Director Rebecca Zlotowski on how she loves Carbon

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Director Rebecca Zlotowski on how she loves Carbon

Her newest film—Planetarium—with Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp comes out this fall

“As soon as I put my feet into Los Angeles, I loved it.” It’s nine in the morning in West Hollywood when Rebecca Zlotowski gets on the line from Corsica—the island famed as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. The writer/director is sailing and enjoying the fruits of a Mediterranean


—on a brief respite from Paris and the chaos of production life.

“L.A. was connected to my youth and it was like, ‘Hey!’ It was a cool moment,” she says of writing her second film, Grand Central in Los Angeles. “I think it’s the last place in the world—it’s literally [eight] hours after us [in Paris]—so I think there’s a kind of dolce vita because you’re the last people on Earth to leave the moment. And it creates a special, ‘Hey, I don’t care,’ and a certain swagger, a certain coolness that we don’t have in Paris.” She laughs when I tell her that’s how I think of Parisians. She concedes that Parisians have a certain coolness, “because we are not connected to work the same way. We’re so lazy.”

Elaborating on the link between place and space and attitude with unabashed honesty, Zlotowski proclaims her unecological love for cities, cars, and carbon. “You know, CO2? I’m not one of those girls that really enjoys doing yoga,” she says. “I feel that the relationships between people are connected to the landscape.” And in her experience, in L.A. we have “more sky, more nature, and more time than in Paris,” which enables a laidback approach and cool focus.

Not all Parisians are as quick to profess their love, “It is really common for French people, especially Parisians, to say, ‘L.A. is not like the city we’re used to in Europe,’ because it’s a different landscape [with] different habits—you know, you have to take the car everywhere and blah, blah, blah.” Even so, Zlotowski tells me, in France when wanting to express that something is cool, they say, “Ah, it sounds American,” but when it’s boring, they say, “Oh, it’s so French.”

The influence of American cinema and culture on Zlotowski’s work comes across in an understated way. Adapting techniques from her Hollywood idols—like Steven Spielberg, James Gray, and Paul Thomas Anderson—Zlotowski makes films with strong characters in dire situations, played out in various permutations of reality. Her upcoming film, Planetarium, features Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as sister mediums in 1930s Europe—a dark period that echoes a certain mood for Europeans today. “I love placing characters into situations where death is all around in an invisible way.”

Written by Katherine Rodriguez

Photographed by Écoute Chérie

Stylist: Margaux Dague

Makeup: Fanny Renaud