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CANNES 2019 Directors’ Fortnight

Rebecca Zlotowski • Director of An Easy Girl

“It’s time for women to re-embrace our sexy stereotypes, and play with them with power and pride”

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- CANNES 2019: We caught up with Rebecca Zlotowski to discuss An Easy Girl, which plays with sexual stereotypes and power games between privileged men and objectified women

Rebecca Zlotowski  • Director of An Easy Girl
(© Shelby Duncan)

In her fourth feature, An Easy Girl [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rebecca Zlotowski
film profile
]
, screening in the Directors’ Fortnight at CannesRebecca Zlotowski plays with sexual stereotypes and power games between privileged men and objectified women, with twists and turns to match. The eye-catching title character is played with great savvy by notorious ex-scandaleuse Zahia Dehar. An encounter with the director proved her to be in many ways like her film – sharp and cheerful.

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Cineuropa: You describe An Easy Girl as a simple film on complex subjects. Can you elaborate on this?
Rebecca Zlotowski:
 Don’t get me started! There are so many layers in this film: I wanted to bring in eroticism as a weapon and as a political statement, and to show both men and women in a fair way – plus I wanted to make a movie that I wanted to see. I’ve done a few things that are more like complex films about simple ideas, but now I wanted the opposite.

Even the seemingly simple title, An Easy Girl, feels complex and open to interpretation. What is your take?
You can take it literally – she’s a slut. She would be totally okay with this, which is interesting and modern in itself. And you can also ask yourself, “Who has the dominant part here?” Is it the girl with the aggressive sexuality and the almost painted-on designer dress, or the guy with the giant yacht who enjoys gourmet dinners right in front of poor people? I wanted to raise these questions for everyone to reflect on.

The casting of Zahia Dehar is equally interesting and conspicuous. How did the collaboration occur?
I had the story in my drawer for a long time, but the film first became real when I met Zahia. She actually started following me on Instagram, which surprised and confused me – why is this young woman with her looks and reputation getting in touch with a very un-mainstream filmmaker like myself? Then I watched the videos she put up, and was absolutely taken by her mystery, curiosity, complexity and sophistication. She totally dismantled the cliché of vulgarity; she felt like she was straight out of an Éric Rohmer movie. “There she is: my film!” I exclaimed. 

In which ways did she influence the script?
In many ways, as she is the main part of the construction process and greatly helped in documenting the character. I do this with many actors: I take elements from their past, so Léa Seydoux will bring some Ridley Scott or Blue Is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile
]
 with her, for instance. It’s fun to play with. Zahia, for example, told me about always eating before having dinner with men. It became a fun and very interesting scene. She was also very much part of the costume choices and the artistic direction.

The film plays more or less humorously with that ugly animal called the male gaze; Zahia’s character is more than happy to encourage it. As a political statement, what is your view on it?
Even in this era of #MeToo, I prefer to use humour and collective thinking as weapons, rather than anger or shame. Sex is a playground I approach with great delight. I depicted the sexual scenes the way I like them – which goes both for Nuno Lopes’ beautiful arse and the voluptuous body of the girl. I love starlets on the Croisette posing in the sand; I love Bardot; I love Claudia Cardinale; I love Italian films from the 1960s. I think it’s time for women to re-embrace our sexy stereotypes, and play with them with power and pride. Women do not have to “virilise” themselves in order to get by; personally, I’ve stopped, and I feel freer, like “Hey, let’s be a woman, too!” Women can be looked at by the camera in exactly the same way a man would look at them, but then you add something new to it that makes us think. 

The setting of Cannes appears in an interesting way – off-season Cannes, at that. There must be very few films that actually take place here?
You’re absolutely right: I’ve never seen Cannes like this before on the screen. This is exactly the process behind a good film idea: you see a character you feel you know but have never seen very clearly before. But there was also a practical reason: it’s one of the few places in France where huge boats can berth in front of restaurants. The mayor knew of me, and it was easy to get access – especially as no one ever shoots here. Brian De Palma did it in Femme Fatale, but that was during the festival. The way we did it, I think, is rare.

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