Fake Tattoos is no paint-by-numbers Hollywood love story. Canadian director Pascal Plante’s tale of young love with punk rock rhythms, set to have its European premiere in Berlin’s Generation sidebar, features no meet-cutes or awkward second dates.
Instead, this French-language first feature is all about hookups and non-commitment straight out of the friends-with-benefits playbook for millennials. And it all starts with an attention-grabbing sex scene. “It’s important to subvert, to troll romantic comedies,” Plante tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The film starts with a sex scene, where Theo and Mag display their passion for each other on the first night. That’s very contemporary.”
Fake Tattoos has Theophile (Anthony Therrien) and Marguerite (Rose-Marie Perreault) cross paths and enjoy a late-night flirt at a cafe after a head-banging punk rock show. They sleep with each other on the first night. Theo is cool; Mag, too. Their casual, free-sex relationship has neither punk rocker feeling the need to say “I love you” or spark a messy breakup.
Plante, 29, captures the zeitgeist with an understated take on young love and commitment in a world of nonstop texting, online pornography and the incessant gaze of social media.
Rebellious Mag has a bit of a past; Theo more so because of a tragic car accident only hinted at in the film’s sparse narrative. Plante underplays the teen angst in Fake Tattoos to arrive at an authenticity and chemistry that starts with Therrien, 18, and Perrault, 20, being the same age as their characters.
“They identified with what the characters said from the get-go, and I allowed them to be free with the material, to go for it and capture emotional moments,” the director explains. Plante also uses long takes in the low-budget indie, shot over 15 days in and around Montreal in September. And he mostly places Therrien and Perrault in the same camera frame, rarely separating them, to allow the viewer to hang out with the lovers as their romance unfolds in real time.
The director’s hope is that Theo and Mag will engage in a way that avoids the contrived story mechanics of Hollywood. “You don’t feel an artificial hand making them fall in love,” Plante explains.
While Plante allowed for improvisation, he says the sexually charged first hookup was carefully choreographed. Perreault was allowed to define the limits of the nudity and intimacy, with Plante agreeing to everything beforehand with the young actress and her agent.
Recounts the director: “It looks like they really went with it, but the sex scene was one of the most planned.”
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Feb. 15 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.