Review: An Easy Girl
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2019: Rebecca Zlotowski stages an amoral, light and sunny tale dismantling the clichés about sexual, cultural, and monetary power relations
“I’m not interested in love, I like sensations, and adventure”. By taking a stance against an ensemble of clichés which are well anchored in our collective consciousness — especially those about social, economic, and sexual power relations — French filmmaker Rebecca Zlotowski crafts a small, modern morality play in the spirit of Éric Rohmer’s The Collector (1969), which approached the sexual revolution of its time through the eyes of a young woman. Indeed, An Easy Girl [+see also:
interview: Rebecca Zlotowski
film profile] (unveiled at the 51st Directors’ Fortnight of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival) also features an art collector. A Brazilian art speculator living in luxury, he is a carefree lover of female fresh meat who calls himself an anarchist because “it’s easier to despise money when you have it than when you don’t”. Rohmer’s guiding light is also seen in the light atmosphere of this seaside film shot in Cannes; An Easy Girl is a delicate, jazzy and sunny film, where episodic scenes follow each other like the consecutive days of the two young women’s holiday. The two characters drive the film’s crystal clear narrative: from the beach to the nightclub; from the family apartment where they sleep, and following the whims of the summer routine and the chance encounters that suggest other possibilities…
Naïma (Mina Farid) has just turned 16 and lives with her mother, who works as a cleaning lady in a luxury hotel that stands in very sharp contrast to their building, whose balcony looks onto the train tracks. Best friends with Dodo (Lakdhar Dridi), her sympathetic gay schoolmate who is preparing for a theatre audition, the high-schooler is officially on holiday in this here month of June, and delighted with the arrival of her cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar), a 22-year-old young woman gone to live in Paris. A Carpe Diem tattoo on her back, her body voluptuous and sensuous — which she gladly exposes to the gazes (or even, sometimes, to the hands) of others — Sofia offers to the shocked Naïma a genuine Chanel bag for her birthday, before taking her on a journey through the universe of the privileged, made of yachts, fine dining, and personal accounts in luxury boutiques. Invited by Andrés (Nuno Lopes) and Philippe (Benoît Magimel) on the Winning Streak, the two young women thus transcend social barriers and Naïma is progressively tempted to imitate her older cousin, who doesn’t see sex as a matter of emotions, but only of pleasure, and who welcomes the attention she receives from older men. Sofia will open Naïma’s eyes on what freedom and power really are, beyond money, and on the difference between principles and values.
In choosing Zahia Dehar — ex-escort embroiled in 2010 in a scandal involving famous professional footballers and who then turned to fashion — to play the easy girl of her film, Rebecca Zlotowski turns the cliché of the dumb sex bomb and social climber inside out, showing that strength and intelligence are not always where we expect them to be, among the rich. Sofia is an unexpected and relatively opaque force of nature (a favourite theme of the director’s) who inspires (in an observational mode) Naïma’s inner voyage, towards a liberation from prejudices, a finer understanding of the world and its deceptive appearances, and a redefinition of her identity. The film approaches these philosophical topics (see Socrates’s interrogation about who the real slave is) with a light tone because, in the summer, “we bask in the sun caressing us, and we lounge about, without thinking of tomorrow.”
(Translated from French)
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