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Flower Girl

Flower Girl


Celine Sciamma made headlines when she came out at Cannes while getting rave reviews for her directorial debut film, Water Lilies. Now the film is ready to take on an American audience.

Writer and director Celine Sciamma makes it look easy. Her first directorial effort, Water Lilies -- a delicate but sharp-edged look at three 15-year-old girls exploring their sexuality against the backdrop of synchronized swimming -- debuted at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews.

Just two days later, with the world at her feet and boundless new possibilities, Sciamma came out with casual aplomb to The Advocate. Now her film is coming to America, giving U.S. moviegoers a chance to see her work. Sciamma always thought of herself as basically a writer, but apparently that's going to have to change.

"I really enjoyed doing the movie," admits the 27-year-old. "I felt like I was at home. So I can't say I am not a director. But in terms of career and what is your job, what is your craft? I really enjoy writing too. The future will tell."

Water Lilies looks at three very different girls: Anne, a heavyset girl exceptionally eager to lose her virginity; Floriane, a sexy girl who loves to flirt but is a little overwhelmed by the effect her body has on boys and older men; and our heroine, Marie (a gawky Pauline Acquart), who is friends with Anne but obsessed with Floriane as only a teenager on hormones can be. In one hilariously driven scene, Anne is so besotted with Floriane that Anne steals her trash and even eats scraps of food that Floriane has thrown away.

In an unexpected way, Sciamma is using homosexuality to get viewers to see the story of first love with fresh eyes.

"Lesbianism is a subject that is really at the beginning of its presentation in France, in movies and with girls at that age," says Sciamma. "It really tells a lot about how girls interact at that age, whether they're going to be gay or straight or whatever.

"It's really rare where you go to the movies and you have a 'first kiss' scene where you're really into it because you've seen it a thousand times before. I thought [the gay angle] could bring another emotion and put the audience into a kind of new pure feeling about this."

Like so many French films, Water Lilies treats adolescence with the same seriousness as the teenagers themselves. Given the discreet but implicitly erotic scenes in the movie, casting was key.

"They're very, very different from their characters," says Sciamma about her three leads. "I wanted girls who were the age of the part. I wanted very [specific] looks. These girls, they could be in American Pie, referring to the stereotypes they fit into.

"This is a blond, this one is chubby, and so on. I also wanted them to be in charge of the parts and be good at them. I got very lucky. I've been hunting for them a long time."

Perhaps the most promising of all is Acquart as Marie. Acquart has an awkward intensity and lovely lips; part of the irony of her misfit status is that we can see what a gorgeous woman this girl will become. Naturally, that was intentional.

"I wanted her to be like...a promise," says Sciamma. "I didn't want a butchy young girl. The movie is talking about what it's like to become a girl, in the Simone de Beauvoir way of speaking. I wanted you to see she was going to be a pretty girl."

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Michael Giltz