La Voix d’une Génération: Les coquillettes 

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Les coquillettes
Directed by Sophie Letourneur

It’s easy to call Letourneur “The French Lena Dunham,” so plenty of people do, but that’s just lazy adspeak—not to mention kinda reductive enough to seem dismissive. Still, you can see where they’re coming from: she makes movies about gabby packs of smart young women who drink too much, smoke cigarettes, and aren’t afraid of embarrassing themselves; her movies, like Dunham’s work, feel drawn from real life without being entirely memoiristic. Her latest, a medium-length (like, 65 minutes without credits) follow-up to her slice-of-university-life La vie au ranch—also known as Chicks, presumably because Girls was already taken—really blurs that line between fiction and real life.

In it, Sophie Letourneur plays Sophie Letourneur, a film director traveling to the Locarno Film Festival with her short (well, 35-minute) film “Le marin masqué,” which the real Letourneur did in 2011—indeed, it was during that trip that she shot this film. As such, Les coquillettes recalls Alex Karpovsky’s Red Flag, in which a filmmaker named Alex Karpovsky (played by Alex Karpovsky, also an actor on Girls, sheesh) travels the US to promote his film Woodpecker (which was directed IRL by Alex Karpovsky). Flag was a self-aware exercise in self-criticism—what I called “an honest portrait of a dishonest man.” But where Red Flag was wry, Les coquillettes is goofy. Letourneur and her fellow leads, Camille Genaud and Carole Le Page (also playing versions of themselves), literally laugh at themselves: the film is structured as the girls telling the story of their trip to each other (over bowls of the titular macaroni) as if to get it straight, a kind of debriefing to fill in the gaps in each other’s knowledge and memories—though not always truthfully.

Despite where they are, the women hardly see any movies. “I was so bored I thought I might see a film,” Camille says at one point. Instead, they try to get laid or at least “suck face,” flinging themselves at, and clinging to, disinterested men. (Most amusingly, Letourneur obsesses over Louis Garrel, because she ran into him on the street once and he gave her her phone number, though he doesn’t answer any of her texts.) The difference between Letourneur and Dunham is that no one’s burdening the former with being the voice of a generation: Les coquillettes is just a trio of silly and charming self-portraits of lovable boy-crazy losers—that, you know, also might just so happen to capture the lifestyle of a generation. 

July 17 at MoMA

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