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When a festival becomes a film star

Sophie Letourneur’s Les Coquillettes — shot at last year’s Locarno Film Festival — his a small gem that hits all the right notes about female friendships.

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It was with some trepidation that I went to see French director Sophie Letourneur’s Les Coquillettes  — it was set and shot at last year’s Locarno Film Festival, where Letourneur was screening her short Le Marin masqué. I usually find any films about the film industry horribly cringey.

The good news is that Les Coquillettes is not about the film industry, its about three gals attending Locarno and trying to get laid. Or in their parlance, ‘slutting it up all over town.’

The title translates to ‘macaroni and cheese,’ which is what our flawed heroines Sophie, Carole and Camille eat in their flat after boozy nights out at festival parties. The director plays a version of herself and the sidekicks are Camille Genaud and Carole Le Page.

Not much happens — someone losing a handbag in one plot development — but the ladies and their romantic foibles are compelling enough to sustain the film.

A guy tries to impress a girl with a John Ford anecdote, Jafar Panahi gets a namecheck, and one of the protagonists is resigned to go into a film screening only because she’s bored and can’t find her buddies. That’s about the extent of cinephilia in this representation of Locarno 2011.

Locarno festival director Olivier Pere makes a cameo playing himself, and I couldn’t tell if he was smirking at the thought of being in this film or if he was really getting into character with the smirk. Either way, I’m not sure he should give up the day job, but good on him for having a sense of humour enough to go along with it. Also, kudos for a sporting appearance from Louis Garrel, who shows up as the object of Sophie’s affections.

Production values were great given the challenges of shooting during the middle of Lido parties or inside the FEVI cinema. The film also shot scenes post festival, when the girls are back in Paris reminiscing about their trip — sounds like lazy construction but it worked well as they reinvented their own recent history.

Surely part of the appeal for me was seeing the film in Locarno, set in the same locations I’ve been walking for the past few days. But even more than that, I found the film’s easy charm and humour showing a refreshingly honest look at female friends, their neuroses, laughter, sex talk, toilet humour and cupcake eating — it felt 100% more real than the friends I saw on screen Bachelorette the night before, for instance.

I think Les Coquillettes is a real gem. It’s a perfect match to hit festivals — there should be many nervous laughs among audiences who themselves might have been badly behaved at a party the night before. Not that I’d know anything about that…

Ecce Films produces with co-producers Ad Vitam (which handles world sales) and Rezina.

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