Cannes Film Fest 2019: An Easy Girl–Interview with Director Rebecca Zlotowski

Back at the 2019 Cannes Film Fest with An Easy Girl, her fourth feature, director Rebecca Zlotowski tackles a difficult subject in a femme-driven story.

Conceived in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Zlotowski looks at the life of an escort and her young cousin, who examines her own future.

“I understand how difficult it may be to understand that you can have a feminist project that is not literal in a way,” she said. “A very subversive, sexually aggressive woman, that could be seen as empowerment as well.”

Zlotowski tackles slut-shaming head on with the ingenious casting of Zahia Dehar.  At 16, Dehar herself was caught up in an underage prostitution scandal with the French national football team. She then moved into a modeling career and her own lingerie line, becoming famous with the help of Instagram and other social media.

Zlotowski, one of the co-founders of the 5050×2020 movement in France, said she wanted to create a simple film about a complex subject. In An Easy Girl approaches the age old questions of beauty and power through a summer in Cannes.

Feminist Film–Male Gaze

RZ: Is it a male way, or is it a historical, cultural way? The history of art that I belong to has been driven by men for a long time. My cinema comes from Italian movies of the 1960s. My libido, my sensuality comes from that. I feel that it’s time now to be able to look again to those images with fun, in pop culture, in a queer way or in a camp way, to play with those representations, not only on film. A woman deserves to be looked at even if she is an incarnation of a certain type of power, in a virile way.

I was born in a generation where I knew that if I wanted to have power I had to blur a little bit the feminine side of me. I had to put that aside in order to be taken seriously, and I feel like this time is over. I also wanted to explore it in a way that would take into account the modern Instagram culture that we belong to, that is very much about the physical aspiration and the sort of degraded dreams these women have.

Impact of Instagram Culture on Film?

RZ: As a filmmaker we shifted from an analog world to a digital world, and it’s the same in our love stories. We send text messages, we meet each other through Instagram. I met Dehar through Instagram. It brings a certain representation of women, and a certain representation of an easy life, and a representation of how we create ourselves in an image and what it means. It’s not only about that, though. I filmed a body that is not always looked at in French cinema because people fear those kind of aggressive, very sexual bodies.

Story Set in Cannes 

RZ: There’s a moment when the boat is entering the port and you see the Palais. I’d never seen it from that side. It has always been a metaphorical power place, but not just a building. I saw this building, and I thought about the building–and not just that it is an ugly one, by the way–to go beyond the stereotype. And in the same way I was looking at this city that everyone in the industry knows but has never gone to the other parts of the city. And other parts of the city look like Brazil! It’s a total un-equal city outside of the festival. The festival is an island.

Servicing the Rich and Famous

RZ: The image in the beginning of the film was the two male leads having dinner on the yacht in front of people passing on the street looking up at them. I felt it was the beginning of the sense of exhibitionism, and I wanted to question who is the most exhibitionist person in this film? Is it the woman who has the see-through dress and sexy appearance, or the guys that have dinner on their yacht who are being stared at by people eating their ice cream? What is obscene and not obscene? Is it the girl that has the body and can be strongly desired, or is the guy at the end can just banish the girls because he has the money and doesn’t want to be dirtied by her socially? It’s an interesting circle. It was tackling an interesting question in a light way. You have to celebrate every choice if it is true, and the only unacceptable thing is to feel like a slave. To me, in the film, Sofia is not a slave.