TRIBECA 2018 INTERVIEW- Sophie Lorain discusses ‘Slut In A Good Way’ and how she portrayed the complex nature of teenage sex and relationships

Tribeca Film Festival

Slut in a Good Way has one of the most audacious titles in the Tribeca Film Festival 2018 slate. Sharply written by Catherine Leger and gorgeously shot in black-and-white by director Sophie Lorain, Slut is an edgy and honest critique of the double standards placed on women and their sexuality. The film follows a sixteen-year-old girl named Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard) and her two friends, the awkward Aube (Rose Adam) and Daria-esque anarchist Megane (Romane Denis) as they navigate the complexities of sex, love, and teendom while working at a toy store. After she discovers her boyfriend is gay, Charlotte starts having casual sex for the first time with several of her co-workers. With films such as Porky’s, American Pie, and Superbad, the teen sex comedy has been unfairly regarded as an exclusively male genre. The coming-of-age tale Slut in a Good Way provides the kind of positive, unique, and authentic on screen representation of adolescent female sexuality we need to see. I spoke with Sophie Lorain about the making of and the ideas behind her film.

SQ: What led you to this project?

SL: The author of the film Catherine Leger is a friend of mine we did work together beforehand on another script that we co-wrote. Several years after that, she called me with this script that she was having problems trying to finance because of the subject and I thought, “What for?” She said, “I don’t know, maybe it’s me, maybe I don’t know how to write anymore, or for youngsters. I think you should read it, give me some advice.” So she sent me the script, I read it. And they already had—she and her producer—a director who was on the project. I said “there are no major problems with that script, it’s a very good project and I think it should go forward.” She actually called me back several weeks later because they had lost their director. She asked me if I wanted to direct it and I said yes because I think it’s so wonderful.

SQ: The teen or coming-of-age genre is one of cinema’s most well-worn, but Slut in a Good Way differs in its candid exploration of female sexuality. Was this one of your reasons for wanting to make the film?

SL: Particularly after the #MeToo movement, there’s very few projects on the subject of young women coming of age in that particular way. It’s usually written for boys. It was a little tough to handle, to be honest with you. Because I didn’t want it to be just provocative or just shocking or ruthless or rude or vulgar—although it could have gone that way as well. But it was important for me that it could not be attacked on that level. Shocking for shocking is too easy, is gratuitous, and I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to give it something noble in its signature and the camera, a certain class. That’s one of the reasons why I shot it in black and white and why I used the lenses that I used.

SQ: I was going to ask you about the black and white cinematography because I thought it was lovely.

SL: The main reason for that is that we had very little budget. We were shooting in a store, in this huge, empty store which we had to fill with our own stuff. We didn’t walk into a Toys R Us, who didn’t want to hear from us anyways because of the subject [matter]. No one wanted to work with us. We had to find this empty space and make the set out of it. We didn’t have enough money to give it a particular look—that would’ve cost a bundle. You know what a toy store looks like, it’s an orgy of colors and textures of all kinds and I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want the focus to go from the girls in the film to “What’s that thing in the background? Is that a monopoly game?” I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted from the dialogue and from the girls. And by doing that in black and white, the dialogue became more important and the actors became more important than the set decoration.

Slut In A Good Way | Tribeca Film Festival

 

SQ: I was wondering what it was like to work with your cast. They all seemed to have great chemistry and work really well together.  

SL: I was auditioning trios and these three girls were rehearsing in the background. I could hear them laughing and having a tremendous amount of fun so I thought, “Jesus, I hope this comes up on screen because I definitely need this.” They walked into the room and they were just perfect. They were all good individually and the chemistry was just bursting when they were together. The three of them got along very well and they’re still friends, they’re still seeing each other. So that’s what I was looking for to start with. And afterwards, I had to work with them on the set to bring that up, to fire that up a little further. At least the premise of that was there.

SQ: Was there any improvisation between the girls?

SL: No. None, whatsoever.

SQ: They had such a natural camaraderie, their interactions flowed really well.

SL: And also that cast, when I worked with them, they were sixteen to eighteen years old not twenty-one or twenty-five playing sixteen, they were the real age of their characters. That’s what I wanted to come forward in the film, so there was no cheat with that. That’s what makes it a bit shocking but that’s what I wanted. That’s why I didn’t want to go too vulgar with her or any way in that direction because I thought that was going to be too much.

SQ: There’s a motif in the film of Maria Callas performing “Habanera” from Carmen. I saw it as Charlotte identifying with her idea of free, rebellious love. Could you talk more about what the song means to Charlotte and its repeated inclusion in the film?  

The song is used for multiple purposes but the main thing is that Charlotte discovers that on YouTube. And she’s saying to her friends “listen to that” and they don’t even know who it is. There’s this seed of a certain curiosity, of looking for something else in the world, out of their own culture, out of their own area where they live and their friends and what they’re learning at school. There’s a curiosity towards culture in general and it was important for me to plant that in the film, that these girls weren’t just interested in one thing. Although it is important in their lives to have sex, to have a drink, to smoke dope, there is something else as well. We don’t know yet but one day when they’re going to be adults, it’s planted right now. And they’re going to become something else than what they are at this very moment. Also, because what Maria Callas says in her song is “it’s good as now as it was then, and it will be in a hundred years from now”. . . it’s the same goddamn thing over and over and over again. I could relate to that, but so does Charlotte and so will a young girl twenty years from now. It’s always the same. And I thought that music was particularly beautiful And the scene where Charlotte is having sex with all of her lovers, that’s where I used it the most because I didn’t want it to go into sexually explicit shots, I wanted to give some poetic as well as a bit rough look to it. I wanted something a little special, something different that we don’t see all the time.

SQ: Were there any films that influenced your stylistic choices for this films? Or was there any films in the coming-of-age genre that you wanted to either evoke or consciously differ from?

SL: When I first read the script I wanted to make sure that this was not just a coming-of-age film, that it would have something noble about it, something aesthetically noble about it, something nice, and that it would stand in time for what it was. I treated it as a bit of a fable, a poem in some ways, because it’s outside of what you see usually. The fact that it’s in black and white, the luminosity of the film, the lighting, the way it’s treated and all of that. It’s a bit outside of the conventional stuff we see. It stands on its own and that’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be out of a certain timeframe and to not be considered as just another story. In some ways I think that Frances Ha, when I saw it, made me think about that, and some old Frank Capra movies. I know they’re really different from one another but they stand on their own. They’re real gems of their own and they go through time. That’s what makes them so interesting. You can watch Frances Ha today or a Capra film and it still has something to say and it still stands on its own.

 

by Caroline Madden

Caroline hails from the home state of her hero, Bruce Springsteen. Some of her favorite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD and her writing also appears on Fandor, Reverse Shot, IndieWire, and Vague Visages. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss and Instagram @crolins

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