Meanwhile, Back On Le Ranch…: La vie au ranch

10/10/2012 4:00 AM |

La vie au ranch
Directed by Sophie Letourneur

This French slice of life is usually known in English as Chicks, as in girls, as in Girls, but also as in the baby birds: the title transliterates as Life on the Ranch, the ranch being not a farm out in the countryside but a shared apartment in Paris occupied by several coeds. Director Letourneur’s debut feature (making its stateside theatrical premiere in BAM’s Young French Cinema festival) documents their goofy lifestyle, the partying and occasional paper-writing and, above all, their favorite past time—talking.

My God how they gab: about the people they know, about politics, about whether “cougars” have vaginas with salt-and-pepper stripes. Letourneur employs an Altmanesque level of overlapping dialogue: the film features a flood of confab, an assault of chinwag, while the characters get drunk, dance, hook up, break up, pee in the streets, visit their dying grandparents then laugh about it later, whatever. “We’re sick of hearing your twaddle,” one old lady tells two of the girls in a doctor’s waiting room, speaking surely for some in the audience. The chicks just snicker.

Letourneur and cinematographer Claire Mathon’s camera is relatively steady given their subjects; it’s more observational than restive, practically anthropological. But the movie does reflect its characters through its narrative—with little actual plot, it feels as aimless as a young literature major. Stuff happens; the girls bicker with boyfriends, break away from their group of friends to become individuals, move from the collectivity of childhood to the autonomy of adulthood, coupled and not. Like its characters (and most people), the movie mellows as it moves forward.

As an ensemble piece, it’s tricky to keep track of who’s having what drama with whom, but that’s fine, because it doesn’t matter. The film understands that the fights you have when you’re young are merely incidental; it’s the revelry with your closest friends that defines a youth. That is, it’s not the love you make—it’s the drinks you drank.

Opens October 19 at BAM