La Vie au Ranch (Chicks)

At the question and answer session after La Vie au Ranch an audience member commented on the amazing universality of the group featured in the film, and how director Sophie Letourneur had perfectly captured a generation. I couldn’t help thinking that watching La Vie au Ranch was a lot like watching Skins. The film opens in a house party with flashing neon lights and techno music where a group of students drink and chain-smoke, couples make-out in dark corners and boys try hopeless lines to get laid.  The room is a rabble of chatter and laughter between friends, creating a kind of music Letourneur describes as having ‘orchestrated,’ editing sequences of the soundtrack for hours to create the perfect rhythm, a cacophony of interruptions in conversation and drunken squeals. This kind of control was also a key element in filming, although the camera movements seem improvised on screen.  In fact, the whole film was shot on DV (digital, lower quality than HD), an unusual format for feature-length movies.  Letourneur insisted she chose DV because it gave her greater control over the movement of the camera. 

The characters seem real–Letourneur includes little details of their lives, such as peeing on the street, discussing bladder infections and sharing ice cream. The group dynamic works well as the cast was a tight-nit group of friends before production began, which Sophie spent eight months searching for, and the dialogue is mostly improvised, both smooth and believable. Letourneur confessed that her choice of focus–a group of students–came from her nostalgia  for this time in her life and that the scenes written in the film are autobiographical.

La Vie au Ranch follows the group of friends to various parties and social events, all of which end up in a flat they call ‘The Ranch.’ The film centres on  Pamela and Manon, the two girls living in the apartment, and their distractions from reality. Pamela in particular seems to be completely lacking in direction; she never goes to class and decides to quit university and move to Berlin, on a whim.  There is a scene in the film where Pamela creates an art installation made of many many suitcases piled up, creating a wall.  Starring at the wall, the girls discuss life’s baggage and all the things they must carry with them.  Letourneur described a feeling she said she wanted to project in the film–a feeling of being lost and having to choose the kind of life and the kind of person you want to be, making you want to cocoon yourself in the world most comfortable to you.  For Pamela and Manon, this is The Ranch. In between all the parties and socializing, La Vie manages to convey a serious note on the importance of self-sufficiency and independence.

– Flossie Topping

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