Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:31 pm 
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An easy hour and a half

Rebecca Zlotkowski's third feature, Planetarium, the one before this, was in Rendez-Vous 2017 but it was not shown to the press and I didn't review it. One should probably see her 2016 Planetariaum, cowritten by Robin Campillo of Eastern Boys and BPM. Her 2013 Grand Central was in the 2014 Rendez-Vous and attracted interest because it featured Tahar Rahim, the young breakout star of Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, and Léa Seydoux of so many things. I don't know enough about Zlotkowski's work to provide context, but both her earlier and the new film have two hot young actors (though this time not famous ones like Rahim and Seydoux), and a well-known older actor - then, Olivier Gourmet, this time, Benoît Magimel. A minor character is Naima's gay pal Dodo (Lakdhar Dridi) who she's preparing an acting audition with that she neglects for this moment with rich and glamorous people.

Magimel is admirably mellow and smooth here. One other thing that's clear is Zlotkowski is interested in class and sex. Here, there are two attractive young women of no particular status who briefly are taken up by two abundantly rich, leisured, and privileged men, Brazilian art collectors, we are told, on a millionaire's yacht in the Cannes harbor who can afford to offer them baubles worth a thousand euros merely for being friendly and staying on board overnight.

This film seems slight as Grand Central, and even more richly sensuous. The setting is lush, the genre traditional: a night of love instead of a summer of love, and a summer of growing up - for the voiceover narrator, 16-year-old (she looks older, but never mind) Naima (Mina Farid), a naive Cannes local. In the wisp of a plot, She's visited by a more sophisticated cousin, Sophia (Zahia Dehar), who has a fling with the younger of the two yacht millionaires, the bearded Andres (Nuno Lopes), while Naima has a chaste evening of mentoring from the older Philippe (Magimel). Next day they are taken on the yacht to visit a rich women friend (Clotilde Courau) in Italy. Then the yacht guys go on another outing, and the girls are not invited. Naima is hurt, but Sophia takes it in stride. She understands the details of status evidently better. Later, Sophia ends her visit with Naima, and the story ends.

Why did I enjoy this flimsy stuff? Because of something very traditional, the sensuousness of Brigitte Bardot movies, or No Sun in Venice (and Rohmer too), the coming of age angle, the sense of luxury (this film is partly about this beautiful yacht, not a billionaire's yacht, like the one in "Succession," but a sleeker, maybe even more elegant one), and the lush sound track.

Zahia Dehar doesn't seem quite like an actress, and isn't. She's herself a notorious former high level call girl, an "escort," she called herself, from Algeria, who became "a model, lingerie designer and actress," says an IMDb bio. It also reports that in April 2010 there was a scandal called "the Zahia case," of French footballers accused of having sex with Zahia when she was underage. Well, Sophia is presented as being more sophisticated than Naima, but not like that! One has the feeling that to some extent this film was created for Zahia, if riskily since in the event Zahia seems not just sophisticated but the worse for wear. It was better not to know about this backstory before watching the film. But Zlotowski views Sophia non-judgmentally, allowing Naima to admire her Mediterranean freedom. LIke Bardot she is something of the eternal feminine, a spirit above conventional morality. In the title's phrase, "Easy Girl," there is an intentional ambiguity, an admiration for Sophia's freedom, but awareness it looks like impropriety from a distance.

But anyway, the story is also basically Naima's, with her voiceover, and the emotional core is her developed bond, not of love but of respect, for and from Phlippe. In the writing, the mentoring relationship between Phhilipe and Naima may not be wholly believable, but Maginel is such a smooth, confident actor he very nearly makes it work and provides the tiniest of touching moments, modeling a man who behaves respectfully toward a young woman.

An Easy Girl/Une fille facile, 92 mins., debuted at Cannes in Directors Fortnight; its French release was Aug. 28., with an AlloCine press rating of 3.5. (70%). Reviewed here as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. A Netflix release.

Rendez-Vouswith French Cinema:
Saturday, March 7, 9:00pm (Q&A with Rebecca Zlotowski)
Thursday, March 12, 4:00pm


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