the subject. This character is this actress with this body. I mean, it’s more than an homage, it’s a reproduction of the prologue of the summer tale by Eric Rohmer, the beginning of La Collectionneuse is Haydée Politoff, the main actress on the beach, shot exactly the same. It’s really intertextuality. I wanted to say to the audience - this will be a dialogue with this film. Enjoy.
AKT: Also, because it is this little cove, I thought of From Here To Eternity. But it’s only her. She’s the perfect siren, a Ligea, but in a funny way. The choice of bikini! And then the Carpe Diem tattoo! I laughed, but at the same time ….
RZ: … exactly!
AKT: Where did the idea for the tattoo come from?
RZ: The tattoo came from something that I noticed once in a hamam. Actually. I was in a hamam in Maghreb in Morocco. There was this woman - probably she was a dancer, or maybe a prostitute, I don’t know. She had an amazing body. I think she had fake things. Fake here, fake here, fake here [Rebecca signals where in front and back]. Very gorgeous and very different from me.
Dodo (Lakdhar Dridi) with Naïma (Mina Farid) on the beach
I was looking at her and fantasising of what life she would have. I’m always, in Grand Central and in this film, I’m always very fond of alterity. Cinema is very interesting to me as soon as I can open fields that will never be mine. So she undressed and she had this tattoo. Carpe Diem. Exactly like that, like the tramp stamp. It made me laugh.
AKT: It’s absurd.
RZ: And also it’s cute. So this is where it comes from.
AKT: The way you use it in the film, the tattoo moves from one character to another.
RZ: Because she wants to … For me the moment is a “Hey I want to repair what you have because you’re sad. Look at that, I’m just like you. And also being, like …
AKT: …”a dangerous woman.” And when she [Naïma played by Mina Farid] says that she wants to be a dangerous woman - that is the moment when she is most child-like.
RZ: Absolutely! Exactly. She’s a kid when she says that.
Les Sauvages poster
AKT: She is also a kid with the tattoo, which makes it so touching.
RZ: It’s a very simple coming-of-age as well. I wanted the film to be very modest about that. It’s a summer tale, it’s a summer moment, this is like a destiny moment. She can make that decision, she can change an aspect of her life and you have different narrative tools on this path. And the tattoo is one of them.
AKT: Another one is the crocodile on the table of the yacht.
RZ: Very symbolic.
AKT: I really liked the editing for that scene. He [Phillipe played by Benoît Magimel] is reading a book, there’s the crocodile, Naïma walks over, and he just says “Don’t! Just don’t, you’re a child.”
RZ: Everyone is relieved when he says that.
RZ: Because everyone feels like, oh no, please, they are not having anything together! And when he says “No” we’re very happy about that.
Coming up - Rebecca Zlotowski on Benoît Magimel, Nuno Lopez, Zahia Dehar’s backstory, Marie NDiaye’s novel, and the fairy tale connection to An Easy Girl.